Big Pharma is a management simulation game where players run a pharmaceutical company. Players control resource and technical research, drug production, and build assembly lines spanning whole warehouses. But other companies are also out to earn a profit and can cut into both the resource and consumer markets. Different goal modes are available across a range of difficulties, as well as a free build mode.
Format: PC via Steam
Play time so far: 19 hours
The biggest draw for me in Big Pharma, is the ability to create complex assembly lines to create a variety of substances with different strengths, side effects, and cures. I enjoyed trying to figure out how to best utilize my warehouse space while also trying to reduce as many harmful side effects in my drugs as possible. The different machines available all have set shapes, so players often have to work within the constraints of how the machines can be orientated. Even once more powerful machines have been researched, it may be beneficial to use up extra space with a string of weaker machines that cost less to run. I loved the tug and pull and constantly making decisions to improve efficiency.
The player doesn’t run the only pharmaceutical company in Big Pharma. The computer will control a number of competitor companies based on scenario difficulty level. These companies have access to all the same resource and research pools as the player, and will actively seek out corners of the market to make a stake in. With the Marketing and Malpractice DLC, these competitions can become more involved with advertising, price wars, and drug effect boosters. Competitors which step on each others toes can easily drive up resource prices while cutting into market demand.
Big Pharma offers a variety of goal oriented modes across the difficulty span, each with 3 tiers of mastery. Goals can range from simply acquiring a lot of money in a short span of time to producing a specific number of successful cures of a particularly problematic disease. I personally preferred goals oriented around creating high tier cures for complex diseases, but other modes certainly offer more creativity with regards to how the player completes them.
Unfortunately, I found the building of assembly lines became repetitive over time. By this point I could quickly build an assembly line for most drugs and spent a lot of time waiting for funds. This lead to me spending more time trying to be competitive in the market (using the DLC), but it wasn’t as engaging to me. I certainly well got my money’s worth out of the game, but I’ll be taking a break before completing the rest of the scenarios.
Overall I greatly enjoyed my time in Big Pharma. It offers a lot of planning and optimization without the individual pieces being too complicated. Most scenarios took me about 1.5 – 2 hours with liberal use of the fast-forward controls. I used the Marketing and Malpractice DLC and quite enjoyed it. I recommend Big Pharma to any simulation + building players out there looking to optimize and construct on a grand scale.