Big Pharma Review, or how I loved running an evil pharmaceuticals empire


Our review system will function on a scale of 1-10. Scores will be considered on the basis of five main categories. Design, Execution, Functionality, Enjoyment, and Value. Failures in these areas will affect the score of a game based on the severity of the failure.

Big Pharma is a delicious mix of simulation, economics, and logistics puzzles. It’s just the kind of game I enjoy when it comes to simulators. The game us being developed by Twice Circled. It also helps that the game is published by Positech games, the makers of such wonderful games as GTB, and Democracy 3. Simulations which I still enjoy immensely.

Big Pharma is a game all about running your own pharmaceuticals business. And surprisingly, it’s packed with elegant social commentary, complex but easy-to-use mechanics, and a bit of ethical quandary. Will you cure the world but ruin your business? Will you focus entirely on profit motive and laugh at all the sickly peasants? Big Pharma will definitely try to answer that question for you.

The game includes a variety scenarios with increasing difficulty that do a spectacular job of taking the player through the vast array of features on offer. Also included is a free build mode that grants the freedom to start from scratch without any particular restrictions and take your company to the top of the drug ladder.

The central mechanic of the game revolves around acquiring technology and ingredients to produce cures for various illnesses.  The way it accomplishes this is by mixing a complex system of cures and side effects with the various production processes the player uses to produce their medications.

Starting out, with a few simple ingredients and basic machinery, the player must plan their production chain within their factory with one goal in mind; efficiency. Solving logistical problems like how many of a specific refinement tech to buy and place into production will become commonplace. Luckily, despite the appearance of difficulty, these kinds of solutions follow a logical pattern that any dedicated player can turn into second nature.

The starting production lines with just a few simple pill printers and atomizers will quickly transform into a dizzyingly complex array of  color-coded production lines pumping out ever-improving cures. Ingredients can be upgraded by reaching a specific range of concentration and running it through a certain machine. These upgraded ingredients can then be used to create more profitable cures for more complex diseases like diabetes. Some ingredients need to mixed with a catalyst to be upgraded leading to a whole other level of complicated. First you need to find the right catalyst, activate the right effect then mix the catalyst with the desired ingredient. Because it wasn’t hard enough before. Big Pharma also includes an intuitive upgrades system of scientists and explorers that can unlock improved ingredients and machinery to both save on cost and improve medications.

The better planned your production line for refinement, the quicker you can extract profit from your medicines. In an arguably realistic sense, the companies in Big Phamra only have one concern, the bottom line. In this way, the game brilliantly creates a simple model of opportunity cost, and ingratiates it throughout the entirety of the experience. Competitors will do anything they can to beat you, including creating knock-offs of your products; however, insuring you have the best quality products will usually allow the market to control this through natural competition. Though this isn’t a guarantee of success.

For most players, there will likely be some trial and error when it comes to figuring out what courses of action work best. Luckily, the game is fairly forgiving to mistakes, at least the ones that can be easily corrected by the player. Choosing the wrong combination of catalyst or ingredient at the wrong time (Such as putting out a worse version of an existing competing product) won’t be the end of your company as long as you catch it in time. The game’s pause function that stops your competition from getting ahead while you make decisions or analyze finances is something players should make liberal use of.

The game also includes various other mechanics to further complicate the mountain of tasks you have to deal with. Researching new machinery, ingredients, and catalysts will be a fixture of success in the world of Big Pharma. Players can also engage in a bit of legal maneuvering with patents to secure temporary dominance in a market before their competitors. And if the company ends up in dire straits, loans can be secured from various lenders to keep the company afloat.

Once again, the poignant social commentary strikes close to reality in that sense. The struggle of private companies to reconcile exploitation and sorted business practices with hostile public opinion is something pharmaceutical companies today deal with. So it’s only fitting that a game on the subject include that as well. Although it is played very tongue-in-cheek. Which fits well with the almost cartoonish art style that the game uses. The game presents itself as a close to home satire and simulation of the industry at the same time, and it works really well.

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ISKMogul is a growing video game publication that got its start covering EVE Online, and has since expanded to cover a large number of topics and niches within the purview of gaming.