There is a lot of promise in League of Geek's scifi colony simulator as it blasts into Early Access, but prepare yourself for some rougher edges as this game develops.
I always thought it would be fun being a captain of a ship, keeping up on the goss on your crew, exploring new worlds, and rescuing people. Turns out there’s a lot more to it, but there is also a fair bit less goss than I was hoping.
JUMPLIGHT ODYSSEY is Melbourne's League of Geeks sophomore release, the studio best known for digital board game ARMELLO company announced they'd be making not one but two games at once, and next week the first of those games goes into Early Access.
Early Access is a word you should keep front of mind as you manage your crew and jump through space, there are some very strong foundations here but there is obviously still a lot more of this journey through the stars to come.
The game's beautiful cartoon art-style, reminiscent of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, quickly introduces your mission.
We’re trying to find a new home at the Forever Star after our planet was destroyed.
This game isn't, at least this stage, a social management game. If you were coming in expecting THE SIMS in space it might leave you wanting, it's much closer to EVIL GENIUS or SPACEBASE DF-9, this is through and through a base management game.
You aren't moving your crew around directly, rather assigning tasks through build orders and missions, and your people go about their own business.
As someone who doesn’t play a lot of simulator games, it was a bit overwhelming being thrown in having to build, launch recon and survey missions, repair the ship, and make sure the crew stays healthy and alive.
However the tutorial does a good job in breaking down the steps for the main game components of building, mixing, missions so you learn pretty quickly what you need to do to keep running away from the Zutopan fleet.
Once you’ve completed the tutorial, take a minute and figure out a plan of what areas you need to build and fix. I started one game without fixing the manufacturing room and very quickly realised that it was crucial to continuing my journey.
Keeping up your resources are essential to progress and you'll be managing building and repairing while you pick up loot across the universe.
It's all to build and maintain "Hope" the overall score measuring how well your crew is faring, deaths or damage, running out of water or food all damages Hope.
Finding survivors and rescuing them builds that hope score up, which you can do when undertaking missions.
With your shuttles you can assemble a team to conduct surveys, extract materials but also search and rescue any people who might be lost in space.
These missions are pretty easy to launch and maintain as they can be done while you focus on the rest of your ship, but keep an eye on shuttles as they can be destroyed and your crew can be killed.
So you'll jump into a new system, send out a crew to survey the surroundings, maybe sent your fighters out on patrol then get to work on your ship as you wait for them to return.
Once they are back precious resources in hand you'll get the change to repair and upgrade.
The adventurous scifi soundtrack scores this adventure sounding exactly what you would expect to hear in a space anime.
The music when you pause the time on the ship actually made me laugh, the muzak style elevator music while in space or between intense moments escaping from enemy fire was gold.
There is such a great potential in the gameplay, with plenty to upgrade and build with structures serving as pre-requisites for new items and ships.
While the difficulty felt a bit of a hard slog especially on the first run, I felt that roguelite influence encouraging me to make another run, to take another journey as you fully grasp all the systems and screens you need to navigate as you chart the stars.
PLOT A NEW COURSE
It's moving between all of these different screens were I started to run into a few bugs that stopped my in tracks like a wayward asteroid field.
The mission and jump management map tended to get stuck and I couldn't exit out of it, likewise the crew would sometimes never board their shuttle to undertake their missions. You could sometimes prompt them to move by changing the alert level, sometimes not.
The UI got locked entirely and I couldn't interact with the open airlock door venting into space as your crew yells they are running out of oxygen.
I must admit going into this game I was expecting it to be a bit more like the Sims in the idea of being able to tell specific crew members what to do and where to go and lots of times they got stuck too.
I ran into a few issues where I wanted something to be built and even though I used the prioritised function, it was never done.
I felt it was a bit frustrating at times relying on the upper staff to assign crew to the task, then waiting as my own personal hope meter depleted as i wished for it to actually complete.
I was also expecting more of the story between crew characters. From what I read and saw in the game’s description, there is character romance and drama that can develop but I thought we would have more of a role in progressing that.
Rather it seems, from what I have played so far, that it’s left up to the crew and all you do is read about it when you click on the character. It definitely feels more secondary to the game.
COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH
JUMPLIGHT ODYSSEY offers some great variation in the gameplay, there are some really good foundations here.
I'm looking forward to the ability to ‘Create a new odyssey’ with a custom captain and ship, though at the moment Princess Euphora and SDF Catalina are the only options respectively, which promises the ability to adapt the gameplay to suit you.
Cycle through what kind of lift support you want, crew size, starting stockpile and odyssey (or journey) length.
I’m very keen to see what they do with these options. Will we have a side story that focuses on another captain and another ship? Or maybe different captains will have different abilities?
There is a lot of promise with this game and I can’t wait to see how it will develop and continue once it has been released, it's a journey I'm excited to take with the team.
A copy of JUMPLIGHT ODYSSEY on PC was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review.