Space stations and Starship Troopers

Well, the Steam summer sale happened as usual and with it comes a precis of a couple more newly acquired picks from my library.

Ixion (Kasedo Games)

As you might recall, Surviving Mars is a city-builder whose addictive, must-do-a-little-bit-more style kept me playing for many happy hours. Ixion is more of the same, but with a very Homeworld twist to its setting and a harder edged sci-fi vibe; it’s won at least one best strategy game award in 2022.

You begin your game-life as the recently appointed commander of humanity’s newly minted, jump-capable space station Tiqqun, in orbit around Earth. The tutorial is thick with the ‘humanity going forth to save itself’ sentiment common to sci-fi games of late, with the man behind this great technological feat being introduced as a fairly clear caricature of the Elon Musk/Mark Zuckerberg hubristic cyber-age industrialist.

From this base, Ixion presents more-or-less the usual colony builder mechanics, explaining your limits and the resources you must balance to keep your people alive and happy. Perhaps unsurprisingly – for a city builder set aboard a floating space station – use of space and specialisation for each of your buildable areas, which you access one by one, seems to be the key thing as you progress. No miles and miles of the virgin red sands of Mars to exploit will be found here. Every building placement and resource expended must be thought through with an eye to the future.

Sticking to the mold of such games these days, Ixion offers you a seamless mouse-wheel scroll in and out from the level of your engineers sitting at the mess table, through the awe-inspiring station view, all the way to the maxi view of the current solar system you inhabit. You explore this via your mining vessels and research ships.

The aesthetics are spot on, the detail level perfect and the 4K vistas are worthy of any classic sci-fi movie you can name. I recommend sitting and just watching the menu-screen camera roll around Tiqqun in Earth orbit for a great example of just how good games are at setting their scene nowadays. The soundtrack alone makes the time spent enjoying this vista more than worthwhile.

Ixion differs from Surviving Mars in that it goes bigger on story and interesting, multiple-outcome events that cascade into your various colony stats. I’ll go no further on the story point to avoid spoilers other than to say – unusually for a colony builder – it definitely has me locked into wanting to know what happens next.

The sale may be over, but this one turned out to be worth the full price tag… because you can’t have enough beautific science-fiction settings where disaster could strike at any moment to play around in, right?

Starship Troopers Extermination (Offworld Industries)

There seems to be a renaissance in this truly venerable Heinlein franchise of late. This is no bad thing, as we now have both a fun real-time-strategy version of the greatest bug-stomp in the universe in Terran Command and now this FPS multiplayer co-op version, so we can play the same scenario via the helmet-cams of those ill-fated men and women of the glorious Mobile Infantry.

I normally steer clear of unfinished Early Access games on Steam, but I’d love to see this one succeed so went ahead and picked it up, and even gave its current state a trial.

It works nicely already, taking a standard FPS wave-shooter core like that of World War Z and expanding the team size and defensive-construction aspects somewhat. The rounds are structured around your team of 16 players completing a number of mobile objectives under constant assault by the classic bug horde of Verhoeven’s movie, as you bank resources to help in the massive assault on your final fixed position (prior to a panicked extraction) that each round is inevitably leading up to.

Personally, I love shooters that force players to work together rather than pursuing their own heroic path and the three games I played consisted of following players who seemed to know what they were doing and shooting where they did of course. However, the final assaults I witnessed were frenzied, all-sides bloodbaths of fountaining green gore and flying bug bits that do a very effective job of putting the player into the best action moments from the Verhoeven movies.

All the classic Starship Trooper guns and ammo are present and correct and it’s simple enough that you can drop in for a round completely green like I did and still feel able to contribute after about an hour completing the various parts of the tutorial.

One for future multiplayer consideration, as it becomes more fully featured and optimised for sure. Do you want to know more? Download the early access version like I did.

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