Title: Space Colony: Steam Edition
Version Tested: PC
Available On: Windows, Mac
Developer: Firefly Studios
Publisher: Firefly Studios
Genre: Strategy, Simulator
Official Site: Space Colony HD
Release Date: May 1, 2015
Where to Buy: Steam
Playing remastered games is always a real treat, particularly when they are as well-loved as Space Colony. The nostalgia hits you right from the start as you first open up the game, as you are greeted with the incomprehensibly ugly main menu.
The enjoyment is twofold – firstly, you get to wind back the clock to when gaming was really starting to take off, and secondly you get to realize just how far the industry has come. It’s also always a fun exercise to see how an older game holds up against modern innovations and conventions. Of course, we are dealing with a remastered version here, with a brand new single player campaign and all sorts of other improvements. But the older style of gaming still shines through in a number of different ways.
Space Colony is a game that should be immediately familiar to those who have played the Stronghold series (created by the same people, Firefly Studios). Like its medieval counterpart, Space Colony tasks the player with building a place to call home that is both comfortable and profitable. You are sent into space by the Blackwater Corporation, a morally bankrupt conglomerate who always puts profits over people. Your struggle to complete the difficult objectives set before you is the aim of the game, though there is a civilian as well as a military game to complete. Each provides a different plot and varied objectives, creating a diverse experience for those fans of small-scale city building and people management. Whether you are slamming down a mining excavator or trying desperately to train up one of your more useless colonists, there is always something going on and something to do.
Space Colony comes across as more like a cross between a traditional strategy game, and a simulator along the same lines as The Sims. While you do have certain tasks to complete, such as mining a certain amount of ore, or stockpiling a certain amount of space chickens, the focus is more on dealing with the needs of your colonists than anything else. Think of it as more similar to Dungeon Keeper than SimCity (in space). By the end of the game, you will intimately know the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of each of your colonists. It’s a fun change of pace for these kinds of games, where the people you control tend to be faceless automatons that simply do your bidding without adding much to the actual story. The colonists genuinely have different wants and needs and preferences. Though they are all governed by the same stats (health, food, social, etc), each of them puts a different weight on them and also a different preference of how to deal with them.
For example, there’s one Norwegian colonist you meet early on who puts a great deal of focus on food. If you let his hunger bar drop too far, it can be disastrous to his work ethic. However, there are other factors in play as well – he much prefers to spend time in the sauna to increase his entertainment levels, while other colonists prefer to do exercise, drink at the bar or go dancing. They are all unique, and while you certainly control their fates, it feels a lot more like you are playing through a genuine story rather than just building on some nameless planet with a bunch of equally nameless colonists.
The actual meat of the gameplay is solid. Build this, order your colonists to work it, receive resources that you can sell or process into something else. It can be a little frustrating at times trying to figure out what you actually have to do to complete the mission, and not everything is explained particularly well. However, part of the fun is losing and doing better next time, and plenty of it is quite logical and straightforward: easy enough for the majority of modern gamers to figure out. There are a few things you have to get used to, such as the ‘select’ and ‘action’ button being the same button press, rather than the more typical LMB select RMB action, but again, you get used to it.
There are occasional lulls in the action, particularly early on, where your colonists are all fine and you don’t need to build anything else, your workers just need to get on with the job at hand – easier said than done at times. However, rather than having to wait around for days, there is a turbo button that speeds things up a bit. It would have been nice to have a medium speed between standard play time and turbo, but the quality of life improvements such as these seem to have slipped the remaster by.
Graphically speaking, the game does show its age. This isn’t a title you will just stumble into expecting Crysis 2 level graphics, but it can at times be a little ugly. Character models are over exaggerated and animations are janky, though it never really seems to impact the game in a major way. My only criticism of the visuals other than “they old” is that it can be tough to discern certain features from the background if you don’t know what to look for very specifically – frustrating when you first start playing the game.
Sound, on the other hand, still holds up well. You’ll unlikely want to buy the OST separately – it’s not on the same level as FTL, but it manages to get the whole space thing across very nicely, as well as warning the player when stuff goes wrong. Nothing to complain about here works very well in creating immersion as well as on a gameplay level.
Overall, I would say that Space Colony is definitely worth a try. With the fresh remaster, the game still holds its ground against modern iterations of the same genre. You will miss certain quality-of-life innovations from new games such as clarity regarding what certain buildings, enemies and jobs actually do and how they work, but you quickly learn this anyway so it isn’t much of a big deal. The colonists’ personalities and the overarching story keep you engaged, while the gameplay, despite being frustrating at times, still provides a fun experience for a gamer looking to have a taste of how the past of the industry looks in comparison to the present.
Verdict: Space Colony: Steam Edition, while certainly a relic of gaming’s past, has benefited greatly from its recent facelift. An excellent entry point for those who want to explore what gaming used to be like, or just for those who love quirky, engaging strategy simulators.
- Gameplay: Space Colony Strategy Game
- Graphics: Retro, and Authentic
- Sound: Electronica and Sirens
- Presentation: A Remastered Classic
- Blast from the past with a fresh new face
- Interesting colonist personalities
- Diverse range of objectives
- Extremely satisfying mission completions
- Very little explanation of deeper mechanics
- Quality of life issues