What’s it? A Frostpunk-inspired space-colony sim that ensues after your tiny error of blowing up the moon.
Count on to pay: £30/$35
Launch date: Out now
Developer: Bulwark Studios
Writer: Kasedo Video games
Reviewed on: Radeon 5700 XT, i5-9600K, 16GB RAM
Hyperlink: Official site
Style-hopping from the small-scale skirmishes of Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus to the automated manufacturing chains that (ideally) maintain Ixion’s colossal house station working, developer Bulwark comes up with a compelling premise: What do you do when your experimental vessel by chance dislodges a piece of the moon, ending humanity’s existence on Earth in consequence? However the migration from squad-based techniques to colony administration and collective-trauma administration comes with pacing points and a cavalcade of technical hiccups.
You’d suppose that, with a lot Greek nomenclature going round (the primary shuttle to dock at your station is recognized as Charon, the mythological ferryman of the lifeless), somebody would have bothered double-checking the model on whose palms the way forward for humanity rests. You see, Dolos, the title each of the corporate that funds your formidable endeavour into house and the CEO whose philanthropic proclamations sound fishy even earlier than disaster strikes, means “malice” in Greek, which, on reflection, paints the ‘accident’ that almost wipes out the species in a completely new gentle.
Stranded in a depressingly lifeless and abruptly inhospitable Milky Method, my first concern as administrator of the Tiqqun house station is to make sure the continued survival of the crew and uncover what went so cataclysmically flawed throughout launch. As with related base-building video games, the beguiling enormity of the duty forward is masked by a reassuringly restricted array of beginning choices: setting up important buildings like residing quarters and infirmaries, designing roads to facilitate transportation between them, and—most pressingly—tending to the station’s irreparably haemorrhaging outer shell, a hull ripped aside by the pressure of that world-shattering soar.
It’s balanced and calmly elegiac busywork for the primary few hours, even when Bulwark decides to maintain the coaching wheels on a bit too lengthy because it colleges novice directors in how you can stave off the 2 main threats: mutiny from an more and more distressed crew and the hull dissipating into nothingness. To keep away from that, I’ve to discover outdoors the ship for uncooked supplies to transform into alloy, organise my restricted house to accommodate the warehouses that retailer and crops that course of them, and direct the routes of mining and cargo ships to optimise their circulation into the Tiqqun. Ixion does an satisfactory job of introducing these logistical duties throughout the first few hours however, on the similar time, it felt like I used to be being held again too lengthy—I used to be impatient to roam the galaxy.
As for crew morale, the identical bleeping probes hurled into the void to hunt out mineral-rich asteroids and floating mountains of ice will uncover occasion spots. Investigating these might reply pressing questions on your present scenario, reveal caches of cryogenically frozen people to thaw and add to your crew, or pinpoint websites of scientific knowledge that may be retrieved and used to unlock new applied sciences that enhance residing situations, in addition to the possibilities of long-term survival.
These are fulfilling occasions that present a level of unpredictability and a welcome change of tempo from the monotony of base-building. Their outcomes progress the plot of Tiqqun’s pilgrimage, shedding gentle on a convoluted backstory, typically presenting me with quite simplistic binary decisions, however often with one thing extra thrilling: the fragment of a plan. In spite of everything, subsisting on locally-harvested insect protein is nice, however like all starfarer, what Ixion’s refugees crave is a trigger for optimism, one thing to dream about.
A brand new hope?
That dream manifests as a set of coordinates. Protagoras, an experimental Dolos vessel that vanished from the photo voltaic system following the accident, was planning a path to a probably liveable planet. The revelation triggers the primary main shake-up within the game, not solely in suggesting there’s extra to it than a meagre existence orbiting Earth’s smouldering carcass, however within the rush for sources wanted to improve the Tiqqun for the upcoming interstellar soar and subsequent pursuit.
It’s at this level, after a number of hours of agreeable however quite uninspiring drudgery, that the game lastly opens up with an thrilling vary of potentialities: an unknown star system to discover and freshly unlocked applied sciences to analysis, a few of them with necessary ramifications in the best way you handle your colony. For instance, erecting a DLS Heart allowed me to play the politician, implementing section-wide legal guidelines to extend productiveness or blaring out propaganda to placate the stressed lots, whereas constructing a Waste Remedy Heart enabled recycling from the refuse of residing quarters and processing factories, successfully manufacturing new sources out of nothing.
