This past week I have been replaying Startopia. Startopia is a business simulation/strategy game produced by Mucky Foot Productions in which the player administers a rotating space station. Mucky Foot Productions has had some previous experience with these kinds of games in the past as the company was founded by three former employees of Bullfrog, who produced the games Theme Hospital, Theme Park, and of course; Dungeon Keeper.
In Startopia, the player is given an objective in running a space station. Each space station has three levels inside it. The lower deck, which acts as the main administration deck; where aliens arrive and can access services such as a Sick Bay, plus can hired to work in the station and work in buildings such as a laboratory or factory. The lower deck is also where the player can trade with passing aliens too. The second deck is the pleasure and entertainment district where aliens go to have a good time and enjoy themselves. Then finally there is the third deck which is an environment deck where aliens can go to get some peace in several different natural environments. Plants can also be grown here, and harvested to create items to be shipped and traded with.
Each of the games missions provide the player with an objective which needs to be reached. The player receives some starting cash or E (Energy) and some buildings to start off with. This is the main thing the player will be doing during the game, building services for aliens to work at or access. The way construction is done is very similar to past Bullfrog like games, very square and rectangular in design, but unlike Bullfrog games like Dungeon Keeper, the player will need in most cases to add décor and items to the room in order for them to function, and these cost E to do. So whilst constructing things, the player will need to keep an eye on their energy levels. if it runs out, they lose automatically. The objectives in each mission are pretty simple to understand, but they get progressively more challenging as time goes by, but this carries at a pretty standard rate. So one mission could simply be curing 100 patients of their illnesses, and another could be needing to build a high class leisure station, whilst also competing with three AI administrators in the same station.
The aliens cannot be directly controlled, like in similar strategy/simulation games of this kind (Evil Genius for example), but they can be influenced into doing certain things. Given direction as to where they need to be heading, such as direction and targets in times of combat. The designs of the aliens is pretty simple and fun, and works well with the games aesthetics, in that whilst it shows off well with the bending plain of a round space station, the rooms and the aliens are nice and easy to understand whilst also looking pretty cool too. The controls are pretty simple too as whilst it is a rounded plain, squares are still squares and the area for building is focused on where you are looking, nothing too big too handle. The camera controls can be a little clumsy, but when you get the hang of it, you will be moving much quicker than you thought you would, it all melts together so easily.
The objectives can get too long near the end, and as the levels get more complex you are inundated with so much information it can get really frustrating to continue on, but when you do complete a level in those situations you feel so relieved afterwards as it does feel like real hard and accomplishing work too.
Startopia is a really fun game and one I have played over and over again. I would rate it amongst one of my favourite games of all time, quite happily, even to this day the graphics still look pretty crisp. Blocky yes, but still very functionable and engaging. There is also a pretty cool soundtrack, an excellently voiced narrator to help you along the way, plus the occasional reference to well known pieces of science fiction. Altogether its a pretty cool experience and well worth the look into if you are wanting to try a new experience in your gaming career.
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