Developer: Realmforge Studios
Publisher: Kalypso Media Group GmbH
Genre: Simulation, Management, Strategy
Platform: Xbox Series X (Also available for PC, Playstation and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 26/03/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
Welcome to the home of the Extra-Terrestrial!
When I see Kalypso Media stamped onto a game, I immediately think of strategy titles such as Tropico, Port Royale, Dungeons and Commandos 2. They have a huge catalogue of amazing RTS experiences which span several years so I was delighted when Starbase Startopia emerged onto the scene. Developed by Realmforge Studios and launched at the back end of March 2021, you can acquire the game on PC, Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch.
Essentially Starbase Startopia is a management simulator where you are in charge of operating a fully functional space station where aliens can come to work and engage in leisure activities in their spare time. Now there is always an anxious moment with games of this genre on a console. Will it function well with its controller layout? Will the UI be too complicated for casual players? I’ll clear this out of the way instantly and put your mind at ease by informing you that it is accessible and playable from the off. Starbase Startopia will plunge you into a tutorial immediately and hold your hand through the basics of controller options, building functionality and placement and how to run your space station.
Starbase Startopia sets you up to play solo or with another player, the choice is yours. So if you’re looking for that casual yet addictive management sim where you can kick back alone and pass by the hours or co-op with your best buddy, you’re covered here. You have a whole feast of modes at your disposal, you can choose to blast your way through the campaign missions or free play which will allow a plethora of options. Be warned though either selection is dangerously addictive and you’ll scratch your head wondering if someone has put your clock forward a few hours.
How does this wacky place run then?
After your first few missions, you’ll be tasked with expanding your station to meet set goals. You can trade with other ships that choose to dock at the station or kit out an entire floor of your station to cater to the nightlife of the community. Cleverly, once you get to grips with the various menus and finding your feet with the amount you can do, it becomes naturally engaging almost straight away. Like any RTS, there is a barrage of complex information to absorb and it can become overwhelming, but once you overcome this hurdle it is a joy to play.
Sadly I found every base I attempted to start with the same layout, but this didn’t matter much as it is your choice where to place every aspect within the station. The most important build within the space station was berthing for the aliens for them to be able to rest in, medical facilities to keep the community in check and achieve optimum health. There are several other items you can place on this floor including factories, security and more. Once you’re set up in this area I’d call this the beating heart of the space station, you won’t have much to do here but keep the area in check and complete a few occasional decisions. If everything here is in good stead then the aliens will be chirpy, happy and healthy and will impact the performance of your station. Bad decisions lead to the spread of illness and can also affect the trading operations which can hit the revenue side of your logistics.
Currency is what makes planet earth tick, isn’t it? Well, it is no different here in Starbase Startopia with two forms of currency to keep your beady eye on. Energy is the main source of the soul to the contribution of the station, this is generated by aliens visiting the different attractions on offer and garbage being continuously recycled in the depths of the station. You’ll learn the process of recycling the garbage in the early moments of the game, whilst I found it quite fun others may find it a bit of a chore, especially as you’ll be analysing this function throughout every playthrough.
Prestige is the secondary currency and is derived from how aliens rate your station, the more of this you generate, the more you can spend it on researching new buildings and upgrades.
Frustratingly with every mission, you’ll have to fund this research again which can be tedious. I found this repetitive going through the same playthrough each time and a huge sense of “I’ve just done this”. The game does add some variety with its combat features as hostiles and pirates may invade your station at any time. This is where you have to ensure your security features and mech are in top-notch condition to defend those living on the station. Whilst I feel the fighting mechanics could be a bit more interesting, it is great that they have these small additions.
Will aliens abduct you for hours of fun?
If there is one thing I could change it would be the robotic AI assistant who likescriticising your choices even when you carry out something positive. I ended up turning this off after a while as the game was more enjoyable without it, sorry AI assistant. It would have been fantastic if they spent a little more time making the assistant jest a little more without criticizing the player.
Unfortunately, I also suffered from multiple crashes with the Xbox Series X and this would happen quite often and whilst the game appeared to auto-save which is a godsend it almost made me want to stop playing completely. I’m sure this is just a bug and will be corrected in time with the Xbox Series X being relatively new so this is just a minor flaw and shouldn’t detract you from playing.
I can’t finish this review without delving into the fact that the game is stunningly beautiful with vibrant colours and an incredible focus on the level of detail. The easy to follow UI goes hand in hand with the magnificent visuals and if you’re looking for a management sim that isn’t overly complicated or overwhelming then download this right now. With some minor tweaks and some future additions then this could be added to the pile of top tier games within this genre.
It’s fantastic that Realmforge Studios have attempted something so unique and satisfying and I would love to see them keep building on this delightful sim in a wacky universe.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase Starbase Startopia on the Microsoft Store
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.