Spacebase Startopia is a new resort management game from Realmforge Studios and Kalypso Media, and it’s the latest game to get my pushing bedtime back until the early hours of the morning. So yeah, it’s good, and I really like it. Well, most of it. It’s not perfect but it’s a really good game and it’s easy to get lost within it for hours at a time.
Managing a space station resort isn’t easy, though, but the game does have some in-depth tutorials and these are definitely recommended. Although, I played them all and I was still left confused about some aspects of the game. Thankfully, Spacebase Startopia isn’t overly complicated, even if it does look a little too busy at times.
With a bit of trial and error, I managed to figure out what the tutorials didn’t tell me, though the lessons certainly don’t end with the tutorials. There’s a 10-mission campaign and they essentially serve as extended tutorials, setting you up for Freeplay mode or multiplayer. I was surprised that halfway through the campaign, I was still learning new stuff, like the game’s RTS combat, which I wasn’t really a fan of, but more on that later.
While the campaign might be an extension of your first lessons, it’s by no means quick and easy. Most levels took me a couple of hours to complete, as noted by the mean-spirited A.I mentor that constantly insulted and berated me throughout my playthrough. I actually quite liked V.A.L, the A.I mentor, though, because I can’t remember the last time anybody had the gall to speak to me in such a way. Maybe I’ve discovered my new kink?
For me, the real fun began once I was clued up on the game’s systems and stuck into the Freeplay mode. There is online multiplayer but I wasn’t able to test this during my review process. I don’t mind, though, as these kinds of games are best played solo, late at night, with a cup of tea and a few snacks.
But what do you actually do in Spacebase Startopia? Your job is to build and manage a space station holiday resort to make energy money. Energy is money in this game, and everybody has some energy to spare, you just need to find ways of getting them to spend it. The first port of call is building up the Sub Deck to cater to the basic needs of your visitors. Building a large berth will give guests a place to wash, eat, and sleep, but higher-class visitors will want something a little more special. This is where the Fun Deck comes into play. Here, you’ll be able to build rooms catering to those with better tastes. Casinos, arcades, and even a theme-park style ride or two, as well as mini-hotels for punters to get a decent sleep.
The better your facilities, the better your customers, the better your customers, the more energy you can earn. It’s a simple loop and I liked it. What I didn’t like was having that loop broken by the combat encounters within the game. These can be space pirates boarding your station to cause havoc, or enemy players trying to take over one of your areas as they expand their own resort. It took me a long time to get the hang of the game’s combat and even then, I still didn’t enjoy it. I’d have preferred if it was a little more passive like in Tropico 6, rather than hand-on. But, thankfully, it’s not a massive part of the game and once I got into the habit of remembering to build a security centre early on, it was easier to manage.
There are a lot of moving parts in Spacebase Startopia and keeping an eye on everything is no small feat, but you’ll need to be on your toes to keep guests happy. Every few minutes, guests in your resort will vote and you’ll be judged accordingly. The higher your ratings, the better, because higher ratings bring in a higher class of customer with more energy to spend on the high-end attractions, like casinos, hotels, arcades, and more. All of these need to be unlocked first by winning over the hearts of your guests. Do well and you’ll unlock more attractions. It’s a nice way of drip-feeding new stuff for you to build and grow your resort naturally over a long period of time.
One of my favourite parts of the game is also its most simple feature: the vacuum. Aliens will complain that the place is a stinky mess, yet they’ll throw their rubbish on the floor anyway, adding to the rubbish atmosphere. This is an easy fix. You can either have your Fuzzies – your robot workers – clean up, or you can do it yourself by holding down the X button and sucking up all the garbage strewn on the floors. It’s simple, yes, but I’m a simple man and I enjoy simple things. Mind you, I don’t actually touch the hoover at home… But at least I keep my version of Startopia clean!
Managing and expanding all three decks, the Sub Deck, Fun Deck, and Bio Deck, are the key to a smooth operation. Playing against others, whether they’re A.I or human, means competing for precious space and resources, though you can terraform your Bio Deck to provide the resources you need. This is one of those things I didn’t actually do until I was a good dozen or so hours into the game…
I enjoyed Spacebase Startopia, even if I didn’t enjoy every aspect of it. While it’s not overly complicated, it’s easy to feel lost during the opening hours, and even beyond. The RTS stuff could have been dropped in favour of keeping warfare with competing players strictly passive with economic espionage, but I can overlook that. I still had a blast playing it and I can see myself spending more than a few nights lost within my doughnut-shaped labyrinth of fun and disease. Yeah, I failed one of my first Freeplay games when visitors got sick and spread their illness throughout my sub-deck, leading to my healthcare system to buckle under the pressure. I built another medical facility but it still wasn’t enough. The sickness was spreading as aliens danced the night away in my uber-cool disco, played games in my wicked arcade, and stroked cats and drank coffee in my cat cafe. Within half an hour, I was ruined and my approval ratings were lower than Merkel’s. I had to take drastic action so I got my security drones to kick out as many people as possible to stem the flow of infection. It kind of worked but at this point I called it quits and started again. If only we could do that in real life, eh?
Spacebase Startopia PS5, PS4 Review
Overall – Fantastic – 8/10
Spacebase Startopia provides a decent challenge with its cosmic twist on the city-builder/resort management genre, and it hits more than it misses. The combat feels a bit misplaced and difficult to care about, but it’s not a big feature of the game and encounters are few and far between. The real fun is getting into the nitty-gritty of keeping your guests happy and keeping that sweet energy money flowing so that you can finally finish your doughnut-shaped galactic getaway.
- Very deep and very rewarding if you can get your head around its many systems
- Lots of silly humour, courtesy of the sassy A.I mentor, V.A.L
- Controls are great and not difficult to use at all
- Multiplayer is there if you want it
- The frame rate can chug a bit when your base is on the larger side
- Tutorials aren’t quite in-depth enough and there’s no option to bring up an info guide later in the game
- RTS combat could have been dropped entirely – it feels out of place
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using: PS5.