Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: Spacebase Startopia, available on PS4/5, XBO/X/S, Switch and PC, developed by Realmforge Studios and published by Kalypso.
Back in 2001, Startopia was released on PC. Developed by a group of ex-Bullfrog Productions Limited employees, the science-fiction business simulator saw players constructing space stations in a post-apocalyptic setting. Each of the stations had to fit the needs of different employees that worked there, and players had various issues to contend with.
Almost 20 years later, Realmforge Studios has resurrected this simulator with a new entry entitled Spacebase Startopia. Here, players assume the role of the starbase’s commander. Assisted by a sardonically humorous AI program, they’re tasked with making sure that employees, visitors and others aboard the station are satisfied.
Before my playthrough, I was worried that I’d be overwhelmed with dozens of systems and a cumbersome UI. Most management sims on consoles tend to shy away from hand-holding, and generally feel inaccessible to newcomers. I was happy to find that this wasn’t the case with SS, thanks to an intricate series of tutorials. Each of them act as mini scenarios meant to ease players into the interface.
One of the earliest tutorials taught me the roles of different species/workers, and what they need/require to do their job. For example, robots require a charging station to continue operating, so I was instructed to build one and the game properly displayed where I had to go and how to navigate the appropriate menus.
My early impressions are strong, thanks to the amount of customization and ease of play. I’m honestly amazed that the devs were able to make a simulator this complex work on a controller, and can see myself pouring hours into its world and various missions.
While it gets off on the right foot, my main complaint so far comes from the writing and humor.
Like the original Startopia, much of the humor is derived from old science-fiction media like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Red Dwarf. While I love the aesthetics and references, the writing was a bit grating at times. Many jokes didn’t quite land, and the helper AI felt less like a quirky character, and more like a nuisance. I get that they are supposed to be sarcastic and mean to the player, but a lot of the comments were unwelcome and unnecessary.
Overall, business sim fans will definitely love Spacebase Startopia. With a breadth of content and systems, there’s definitely more than enough here to satisfy even the most enterprising of intergalactic entrepreneurs.