A nice history lesson is brought down by slow gameplay and annoying sounds.
Monument Builders: Notre Dame marks the franchise’s fourth installment, as time management fans have previously followed along with the construction of items like the Eiffel Tower and the Titanic. Now, we’ve traveled to Paris to help construct the Notre Dame, a grand cathedral that takes quite a few hours to build across the game’s rather slow levels. Notre Dame feels like a step backwards for the series, but it’s not altogether awful.
Monument Builders: Notre Dame features a few dozen levels, each asking you to balance the use of resources including stone, food, gold, and wood. Items are created in specific buildings/locations like quarries, farms, banks, and forests, and can then be manipulated into other items in the Workshop (wood can be turned into planks, as an example).
Each time management level will last the average player around five minutes, depending on the level’s tasks. Even though level layouts and goals do technically differ from one level to the next, it’s all still a very repetitive setup. Workers must be assigned to clear debris from the road, or to repair broken sections of path, while resources are spawned on the backs of donkeys, which must be clicked separately to lead them back to base where they’ll actually be collected.
It’s through this over-abundance of clicks that we hear the same few repetitive and downright annoying sound effects from the game’s workers, as they let you know they’ve completed a task and are ready to move onto the next. Donkeys walk slowly, and some buildings are so far from the base that it’s possible to have multiple bundles of items in limbo when you desperately need that last stack of stone or wood to finish one of the level’s required tasks.
Like previous installments in the franchise, Monument Builders: Notre Dame doesn’t actually let you explore the item you’re building. Rather, you’ll stick to the outskirts of Paris, creating items like wood planks and cut stone that will be sent into the city and actually used. The game’s map shows you a slowly progressing model of the Notre Dame, but very little detail is actually shown as you play.
Instead, the game relies more on text to offer educational details about the Notre Dame’s history before each level. The game’s mascot is also on-hand during actual levels, occasionally offering a pop quiz about the Notre Dame that will see you rewarded with materials in bulk if answered correctly. Unfortunately, these questions are rather obscure, and the bonuses are therefore hard to earn.
In addition, the game’s graphics haven’t been improved over previous installments, as donkeys and workers are more like colorful little blobs of pixels than defined entities. The music is slow, and mixed with the slow pace of gameplay, makes this one experience that I’m not afraid to admit sparks a bout of drowsiness.
It’s not that Monument Builders: Notre Dame is a bad time management game, as all of the elements we expect from the genre are there. However, the game isn’t very technically polished, and it’s so slow that it’s hard to really dive into the game for long sessions without becoming bored or tired. If you appreciated the gameplay in the previous installments, this might be worth your time, but those looking for a more refined time management experience should look elsewhere.