Sponsored By: D-Man777
Time Building: 2 hours
Utopia literally means “not a place.” I’m just enough of an etymology nerd to want to make the joke that Startopia means “not a space” but too much one one to let myself do it.
(A better title would have been Diastopia, but only about three people in the world would have known what that meant.)
Thomas More-onic(sp?) Review
Tears for Fears said it best: Everybody wants to rule the world. Video games have offered that particular power fantasy up for decades, and it proves to be an enduring genre. Paradox, for example, has built an entire business model out of weaponizing untapped megalomania for marketing purposes. Some of us, though, have less grand definitions of “world.” So instead of trying to conquer nations in Europa Universalis IV, we just want to do a little base building.
But as a great podcaster once said, everything is better if you add the phrase “in space, with lasers.” So we have Startopia: Base-Building in space, with lasers. Is it any surprise that the game is good?
But it occurs to me that those of you who are not swayed by the prospect of space lasers might want some elaboration. You’ve come to the right place, splazer deniers, because I’ve got a list!
- Startopia is an old game, which means chances are good that it will run on your system. It’s also not too old, which means chances are good it will run on your system. It looks a little dated, but, in this era of
deliberately bad graphicsretro design, Startopia stands out for having an art style that could pass for a small-studio indie title. Also, it’s colorful and fun in that way that games at the turn of the century were.
- Its onboarding is excellent. The tutorial will take you around an hour to complete, but it is fairly exhaustive. All of the systems are described and illustrated in an entertaining and humorous way, which I appreciate. Let me put it this way: I judge a tutorial’s quality by whether I would mind playing it again if I stepped away from the game for an extended period. Startopia has a tutorial that I wouldn’t mind playing again under any circumstance.
- The interface, while it is dated, works. This is more than you can say for a lot of games that came out back when it was socially acceptable to like Friends, so I’m listing it here as a major accomplishment.
- You have to build space toilets. I have never seen any space-faring bit of fiction that addresses this most basic of needs. It’s even more impressive than when they acknowledge that sound doesn’t travel in space.
- Sandbox mode is available right out of the gate, so if you don’t care about tutorials or campaigns, you can just get right into the business of building space toilets.
- The worker system is fascinating. Every being in your space station has different likes, dislikes and capabilities, which you can track at any time in a way that isn’t at all intrusive or creepy. Different jobs have different requirements, so if you hire a lazy janitor to be your security adviser, you’re going to have a bad time. In fact, don’t hire the lazy janitor to be a janitor either. Hire the industrious janitor.
- There is very little micromanagement. Micromanagement is my least favorite part of any management game. If I’m going to be the boss, then I don’t want to have to think about which workers are doing what. I want to issue an order and expect it to get done. If it doesn’t get done, I don’t want to have to manually direct the responsible person to do it, I want to replace that person with someone who will do it. It’s a management game. Not a middle-management game.
- Seriously: Space Toilets! I think they use lasers. That might be something from the flavor text.
And if that isn’t enough to get you to buy the game, check out that price! You could get, like, eight copies of Startopia for the price of one modern space-station builder that’s still in early access, and Startopia is always on sale! You’re practically losing money by not buying it!
Will I keep striving for No Place?
I’m not often in the mood for a city management game these days. When I am, my go-to is usually Evil Genius because the game is autonomous enough to just do what I want it to do, and because putting secret agents in a giant mixer never gets old. There is definitely something to Startopia, though, and I can see myself returning to it. If nothing else, it will be something fun to do while I employ my Evil Genius Pro-strat of making all my workers steal money for eight to twelve real-time hours before my notoriety gets too high.
Is it the Dark Souls of City Management?
Well, the word Paradox appears nowhere on the Steam page, so I’m going to say no, it’s not the Dark Souls of its kind. Startopia is, largely, a nice, smooth experience with just enough bumps to make things interesting.
And if you think I’m going to close by using that last sentence as an excuse to make a disgusting callback to the space toilets motif, I refuse. That would be too corny, even for me.