Friday, April 8, 2016

Startopia - 6/20 hours

The extended tutorial continues. Which would be fine, except as the mechanics get more abstract, the campaign missions get worse and worse at explaining them.

For example, I just finished a mission where you have to research technology by taking your various items and feeding them into laboratories. Simple enough. Except that it took me a lot longer than it should have due to an ambiguity in the way the instructions were phrased.

See, when you start out researching, the game tells you to feed generic materials into your analyzer. When you do, more sophisticated formulas pop out. But then, at least to my reading, it's not clear what you're supposed to do next. I somehow got under the impression that you were supposed to feed even more generic materials into the laboratory, in the hopes that technology would randomly spawn.

However, after playing that mission for at least an hour, I got frustrated and looked it up in a guide. It turns out that what you're supposed to do is actually build the things you unlock with research and then feed them back into the analyzer. Then, when you unlock a new technology that way, you do it again, and that's how tech advances. In retrospect, it seems obvious, but it honestly didn't even occur to me.

Which I suppose is the biggest flaw of Startopia. It's not very well documented. It doesn't really help you play it. It doesn't have the wide variety of charts, graphs, and maps that I've come to expect from my base-building games. What information there is is very simply presented. If you want to figure out the mood of a particular resident, you have to actually click on them and ask them about their various needs, to which they'll respond with a head nod if the need is unsatisfied, a head shake if the need is adequately satisfied and a noncommittal hand gesture if the need is partially satisfied.

It's super cute, but an at-a-glance information screen would have been a lot more useful.

So I guess this is going to be one of those games where I only ever dip my toe into its depths. While the graphs in more complex strategy games can, admittedly, be overwhelming from time to time, I think I need that total informational awareness. If I'm to look down upon my subjects as a benevolent god, I need to know everything about everything. At the very least, I think I should have information comparable to that which would be available to a "real" space-station administrator.

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