New hazards seem, too. A better fee of work-related accidents and resultant energy failures require you put money into resource-draining photo voltaic panels and batteries, whereas the rising displeasure of the crew, as every cycle grows into the following with little progress, instils a way of urgency in your seek for the elusive Protagoras lest their despair turns into anger. It’s a crucial escalation, as I had admittedly began getting a bit too snug by that time, however the game’s infuriating tendency to throw each mishap at me concurrently made the sudden difficulty spike really feel synthetic and aggravating.
Occasion decisions additionally develop into extra demanding, typically necessitating the switch of considerable caches out of your ship, others endangering your science staff for a single misstep (although a few of these really feel extra like low-cost gotcha moments than the logical end result of a poor determination). And, after all, that ruptured hull, Ixion’s equal to Frostpunk’s insatiable generator, suffers extra each with each part of the Tiqqun unlocked to utilize the additional house and with every interstellar soar that brings you nearer to discovering a everlasting dwelling. An impassive announcement from the ship’s AI estimates it will probably stand up to a most of 4 jumps—equal to game chapters.
Regardless of the accruing dangers, it’s after every soar with a contemporary star system to discover that Ixion is at its most exhilarating, when the main focus shifts from piecing collectively the main points of what’s already occurred to mapping out a future but to be written, a leap into the unknown. Sadly, it’s additionally where issues begin to break down.
Wading towards the conclusion, virtually as if buckling below the burden of its sheer number-crunching, Ixion’s vital technical points come to the forefront: extreme framerate drops, display lock-ups, erratic menus. The bugs I’ve skilled ranged from the innocent (resembling achievements unlocking earlier than their situations had been met) to the playthrough-ruining. Restarting a chapter is the nuclear choice Bulwark gives when all else fails, but attempting to try this after portray myself right into a nook in Chapter 4 reloaded the primary one as an alternative. At one level, two-thirds of my crew inexplicably vanished. And when (in my third run) I lastly managed to achieve the ending, that final button press to guide my individuals to the promised land stayed cruelly greyed-out, regardless that I’d happy all necessities for it.
At occasions, it felt I struggled not a lot in opposition to an supposed problem however in opposition to the game’s defective circuitry, although it needs to be famous that an ongoing sequence of patches over the course of reviewing the game have addressed a few of the extra egregious issues, together with the horrid last-button paralysis (although a number of others—like unresponsive controls and charts failing to update—endured in my ultimate playthrough).
Different, much less unintended, flaws develop into obvious because the story progresses. Chapter-closing sequences usually require a concerted effort towards a grand objective, resembling awakening 2,000 souls from their cryopods, which means there’s nothing attention-grabbing to do for lengthy stretches of time, dousing your pleasure at, mockingly, the precise second you yearn to go gallivanting someplace new. Worse, the steadiness within the production-chain administration which varieties the interactive spine of the game is inconspicuously harsh, letting you cruise for hours earlier than the side-effects of a nasty determination (such because the format of a complete part, or spending an excessive amount of power towards a selected specialisation) develop into evident. One of many joys of the production-chain subgenre lies absolutely with the artistic rush of uprooting and rebuilding on the fly. However the best way Ixion stealthily slides into doom-spirals of unsustainability makes reloading preferable to redesigning.
Pissed off by the mounting setbacks however excited to see what lay forward I shortly realised, after powering by means of the early chapters, that discovering a brand new dwelling for humanity would entail greater than merely retrieving a set of coordinates. Finding Protagoras is step one in a for much longer quest that includes a surprisingly belligerent United-Nations taskforce monitoring down Dolos vessels (you had been chargeable for destroying Earth, in any case) and a mysterious group known as the Black Market Society which engaged in shady dealings with each organisations.
Surprisingly, given the placid nature of the game as much as that time, the ultimate act evokes extra Lovecraftian horror than the logistical challenges of a conventional base-builder; the temper in these tense moments elevated by the swelling choirs and ominous drones of Guillaume David’s persistently glorious soundtrack. Numerous endings develop into accessible relying on key selections throughout your (roughly) 30-hour journey in that ultimate chapter.
As the ultimate refugee disembarked on that fabled Earth-like planet, my emotions had been combined: satisfaction for reaching closure in a compelling story and securing a future for humanity, but additionally reduction in retiring a finicky, usually counterintuitive administration sim. Establishing these self-sustaining manufacturing chains, then sitting again and watching the Tiqqun function easily on autopilot was, as ever, a deeply gratifying expertise. However, on the similar time, the quite a few bugs, the lengthy stretches of inactivity, and the disastrous, collapsing dominoes that would ensue from a single omission or dangerous determination made for a incessantly maddening game; one whose largest obstacles—whether or not designed or unintended—introduced me little pleasure in overcoming.