Real-time strategy games have never really been my forte. I’m even worse at games where I need to keep digital people happy through feeding them. Whenever I play ‘The Sims’ I merely tend to drown my poor digital victims in their own swimming pool before my interest wains entirely. Not that I’m saying they’re poor games of course, they’re just not my cup of tea.
So you can imagine my struggles when the two are put together, in the form of Firefly Studios’ Space Colony. Which, as the name conveniently suggests, has you setting up colonies on distant planets, while making sure your crew are happy, clean, well fed, and not being eaten by various alien creatures.
Now, some of you may be thinking that this all sounds a bit familiar, and rightly so. Space Colony originally came out on PC in 2003, and on Mac the following year, before receiving a HD re-release in 2012. But it’s now finally available on Steam, being aptly named Space Colony: Steam Edition, and it comes with a great deal of polishing from the 12 year old original, as well as having access to Steams’ Workshop.
Unfortunately, the polish hasn’t seeped through into the menus. Upon start-up you’re graced by an enormous border, as well as animations that are fairly obviously a decade old. Couple that with a minute amount of menu customisation, and things don’t look particularly promising.
Thankfully, the amount of game modes makes up for the lack of options. There’s of course the standard array of tutorial, which gives you a quick and straightforward understanding of how to keep a colony on another planet running smoothly, and campaign modes to keep you entertained, but alongside those are sandbox and creator modes.
In sandbox mode you’re given totally free reign. You choose the planet you want to colonise, and then you’re given your budget to start building your base. With that you can start building up your infrastructure and prioritise buildings for how you want to play, whether that’s gathering resources, creating a tourist hotspot or fighting your way through hordes of viscous aliens.
Creator mode meanwhile lets you build your own maps and campaigns. The map creator is incredibly basic though, you pick the size of map you want, select a colour (you’ve got 3 to choose from) and then away you go, putting down terrain, strongholds and aliens. Once you’ve chosen your ‘canvas’, plonking down bits and pieces works in a similar way to Microsoft Paint. Only instead of a paintbrush, you paint things with giant alien worms.
The campaign editor is similarly straightforward, but that’s far less jarring than making maps out of worms. Instead you create your own goals, whether you decide something simple such as cleaning the base in a certain amount of time, or something more complex like creating massive tourist hub from scratch. You’re then welcome to save said creations to play for yourself, or upload them so everybody can try out your scenarios.
And that’s what makes the Steam Edition of Space Colony so exciting. Steam is well known for its community-based workshop, and it’s the community that has the power to keep Space Colony interesting with fantastically elaborate scenarios and maps.
Games on their own get stale after time, and we need to remember that even though Space Colony receives extra missions in campaign mode and a bit of graphical updating, it still ultimately looks and feels like an old game. It doesn’t feel dated straight away, but when compared to the current crop of games with indie quirkiness or ultra-realistic graphics, Space Colony just doesn’t do enough to make it seem special.
And the same can be said for the gameplay, too. It’s not bad, not by any means, but after a while things begin to get monotonous, and your interest can quickly falter.
Which is why I could only recommend this game if it managed to create enough of a fanbase to keep interesting content coming in. We all know that people are capable of truly incredible mods. Thankfully, Space Colony: Steam Edition is in the right place to make that happen.
Reviewed on PC