Ever since I first loaded up Bullfrog’s Theme Hospital
back in 1996, I have been in love with the “management
sim” genre. There’s something innately beautiful about
trying to juggle the many aspects of building and economics
in order to squeeze every last buck out of your patrons.
What can I say? I love capitalism. Over the years, we
have seen many variations on the management theme. We’ve
been given the
opportunity to run railroads, theme parks, the aforementioned
hospitals, and even dungeons. Now for the first time,
we’ve been given the opportunity to run a full-fledged
space station in Mucky Foot’s Startopia.
450 Mhz Pentium II
64 MB RAM
DirectX 8 3D accelerator card
DirectX8 sound card
DirectX8 or higher
4X CD-ROM drive
300 MB hard drive
To boldly profit where no man has profited before...
If you know anything at all about management sims, you’ll
feel right at home in Startopia. You’re charged
with managing various sections of a space station through
building, trading, managing employees and other means.
The bottom line is to turn a profit. Mucky Foot has experience
in this genre, and it really shows. You’ll find all the
traditional aspects of management here, and they’re all
exceedingly well executed. There are also nine different
alien races that visit your station, and they all have
their own strengths. From the mighty Kazvagorians to the
medically advanced greys, they all serve a very specific
purpose on your station. One way in which Startopia
sets itself apart from the crowd is in the sheer variety
of ways you can go about turning said profit. One problem
I’ve always had with previous management sims, is that
after awhile they become a bit too easy, once you find
the magical formula for success. This is usually due to
the fact that you’re often limited based on the “theme”
of the title. Startopia dances around this problem
rather nicely. You’re in charge of a full-fledged space
station, in which you can build hospitals, brigs, restaurants,
bathrooms, and even farm for crops. If you want to make
all your profits based almost entirely on trade, you can
do it. If you’d like to concentrate on having the best
leisure facilities available and becoming an interstellar
tourist trap, you can do that too. The possibilities for
income are nearly limitless.
Startopia also does an excellent job of teaching
you the many facets of its gameplay. They start out with
nice tutorial missions, which will give you all the basics
to help you jump right into the game. The learning doesn’t
end with the tutorials, however. You might consider the
first few missions to be advanced tutorials. Each one
concentrates on one way in which you can make your money
in Startopia. For instance, one of the early missions
gives you the task of growing a certain amount of food
within a designated time limit. Another early mission
gives you the task of “rehabilitating” a certain number
of criminals without letting too many of them get away.
Needless to say, by the time you get to some of the more
open ended missions, you will find yourself well versed
in the many ways you can turn a profit.
This isn’t solely a completely pacifistic economic sim,
however. At some points in the game you will be required
to take over an opponent’s segment by force. This is one
of the only aspects of the game in which I found myself
mildly disappointed. Combat basically boils down to who
has more combatants. There really is no strategy to use,
and you essentially kick back and watch, hoping your guys
come out on top. I can’t blame them for not giving more
control over the battle sequences, however, as they aren’t
what Startopia is all about.
The interface in Startopia is excellent as well.
You can play the game with your mouse and only your mouse,
if you so choose. The excellent interface makes it easy
to manage employees, build the variety of structures,
and trade with other aliens. Camera control is also very
good, which is important with the variety of elements
you have to keep track of. Startopia also incorporates
an excellent autosave system which rotates through three
different autosave slots to allow you to go back a little
bit earlier in the action. You can spend a lot of time
in Startopia simply admiring the graphical beauty
of it all. Each alien race has its own unique, quirky
personality, and you can enjoy yourself just watching
them as they go about their business. The graphics manage
to walk the fine line between cartoony and futuristic,
with a blend of entertaining aliens and technologically
advanced structures and items. The sound fills out the
complete package nicely. Each race also has its own easily
recognizable speech. The sound effects are all well executed,
with the usual selection of beeps, bumps, and whizzes.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the sound design
is the voice of your computer advisor. He gives good information
injected with a good amount of sarcastic remarks to keep
There were a few technical issues with the unpatched version
I played. There tended to be a good amount of lag whenever
there were a large number of characters on screen simultaneously,
usually during combat sequences. I also encountered a
couple of instances of the game completely crashing out
to the desktop, and actually had to start a mission over
from scratch due to that very problem.
If you’re a fan of the management sim genre, you’ll find
a lot to love in Startopia. Mucky Foot took the
successful elements of its predecessors, added a few new
ideas, polished em all up, and crammed em into a beautiful
and challenging package. This is one of those games that
will make you lose track of time completely. It takes
a lot of focus to get all the aspects humming like a well-oiled
machine, and Startopia manages to keep it fun the
whole way through. The flexibility of Startopia
is perhaps its greatest strength. Where others in the
genre have forced you to go about making a profit a specific
way, Startopia has opened the doors completely.
Whether you want to be a Captain Kirk-like hard nosed
thug, or a Captain Picard-like peacemaker, the choice
is up to you.
Takes all the best from previous management
sims, but adds enough to make it interesting.
Excellent interface and learning curve.
Beautiful aliens and structures with plenty
Very entertaining voiceover work, and excellent
Couple issues with lag and crashes.
almost like a combination of many of the best management
sims to date.