|Letís get this over with first: Yes, the new space-management sim StarTopia is very much like the old dungeon-management sim Dungeon Keeper. Both have snarky British narrators, unpredictable minions, devil-may-care swagger and loads of replayability. |
But, see, StarTopia is in space, and the DK games are underground. Argument over.
Seriously, folks, Muckyfoot and Eidos have a really great game here, and the comparisons to that "good to be bad" sim are a bit unfair. The player begins as a beleaguered human set in charge of a donut-shaped space station, which will soon be populated by lots and lots of very opinionated aliens. This means catering to many individual needs, from employees who want promotions to guests with very different needs to rival administrators.
On the bad side, that means most of the game is a mad dash, at least until the player owns a commanding portion of the station and doesnít have to worry about fending off enemy attacks. Iíve played through all 10 missions and put in lots of time in the sandbox (a free-play mode), and only just now have the expertise to design attractive, functional areas.
The best part of the game is the goal-based campaign. This is made up of 10 missions that both teach tactics for future missions and show off the gameís features. In each mission, the player is working for one of the gameís 10 races. That means very different goals ó the health-conscious Greys want you to cure a certain number of patients within a time limit during their mission, while the warlike Kasvagorians need squatters (computer-controlled players) forcibly evicted.
Sound easy? Itís not. Especially because the player must constantly be watching three decks: Technology, which houses all the rooms that make the station run; Pleasure, where aliens go to have fun; and Biology, a terraformed area perfect for growing food, setting up religious camps or just letting aliens relax. To add to that, the player has to manage energy (money) and power (well, power).
Despite these challenges, StarTopia is a rewarding game, made even better because Muckyfoot has released modding instructions ó there are some really good user-created missions already circulating on the Web. Also, the first patch is already out, and it makes light-years of difference in speed of play, especially on Windows ME.
In all, this is a solid game that should find a permanent spot on most sim gamersí hard drives ó itís just that easy to come back to, and that easy to play for hours on end.