I accidentally made a society of giant blue cops in city builder Songs of Syx

Songs of Syx - Blue ruler
(Image credit: Gamatron)

In the world of Syx there's a species of blue giants called the cantor. Created in ages past to act as bodyguards in some divine war, the cantor are strong and resilient, wise judges and skilled fighters. They're long-lived, with lifespans of nearly 800 years, but they're also rare. Few of them are left in the world, and a region with a population in the tens of thousands might have two or three of them.

Naturally, I wanted to collect as many as I could. 

Songs of Syx is a fantasy city-building game, one that starts a lot like base-builders Rimworld or Dwarf Fortress but spirals outward from there and scales up far beyond either. What begins as a humble settlement becomes home to thousands, a city-state that marshals armies to conquer and demand tribute from the surrounding lands—and can even become an empire, conquering the known world. To do that, you command massive battles in real-time combat with tens of thousands of troops.

It's a delightfully complex sim, and though it's still pretty early on in its development Syx has a lot of promise. There are bugs and plenty of incomplete features, but the complexity of a game where you mimic the internal struggles of a vast empire based around a single city appeals to me too strongly to be bothered. The city can't feed itself, so it needs to conquer rich agricultural land to bring in grain. The diverse population that it brings in breeds conflict, so it needs a strong justice system and copious city guards.

Also, there's the king (me) who for some reason just keeps trying to recruit blue giants.

See, cantors are fussy and needy. They're very hard to keep happy and demand the best in food and services. They'll only stay happy doing a handful of specific jobs: They'll fight, make weapons, and oversee other military matters. But they're precious. Why would I risk their lives? 

They're also perfectly happy working in the justice system: They'll be guards or judges without complaint. So obviously the correct choice is to put them to work around town enforcing the law. That's how I wound up with a society ruled by giant, blue cops. As I recruited more and more of these giants I had to turn to ever-more-extreme measures to maximize the species' happiness and attract more: I allowed them as much food and drink as they pleased while other groups were rationed strictly. I gave them special treatment, built palatial housing exclusively for them, and served them in the finest restaurants. Nearly every judge and guard in the city was a cantor, and every noble certainly was. 

Meanwhile I conscripted legions of short-lived, bug-like garthimi for my foreign conquests and all but exiled the dwarf-like dondorians into mines and quarries. Humans were relegated to administrators, librarians, and service personnel.

The cretonian hog people? They toiled in the fields and cleaned the lavatories, obviously.

Maybe creating an over-caste of nigh-immortal giants wasn't my most equitable and democratic choice ever. My pursuit of a funny gimmick had made me the architect of a monstrous society. There were humans laboring in warehouses who had traits to make them tough, speedy, and smart—ideal subjects—while gluttonous, sleepy cantors were appointed as judges or even nobility.

Syx shows so much promise because it lets you mess with the rules of a society as it grows. What starts as a loose collection of communal houses with a poorly drilled militia can, like the Roman empire, integrate its neighbors and conquer the world. You can make your city-state a single species, or a diverse collective of many. You can promote only the best and brightest into the nobility or, like me, design a society that only benefits a privileged few.

Further features are just beginning to be implemented. In the year since it started development, I've seen Syx become a game where armies march on a world map and traders travel to and fro with exotic imported goods. There's the rudimentary skeleton of deeper social dynamics fitting a world based on antiquity, too: Slavery exists, and keeping people in bondage makes those who are like them uneasy with your rule. The future promises slave rebellions—a perennial problem for the Romans, if you remember your Spartacus—and even bonuses for having a society of entirely free people.

I can't wait for the warfare system to get deeper, adding missile weapons to the fights and depth to your diplomatic relations with other nations. As simple as it is now, I love fighting battles with thousands on each side—the game runs great even at that scale. It even does fine with a city of well over 10,000. As it stands now, my only real complaint is that the major updates are so different they break your save game… which I don't hate, actually. It's one more chance at a fresh start on my fantasy social engineering.

Songs of Syx is made by a solo developer, Gamatron AB, and has been in Early Access for about a year. You can find it on its website, songsofsyx.com, as well as for sale on itch, GOG (opens in new tab), and Steam. There's an unlimited free demo available, but it's a few versions and big features behind the proper release, where my giant blue upper class rule in luxury.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.