I played the original Startopia by Mucky Foot Productions when it came out after Eidos published it in June 2001. I really enjoyed the title for countless good hours and was excited to hear that someone is working on a remake. So, what’s the new Spacebase Startopia like? Is it anything like the predecessor?
Spacebase Startopia has been developed by Realmforge Studios (Dungeons series) and was published by Kalypso Media. The release for the title is today, the 26th of March. Unlike the original title, the remake is now also available not only for PC (Windows, macOS, Linux) but also on Xbox and PlayStation, as well as the Switch. So if you ever wanted to enjoy managing your own space base on a console, this is the right time for you.
What is Spacebase Startopia about?
In Spacebase Startopia, you are the newly appointed overseer of a space station that looks like a giant donut. There are three levels available which are separated into an industrial zone, an entertainment zone, and a natural area for terraforming and growing flora. The aim here is to run a successful and popular station so that you gain visitors and so that you can build amenities that support the visitors with their needs.
In order to run the station and the buildings within, you also need to hire some of the visitors, which will gather experience and improve over time, unless you fire them before. Every alien race has something they are good at, so you can’t just mix your employees as you like. But you also won’t need to worry about matching. You just hire staff, and they will automatically do the work that they are able to carry out as long as there are enough open positions.
Later in the playthrough, you will be busy with R&D, manufacturing, and refining goods, as well as trade and some random missions that pop up even in skirmish mode. The single-player campaign includes ten missions, and Kalypso expects an average playtime of about 20 hours to finish all of them. Naturally, you can also just play skirmish and not bother with deadlines and hard targets. There are some combat elements as well, but the primary aspect here is building and managing the station, and the game is not intended as an RTS game.
What’s different between Spacebase Startopia and Startopia?
The game feels pretty much like the original Startopia, but naturally, after 20 years, some things have changed. Some of the alien races have changed, partially introducing new ones, and also the design of your robot workers and police robots is now different than it was before. Personally, I preferred the robots’ old designs, but this is not something to rant about. I’m confident that if you enjoyed Startopia, you would also have a good time playing the remake Spacebase Startopia, now even on consoles, which wasn’t possible before.
All gold on the metal donut that is Spacebase Startopia?
If didn’t encounter many negative aspects when testing Spacebase Startopia, but I still want to share it all with you. For one, I find that the controls on the console version are a bit clunky and not as sophisticated as they maybe could have been. While you can use a combination of mouse and keys on PC to control and maneuver the viewport camera, the cursor on consoles is locked to the center of the screen, and you need to keep “flying” around to engage with objects in the game. The setup of the menus and how you manage everything on your space base is also not what I would call intuitive. I spent a lot of time arranging the blueprint of a room, just to cancel it altogether and do it again from the start. You might learn to handle this faster than I did, but I think there is room for improvement here.
One other thing is that I expected more visual fidelity and overall graphic experience from a release in 2021. I know this is a simulation and management game, but the graphics are “okay” at best. While that gives PC gamers with lower specs on their machines also a chance to play the title, it’s a bit unfair to everyone with high-end specs and next-gen consoles. The graphics are certainly better and improved over the 2001 release, but almost 20 years later, you just have to aim for more, in my opinion.
The last thing to criticize is more of a subjective observation. When you play the campaign, a “story mode,” if you want to call it like that, your AI assistant VAL talks to you like you’re the dumbest piece of meat that ever walked the station. One could consider that funny, but it really builds up and builds up, and at some point, it was just emotionally destructive, regardless of your performance. Fortunately, the skirmish mode, in which you will likely spend most of your time, lets you just play the game without scripted “funny” messages from your AI assistant. Apparently, this is the typical “dark humor” that Realmforge Studios is known for, so certainly, it is a subjective matter that some might as well enjoy or even look for.
All in all, is Spacebase Startopia worth getting?
That would be a ‘yes’ for me. Especially for console gamers, who don’t often get simulation and management releases, this should be an interesting pick to try out. But of course, PC gamers will also likely enjoy the remake of the classic Startopia. Even if you never played the original title, I’m pretty sure that many will have fun with this release. If you’re down for running your own space station, Spacebase Startopia is your game. The MSRP for the game will be about $50 for the standard edition at launch.
YouTube: Let’s Play – Spacebase Startopia [Gameplay, No Commentary]
Editorial notice: The author played the original title when it came out and tested Spacebase Startopia for about 6 hours before writing this review article of the game. The video recording has been captured from a pre-release test version of the game. We received a preview version of the game from Kalypso Media.