by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
Far, far away
In a far future, humans go to space on a single-minded mission; attracting tourists to their space station and raking in credits. Such is the way of life in The Spatials by Weird and Wry Productions.
The story of The Spatials is nothing particularly groundbreaking. You assemble a crew to build a space station in the service of the Human Federation as they expand their territory. It sounds like a lofty goal until you learn that the space station in question is essentially a tourist trap and that all your employers care about are credits. Along the way, you go from solar system to solar system on a variety of missions that range from collecting resources to obtaining specific items and generally doing Human Federation busy work.
The Spatials' writing is a sarcastic take on your typical space adventure. It has its moments of good humor, but the writing and story are nothing outstanding and the 'humans are greedy' satire can be a bit too much at times.
Running a station
You will spend most of your time building and managing your space station and this is where the game is at its best. Here, you expand your station with different rooms such as barracks for resting, cafes for dining, and space ports where visitors first arrive. Since your station is built on an asteroid devoid of oxygen, you need to connect rooms through corridors to allow people and oxygen to move around freely. As your visitors increase they become more demanding. Gift shops, gardens and factories that produce leisure goods will be necessary in order to keep visitor satisfaction up. Most of these are not immediately available from the start of the game but need to be researched to unlock. To run this elaborate operation, you have access to a crew of strategists, scientists, doctors, engineers, and diplomats.
You will also need resources to keep everything running. For this, you send your crew out to different planets and bring back the raw materials your space station needs to succeed. Before shipping them off, you can gear up your staff RPG-style. You can upgrade their health, resistances, attack and special powers that are different for each character class. From there you select one of many randomly generated planets in the galaxy and send them on their way.
When you touch down, you click to lead your crew around and attack whatever is running around on the surface of the planet. One of the game's low points, combat is not very deep and very few class-based perks feel like they actually make a difference. All you do is rapidly click on the screen or push one of the five hotkeys to activate specials and hope for the best. It's all too fast-paced, too unstructured and it leads me to think that The Spatials would have benefitted from turn-based combat. Thankfully, this isn't really the meat of the game, so the lack of substance can be overlooked.
Missions pop up on a regular basis and accepting these allows you to send out your crew to gain resources and experience, at the price of credits. This eventually becomes a better system for acquiring resources as the game goes on.
The Spatials has a unique art style that stands out positively. Most games either go for realism or some kind of pixel theme and its nice to see a something new and refreshing that does not quite fit either description. Unfortunately, the great art style cannot hold up the limited model and texture designs. You would think that a science fiction themed game allows for a wide range of flora and fauna but The Spatials serves up the same pirates, animals and characters over and over.
The same goes for its music; A single loop of music repeats itself throughout the game. It never changes, not even when you switch game mode. That's not to say it's a bad soundtrack, it's just pretty uninspired and it will likely go unnoticed by most people. Forgettable.
Playing The Spatials, I found myself thinking that this game should've been a mobile game. The way the navigation is set up, the minimal depth in activities and even the enjoyable but simplistic art style all seem to lend itself more to a mobile platform. The game starts off incredibly ambitious but then shows itself lacking the depth required to be a game that I would want to play for days or even weeks. Combat is too simple, missions are too repetitive, and even the space station itself becomes stale before long. The best way to describe The Spatials would be that it is a good game on the wrong platform.
Not enough depth