Post Master – Review

Title   Post Master
Developer  Excalibur Publishing
Publisher  Excalibur Publishing
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Management Sim
Release Date  March 7th, 2014
Official Site

Truly, one of the greatest things about waking up in the morning is hearing the sound of letters falling through the letterbox and slamming onto the floor. And while it may usually be filled with junk, advertising cheap windows or asking you to vote for your local Conservative candidate, some days there may be little treasures from Amazon to open up. The postal service is a fantastic, magical thing, so it’s little wonder that a simulator such as Post Master exists. But does it capture the excitement and joy brought by letters and parcels?

The first stop is the tutorial, which teaches you how to effectively work your way through the huge number of menus available to you. The basic set-up goes like this: you hire some staff to run the front end of your post office, buy some vehicles, give them a specific job, set a route and watch the money roll in. There’s the illusion of more options in there, but there’s really not much point exploring them since you seem to make plenty of cash anyway. The tutorial does an adequate job of introducing all these little ideas to you anyway, and is well thought out and easy to follow, although it did eventually crash, leaving me to work out the rest by myself.

Not that it’s a particularly tough game to pick up. Starting a new game, I found myself with a medium-sized post office and a bank account full of cash, ready to be spent on expanding my empire. I hired a couple of desk clerks and a couple of sorters, ensuring that customers and their items could be dealt with and sent out as quickly as possible. You can also hire a security guard to help prevent robberies, but I’ll return to those guys later. Next, I bought a couple of motorbikes, set one to deliver letters around the city, jumped out of the post office to set up some post boxes nearby, and assigned my remaining bike to collect from said boxes. And then I set the in-game speed to “very fast” and watched my money go up.

That last step is essentially what Post Master is all about; sitting back and watching the “money” variable increase. Running vehicles and paying staff steadily decreases your money, but the amount you make almost always counteracts this. The initial cost of buying vehicles and post offices may seem high, but wait a couple of in-game days and suddenly all the money you spent will come flooding back in, allowing you to keep buying more and more offices to dominate the city. There’s basically no challenge here. You can just leave the game running for a while, get a load of money, expand, and watch the amount of money you make increase rapidly.

Unlocking new features comes from collecting stars, which are awarded for handling priority deliveries on time and with utmost efficiency, clawing your way to becoming the best postal service that week (if that’s even possible), or through a series of tasks where you need to achieve a certain objective.  Even these minor additions to the gameplay aren’t enough to detract from how simple and hands-off the entire process is, however, and are ultimately easy to forget.

There are only three things that can negatively impact you in any noticeable way. Number one is being robbed; at random points, thieves will break into a post office and attempt to rob you. But avoiding this is simply a case of hiring security which, as previously stated, doesn’t make enough of an impact to your funds to even consider not hiring them. Secondly, your vehicles can start breaking down, requiring repairs, but you can install repair stations in your post offices which should prevent this, although I did have one car that refused to stop breaking down even after I replaced it with a brand new one.

But what you’re really supposed to be battling against is your computer competitor, a nameless, faceless postal service that starts off in one city and eventually starts taking over your turf. While one would hope this would lead to a bitter rivalry, with your competitor forcibly ramming your cars off the road or some such, what actually happens is that a number changes in your Statistic menu showing that your competitor is in the same location as you… and nothing else. Despite the AI rapidly expanding into all my areas, I never saw any change in the amount of money I made. The main problem is that your competitor is doing better than you, but they seem to have been doing better than you from the start of the game, so trying to fight against them is almost pointless. Why bother trying to take on a behemoth postal company when yours is ticking along nicely?

And that is the main crux of why Post Master just doesn’t work. You can spend all this time upgrading your vehicles and staff, creating better postal service for everyone, but why? There’s no requirement to. Your business carries on nicely, and everyone goes home happy. The competition grow bigger and better, but they never appear to affect your own profits. Nothing changes, aside from your own expansion. It would’ve been nice to have more events outwith your control, such as parcels going missing or even letters getting wet in the rain, but instead the sun is always out and everything operates perfectly. There is no real conflict and no real challenge. It’s the capitalist wet dream, but it doesn’t make for a particularly engaging simulation.

Graphically the world is fairly simple, with bright, cartoony graphics and simple 3D models to represent the people living and working in the cities. One of the interesting features is the constant expansion of the cities, which is always enjoyable to watch and also opens up new areas to deliver post to, so it’s good to know you’re not limited to static cities with no room to expand to when you’ve got everywhere already covered. The menus are well laid out and easy to follow, and in general the user interface is simple to use and get around, making for a very functional simulator that doesn’t confuse users too much, aside from the initial overwhelming nature of having so many menus.

Overall, “there’s nothing particularly wrong with it” seems to sum up the entire game. It’s a pleasurable simulation of running a postal service, with cute graphics and plenty of options to fiddle with to create your ultimate postal empire. But there’s just not enough here to make it a fully-fleshed-out simulator. Nothing ever changes or goes wrong, and anything that can affect you is easily avoided. At no point did I ever feel challenged or under threat, and while it was fun to watch my money amass in such a quick fashion after a small space of time expanding my postal company, there just wasn’t enough to make me want to stick around to see it grow into a giant, all-encompassing company that dwarfed my competition. It’s fun for a short amount of time but, at the end of the day, it’s just a little too shallow.

  • Well thought out UI
  • Watching the city expand is a lovely sight
  • Good, if broken, tutorial
  • Far too shallow and easy
  • Fairly boring soundtrack
  • Not enough to do to keep you interested

Post Master is a solid simulation of running your own postal service, and there really isn’t much else that can be said on the matter. It has a collection of good-looking menus that help you run your post offices, it explains itself well enough that you can work it out even if the tutorial does crash on you, and you won’t find yourself without space to expand into. But the desire to expand into the space never arises. You can keep going, watching your income rise higher and higher, but there’s no real point to it. There’s no danger here, no sense that failure could happen at any time. It’s a game with no winners or losers, just a player and a computer both making lots of money. And while that’s fun for a little while, it’s not enough to keep you entertained for long. Simulator fans may find some fun to be had here, but for everyone else, it’s a relatively shallow experience disguised as a detailed simulation.

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