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Spacebase Startopia

Posted by GG Goblin On April - 7 - 2021

Keeping the aliens happy on your doughnut-shaped space station.

 
Some 20 years ago, PC gamers were treated to a space station management game called Startopia. While the game never really hit the popularity of other management games of the time, it did attract a cult following of players who wanted nothing more than to keep aliens happy. Jump forward and Realmforge Studios have released Spacebase Startopia for PC and consoles. It’s not a sequel, remake or some kind of upgrade, but rather a re-imagining of the original Startopia game that will feel familiar to the fans. For newcomers, Spacebase Startopia will be equally confusing and overwhelming, but cater to the aliens and keep on top of the trash situation and, before long, they will be in charge of the best space station in the whole universe. Or it will be complete mess. Either way, it will be entertaining.

 


 
Spacebase Startopia puts the player in charge of a doughnut-shaped space station with the main objective of catering to a wide range of different alien species. By doing a good job, the player will earn energy, which can be spent on expanding, and prestige, which unlocks new rooms and the like. Anyone familiar with games such as Two Point Hospital will have an idea of what to expect, albeit with aliens instead of patients. The player will build and expand to attract more alien customers, who will in turn lead to more being unlocked to build and expand.

 
While the main objective will always be the same, campaign missions and the tutorials will give more specific objectives that the player can achieve as the learn the complexities of running a space station. There is a lot going on in Spacebase Startopia and jumping into the free mode without at least running through the tutorials will lead to massive confusion and frustration. The tutorials, and even some of the campaign missions, try their best to explain everything that the player needs to know, but they can come up short in some areas and as such it will take some time to get to grips with. Once the player does have the basics mastered though, then the fun can begin.

 


 
The space station is divided into three levels that each have a different function. The sub deck is at the bottom and houses all of the essential rooms and systems, such as places for the alien visitors to eat or get medical help should they be diseased. Many of the rooms built in the limited space available will need to be staffed by aliens, giving the player another area to manage. As the space station is built like a doughnut, each of the three different decks can be expanded to go all of the way round, with bulkheads that can be opened up for a price, giving the player yet more room to expand.

 
The second level is the fun deck, and that is where all of the fun happens. From discos to cat-cafes, this is the destination for fun-loving aliens, and it is also a pretty cool area to hang around in and watch what’s going on. The top deck is a much more zen experience. This bio deck is not only a place of reflection for aliens, where they can just chill out in a garden, but also the place for farming aliens to start growing stuff.

 
The three decks are quite different in their functionality and their looks, but the player will have to manage all three to keep the aliens happy and their needs met. Players are able to get an idea of what is working and what is failing, guiding them towards were work is needed.

 


 
Aside from the wide selection of different aliens, the player will also need an abundance of robot workers running around their station. These fun little guys are responsible for all forms of maintenance. It turns out that aliens make one hell of a mess, and so keeping on top of the garbage situation will take a substantial amount of time, and air filters to prevent disease from spreading will become more and more important as the space station becomes busier. As the player progresses, more will open up to the player, including the chance to trade certain resources and even deal with pirate raids and the like. The combat situations offer a change of pace for the player, but they do feel slightly out of place and unnecessary. Still, they don’t come up too often and don’t take much work to deal with.

 
It doesn’t take long for the space station to be bustling with life, and it is in those moments between disasters that Spacebase Startopia is at its best. Like a psychedelic ant farm, this confusing mess of alien life can be fascinating to just sit and watch, with each different type of alien acting differently. The alien models may not look that detailed up close, but this is a game that is meant to be played and viewed from a zoomed out point of view, and that’s when it really comes to life. The soundwork, from the different alien noises, to the ambient sounds from the various rooms, is very well done and adds to the atmosphere.

 
But Spacebase Startopia is not without its problems. For fans of the original, the AI assistant has returned, but seems to lack the comedic level of the original. This is down to the writing, where the jokes come thick and fast but most fail to land. Instead, the AI just becomes irritating. Newcomers will struggle to get past the poorly explained learning curve, which could put them off, and the campaign missions are just not that exciting. The game also tends to drag, becoming a chore far sooner than it should.

 


 
With a lack of space station management games out there, Spacebase Startopia fills a gap in the market. It is well made and undeniably bright and colourful, perfect for catching the eyes of both newcomers and those who played the original. However, the game doesn’t manage to match up with the 20 year old Startopia, which may leave some fans disappointed. For management sim players though, Spacebase Startopia is another title that they can sink their managerial teeth into, and they will have fun doing it.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 



 

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