Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 10/14/03 | Genre: RTS
When I was told my next review assignment was Space Colony, I have to admit, I was sort of excited. Firefly has also put out one of my favorite games of the year in Stronghold, and initial looks at this game sent little thoughts of the Sims, Startopia, and a Mr. Show sketch gone horribly awry dancing in my head. Not to mention that it's outer-space and robot content is through the roof.
What you get with Space Colony, however, is pieces of really good ideas, mixed in with problems that mar the overall experience considerably.
Lets take a quick look at the features Space Colony offers:
# Real-time gameplay
# Explore alien planets, rob them of their resources
# Manage the emotions of your crew, or suffer the consequences
# A varied and wacky cast of characters
The premise is simple enough. Fly into the vast, and distant reaches of space, suck the planets dry of their nutrients and minerals, avoid being destroyed by aliens, and make enough money to retire. Along the way, you'll battle the indigenous life of the planets, watch your workers go slowly mad, and maybe even have a few laughs.
The game starts with *GASP* a tutorial level. The explanation of game mechanics was very minimal, and it was touch and go with me for a second, as one of the workers nearly starved to death. The UI was the first glaring problem I noticed, as it feels sort of thrown-together.
Space Colony's strong point is the cast of characters that you must control, make play nice, and keep from going insane. There are many characters in the game, each with his or her own mental hang-ups and buttons to press. The Sims-style needs indicators of each person are an interesting addition to what would seem to be a cookie-cutter RTS, with each character having some needs more important or less important than the others. This could've really added a lot to the game, but it seems somewhat unfinished and lacking once you really get going. The need indicators fall far too quickly at times, forcing you to move one of your characters from across the screen (very slowly) just to have a short chat with one of the more neurotic characters. Adding to this, it seems that most of the time, two characters just will not get along, regardless of how happy they might be at the time.
As your progress in the game, the missions do get harder. And let me tell you, they can be maddening at times. When you're fighting off an alien attack, trying to feed your biker character, mining, and suddenly notice that a character needs human interaction, the game's two biggest flaws really come back to bite you in the rear: slow character movement, and a badly realized UI.
SPACE AND YOU
One thing that is pretty impressive about Space Colony is the cut-scenes. The spaceships are of particular note, as they look very professional and even worth of one of the Big Boys. The in-game graphics, while low-cal, do the job well, without any real big problems.
Character design is fairly strong throughout, and the actual personalities of your workers are varied and even fun at times. Their dialogue (while repetitive) is often funny, well delivered, and well written. You do get to know your people as you play. Weather you'd invite them over for a pint is another matter entirely.
It is obvious that some very talented people worked on Space Colony. The parts that shine, shine brightly, but overall, the game feels rushed, as though it was never tested much outside of the folks who worked on the game. The challenges the game presents feel as though they are due to the game's flaws, instead of feeling like they were simply well put together. Before playing it, I'd have bought this game in a heartbeat. After playing it, I'd leave it on the shelf, and keep my eyes open for Firefly's next offering.