by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
How did you get here?
Startopia? At Kalypso? Wait what!? I admit to being a bit confused after reading the press release literally moments before I was ushered into the Spacebase Startopia demo room at Gamescom. I could not quite place the original game, but I knew there was one carrying the name, and that it had not been released under the Kalypso banner. As we sat down for the demonstration, I asked how Startopia ended up at Kalypso. Creative director Christian Wolfertstetter shrugged - “We just make the game, Kalypso handles the IP”. Good answer, and at least I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know!
Under development by Realmforge Studios, my hosts were quick to brush their new game off as “Dungeons in Space” when I connected their work on Dungeons with Startopia. “There are similarities in gameplay, but there is a much larger focus on economy, visitor needs and overall base management. You’re the commander of a space station with visiting aliens and you need to keep them happy, healthy and well fed.”
Different Strokes For Different Folks
I quickly learned that running a base is a real balancing act. Attracting visitors is one thing, but then keeping them happy is where things become difficult. Space truckers for example, have very different needs than say tourists. Providing for both (and many others) can be quite a bit of work and yet it may all go to smithereens when a health crisis breaks out – everyone will rush to the same medical facilities for treatment.
Startopia’s curved game maps are a perfect representation of what a fictional space station may look like. Every object on the map follows the same curve and I especially liked the tantalizing view of the planet below through the shaped windows placed along the ship’s hull. With 48 sectors, divided over three decks, I imagine there will be quite a bit of exploration to do. You don’t have access to these all at once, and when you do unlock a new sector it may hold a surprise - not all of them pleasant. “Gathering a few aliens that can fight when you open up a new sector will be a good strategy”, Christian reflected.
The lower deck is the utility deck and holds things like garbage disposal, recycling, trade dock and the communications center. All of these, as well as many other buildings and rooms on the station, will need to be staffed. As alien species each have specific preferences and abilities, hiring the right alien for the job looks to almost be a game in itself. The middle deck is where all the action is. Entertainment buildings go side by side with medical facilities and restaurants. As this is the busiest deck, you’ll also be doing most of your air quality management here. The top deck is where you can provide a variety of biomes where visiting aliens can feel at home. There’s also an opportunity to grow food and other resources here. Unlike the lower decks, which are all about rooms, objects and consumption, the top deck is about terraforming and harvesting. Whatever your visiting aliens do not consume can be sold to traders.
In all honesty, I did not get the game right away – I am more excited about the game now than I was when it was demonstrated. A few days later, the sheer variety in aliens, rooms and buildings and the creative way in how everything comes together has started to sink in. Pair all of that with the brilliant humor Realmforge is known for, Spacebase Startopia will be good for many a laugh and near endless gameplay.