LifeisXbox’s Spacebase Startopia review | When Spacebase Startopia was made available for review amongst the writers, the name rang a bell in the back of my head. I’d heard of it, or something like it sometime before. It was one of my friends who had spoken about strategy and base building games he’d played in the early 2000s. One among those was Startopia, a game from 2001 where he’d try to build his best space hotel. With the recent releases of games like the Two Point series, Evil Genius 2, and games like it, he said I should give it a try as my entry into a genre I’ve played little of so far. So with my upcoming week abroad, and this being a Switch title, I took the chance and sunk my teeth in it while abroad.
Spacebase Startopia was developed by Realmforge Studios and published by Kalypso.
ℹ️ | We played Spacebase Startopia for 6.5 hours on Nintendo Switch. This game is also available on PC, Mac, PS4, PS5 & Xbox One.
This is a second opinion review without a score. We previously reviewed this game on Xbox Series X, you can read that review here.
What we liked!
- Just like in the brochure | The look of Spacebase Startopia is something they really got right. Everything is slightly cartoony in its design with clearly distinguishable features telling you at a glance what you’re looking at. All the way from the highest view you have a good general overview of what is happening where to who on-screen. When you zoom in, however, a surprising amount of detail and charming animations become visible. Like how an alien happily eats a chocolate bar, they are affected by different statuses and diseases or how they throw down on the dance floor. Since I only played this on my Switch Lite I’m not sure how it looks while docked to a larger screen, but it delivers a good look for handheld mode for sure.
- The blueprints | The Startopia Spacebases are all circular structures, divided horizontally into three levels. From a sci-fi perspective, this is already pretty neat, as you can just use Coriolis forces to save on some gravity generators. In terms of buildable space, this means you’ve got three long corridors, divided by ten bulkheads which you’ll have to unlock separately to expand buildable space. Let’s start off in the beating heart of your spacebase, the Subdeck is what keeps the station operational. It houses all of your essential services like garbage disposal, security, food & shelter, your factories and research buildings. Going up one level we have the Fundeck. This is where your tourists will want to spend both their time and energy credits. From fair rides to discos to cat cafes to even some surprise mechanics that dispenses funny hats for your tourists. So far, these two levels see you construct everything on a grid-based system where every tile counts. On the one hand, it makes for easy managing and planning of your station, but the circular corridor shape of the station tends to limit your building options quite a bit, meaning you’ll end up with very samey designs across levels. The top deck is the Biodeck. Here you can grow plants and mine minerals with the help of your dryads. The entire terrain is terraformable, meaning you get to use a brush to decide the makeup of the soil and even adapt elevation to your liking. This last bit can be useful to make bodies of water or scenic hills.
- Starbase commander | Another Aspect of Spacebase Startopia is keeping the peace aboard your station. Not all who board the station have a valid boarding pass, are looking to spend their energy, or straight-up want to destroy your space doughnut. To remedy this, you can put some security measures in place. A security station will allow you to deploy a couple of patrolling police drones, as well as one large mech each. While the police drones will spot and detain most criminals, sometimes you have to manually guide them to their target. Mechs on the other hand have to told all the time what to do and where to go. It will attack hostiles once in range, but I would’ve liked to be able to tell it to patrol on a certain deck for example. It’s also not very deep. Numbers will give you an advantage, and all but the largest targets will just succumb to the mechs if the police drones don’t get them first. A nice addition, but one I would’ve liked to see fleshed out some more.
What we disliked
- Want to be middle management? | Because with the amount of micromanaging you have to do in Spacebase Startopia you’ll soon feel like one. Very little happens automatically, and that creates a lot of busywork for you as commander. Besides building the rooms and facilities, you also have to manually staff all of them. You’d think that’s not as bad, but there’s little to no discernable benefit in choosing one member of the preferred species for a job over the other. I’d get it if there was some kind of trait system in place, but I couldn’t find any. Cleaning up crates of produced goods on the bio-deck also has to be done almost manually, as your workers will often favour wandering around over getting these precious resources to storage.
- Controlling your Starbase | For what it’s worth, I will start this section by actually commending them devs for making as many shortcuts as they did. It does allow for some speed in getting to the right menu. Besides that, they’re on the clunky side. Using gamepad controls for what is typically a keyboard & mouse experience is possible, yet tends to fall apart the moment you have to make a delicate manoeuvre. Menus were also something I dreaded working with. The purple of your selected field in menus blends in really well with the blue background, meaning I’d often lose sight of what you have selected. I’m sure this all works a lot easier using a keyboard & mouse, so if you plan on playing this on PC you mentally move this to the in-between section.
- Time for your hourly performance review | But other than what VAL, your AI assistant, likes to taunt you with, Spacebase Startopia isn’t doing too well either. Played on my Switch Lite I frequently encountered stutter and minor freezes while playing. These were most notable when opening a menu that displayed lots of information like the population list. It’s unfortunate this occurs so much since you’re often opening or switching between menus. I do have to say that it’s remarkably stable, as the only bugs I encountered were Celebramers playing a set at my space disco.
- Can you stop your sarcastic subroutine | I mean it VAL. Your jokes were funny at first, then got stale, and pretty quickly unenjoyable. If every quip is about how other lifeforms did better, or how robots are superior, they stop being funny rather quickly. Without the occasional acknowledgement, this got on my nerves real fast.
How long to beat the story | About 10 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | No achievements on Nintendo Switch.
Similar with | Two Point Hospital, Evil Genius 2, Themepark management games.
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.