Have you ever wanted to run your own doughnut-shaped space station, catering to the needs of a myriad of alien races? If so your dreams can now be realised thanks to the release of Spacebase Startopia, the new management sim developed by Realmforge Studios and published by Kalypso Media. Spacebase Startopia puts you in the shoes of a rookie space station manager who is looking to work their way up the ladder. Your mission is to cater to the whims and wants of an ever-increasing range of alien life forms whilst making loads of energy (the in-game currency) to line your employer’s pockets.
The game is set on the aforementioned circular space station which consists of three separate decks. You control a sub-deck that has basic amenities, a fun deck that will entertain your visitors plus a bio deck where your guests can be at one with nature whilst providing a lot of resources you’ll need to run your station.
Watch the official release date announcement trailer below:
The game is presented in a comical way and humour (or at least an attempt at it at times) runs throughout the game but don’t let this fool you. You are guided by an AI named V.A.L who takes every opportunity to badmouth your puny carbon-based lifeform’s attempts at running the station. Behind all the jokes is a serious management sim with some surprising layers of complexity. There is much more here than meets the eye.
As you might expect you start off by completing a few tutorial missions which give you the basics of how to build your station, cater to the needs of your visitors and handle the combat system. This tutorial is drawn out and could do with being a bit shorter or at least give the player the option to speed up the game speed. The tutorial portion gave me the impression that this was going to be a slow and tedious experience but I’m really glad I pressed on as the ‘real game’ becomes much more intense and complex.
Once released into the game proper you are met with the task of running your own real space station. You start off with limited options and will only have to cater to a few different alien species. As you progress through the missions (by meeting various objectives) you will unlock more rooms/tools to impress your guests. You’ll also find that the objectives get tougher to achieve as you move through the game.
What the game does brilliantly is throwing random things at you forcing you to think on your feet. One minute you’ll be cruising along quite happily, the next you’ll be faced with an attack by space pirates, your staff will be threatening to quit and the space customs officer will be asking for a bribe to ensure your inspection goes better than planned. This is all in addition to the ever-increasing demands of your guests.
There are many frustrations that the game throws at you but there is always a solution somewhere within the tools the game gives you. A fine example I came across was the massive shortage of Fuzzies (the basic robots that take care of building, cleaning and repairing). Unlike other workers, these guys can’t be hired meaning that the workload can often be too much for your meagre team. There are sometimes options to buy more but they can be very expensive and you may feel your money is better spent elsewhere. After hours of getting mad at this, I found that you can actually build Fuzzies in your factory which had been a building I’d barely glanced at before. After this revelation, I found loads of options for building stuff and was able to create synergies with other decks on the station.
Combat also plays an increasingly bigger part as you move up through the levels. To fight invaders you can build security stations that provide basic drones. Each station can also field a mech that needs to be built. These mechs are essential and pack a big punch so you’d be a fool not to build them. The combat itself is very clunky and I found out, the hard way, that you need to leave space between your buildings to ensure your mech can get to where the action is. In hindsight this is obvious but I only found out when my mech couldn’t join the fight and I lost the mission. Even though it’s not the best part of the game, adding a combat element works to keep you on your toes.
Graphically the game is very nice to look at and all of the guests and rooms have very detailed animations. As you would expect the game comes with its own music which I turned off almost immediately as all it did was annoy me. Sadly you can’t turn off V.A.L who is the biggest gripe I have with an otherwise great game. V.A.L is the single most annoying thing I have ever come across. You have options to change how he sounds but all are painful and his jokes get old very quickly. My personal preference would be to have the option to turn him off altogether.
Overall, Spacebase Startopia is a great management sim with hidden depths. It eases you in gently and throws everything it can at you. It looks great and if you can tolerate V.A.L I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun with this. If you’ve played other Kalypso games, Tropico for example, you’ll be very happy playing Spacebace Startopia.
Just bought Spacebase Startopia and need some tips to get started? Here’s 9 things we wish we knew before playing the game.
Spacebase Startopia was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Kalypso Media Developer: Realmforge Studios Release Date: 26th March 2021 Reviewed On: PC Also available on: Xbox One, PS4