Its hard, being the leader. Everyone depends on you, everyone has demands, and you don’t have near enough of everything to keep everyone happy. Hard choices need to be made, but you’re the right person for the job. At least you’ve got plenty of food onboard… don’t you? This is Ixion.
Ixion is a survival city building game, developed by Bulwark Studios, and published by Kasedo Games. In it, you’ll be put in charge of the Tiqqun, a space station on which you’ll be managing the populace and controlling the population onboard. To facilitate the needs of the populace, you’ll need to make sure that they have enough resources such as food, enough power to make sure there aren’t blackouts, and enough resources to be able to fuel your industries.
Seconds Before Disaster
The Tiqqun is the property of the DOLOS corporation, an aerospace megacorporation that has seen the various issues plaguing Earth such as climate change and has decided to reach for the stars to try and secure humanities future. You’ll meet various authority figures within DOLOS during the prologue and learn more about the corporation and its beliefs. To begin with, you’ll just have some basic tasks to complete and learn the basics of various mechanics such as exploration and resource management.
After completing the prologue, its time for you to test the VOHLE engine, the prototype FTL travel device that is key to DOLOS’s plans – unfortunately, it goes catastrophically wrong, and you appear back in the solar system at an indeterminate time in the future. The solar system is in ruins with Earth completely devoid of life, and your plans have now changed – finding a viable exoplanet to colonise and safeguard humanities future is now paramount. You’ll need to scramble for resources, find additional population to staff your station, and explore the various locations you visit for research data and resources.
In Ixion, one of the first things you’ll do is start building within your unlocked zones on the Tiqqun. There are many types of buildings in the game, ranging from structures to house your populace, to industrial buildings, to warehouses, infirmary’s and so on. They start off fairly basic, but as you progress and unlock more buildings via research you’ll have more advanced and capable buildings unlocked for use. Buildings are built on square bases, and you’ll need to plan in advance the layout of your settlement, as there is finite space and you need to make the most of it.
You can unlock more sectors over time to increase the space; you start with 1 zone, but there are up to 6 in total you can gain access to – in addition, zones can be specialised into certain work, for example industrial buildings which gives various buffs to that sector. These specialisations are achieved by building a certain amount of those types of buildings in that area, for example farming in a food production sector.
A Needy Populace
To cope with the needs of your populace and to be able to build in the first place, there are various resources in Ixion you’ll need to keep track of: to begin with the major ones are alloys and polymers. Alloys are used to build most structures you’ll need, as well as repairing the Tiqqun once it takes hull damage, and for various exploration events you encounter. Polymers are used to build solar panels to expand your power production, but also used for exploration events as well. There are various other resources that you’ll unlock and expand to use over the course of your game, ranging from ice to waste to electronics, but all play an important role in your economy and are vital to your success.
The resources in Ixion can be found from various sources, such as supplies already present on the station, exploration events giving you chunks of resources, or manufacturing your own resources. The first 2 are enough to cover your needs in the very early game, but soon you’ll need to start mining resources like iron so they can be refined by your industry into alloys. Mining is done by mining ships, which are docked within your docking bays, and then the resources need to be collected by cargo ships afterward and brought back to your station to be processed. All ships, including science ships, gain experience over time as they’re used, making them more effective at their role – as an example, cargo ships slightly increase their cargo capacity as they level up.
All resources are stored in warehouses, which can only store one type of resource – this necessitates multiple warehouses being required and over time you’ll need more and more to make sure you can store the new resources you’ll require over time. Careful management of your buildings is a running theme, as you often have limited amounts of power as solar panels are expensive to upgrade, meaning you’ll sometimes need to turn power hungry buildings off and balance your needs on the fly as your requirements change.
Frozen In Time
Once you’ve unlocked multiple zones in Ixion, you’ll next need to manage your population and resources between zones to balance your various needs. Workers are required to staff buildings – too few in a zone, and you’ll run into accidents which can cause injuries and even death. More workers can be unfrozen from cryostasis, but once they’ve be unfrozen, you’ll need to make sure your food stockpiles can cope, and you have enough power to keep their residences lights on.
If you do run out of power, then the residents trust in you will drop, and sometimes more deaths can occur, which is bad as you have a limited resource of population to draw from. Cryopods for more population are collected from various exploration events, and are a crucial resource – however, you probably won’t have the resources to just keep opening every single one as you get them, so have a steady stream of them being opened is the way to go.
In addition, you need to make sure to keep your populace happy as over time, they’ll start having more issues with ‘Dead Earth Sickness’. This is exacerbated over time as you find out what has happened to humanity ever since your fateful jump early in the game, and to combat it you’ll need to build monuments, enact edicts, and not stay too long in the same sector. This puts you on a soft timer to complete your missions in any systems you visit as quickly as possible. Monuments and edicts are unlocked later in the game, and an important part of being able to deal with the problem – if you can’t keep on top of it, your people will lose trust in you and depose you.
Always Thoroughly Explore Around You
Trust is an important part of Ixion, and something you need to always keep as high as possible. Trust is earned by making sure that peoples’ needs, such as food and housing, are always fulfilled and stability in your zones is as high as possible. Generally, if you’re on top of the events that occur, you’ll be fine, but there are some events that can be brutal to trust amongst other things.
I’ve mentioned it a couple of times now, but exploration is an important mechanic in the game, and something you’ll be doing a lot of – its an excellent vessel to learn about the events that occurred after your catastrophic jump and before you appeared back in time. Probes will need to be sent out to most places to search for exploration options (as well as materials to mine), and once done you can then send your science ship over to check out the appeared option. These exploration events have multiple choice options and vary significantly in what they give you – some give you processed resources; some give you more population, and some give you research; others just give you death.
You’ll have multiple choices, and some events have options you can only take after researching certain tech or visiting other anomalies. As you get later into the game, the options tend to become more dangerous, and space weather will also impact any ships you have in the sector as well as the Tiqqun if you’re docked at a point on interest in it. Space weather can be fatal to your ships, and your population, and should be avoided when at all possible.
Exploration is initiated via the planetary system map, which shows you any events you’ve found in the system so far as well as the planetary bodies, as well as things like storms and where your ships are currently located. The other two layers are the internal map, which is what you’ll spend most of your time on and use to oversee construction, as well as the external map which shows you the station from the outside and you’ll queue up production of solar panels and additional special modules such as your engine.
A Fleeting Chance Of Success
There are also events that can occur back on the Tiqqun, that demand you complete tasks such as constructing a certain building or unfreezing a specific number of Cryopods, all within a set timeframe. These can be ignored for the most part to some degree, but if you ignore them too much, you’ll start getting a disobedient populace who can start causing big headaches for you, as well as a loss of trust in your leadership which can be fatal to your run.
In Ixion, past the early game there are also accidents that will start occurring – these can occur randomly as well as if you understaff one of your zones and they can’t man the necessary jobs fully. These accidents can be devastating, causing many injuries and a large number of deaths – too much so, at times. I’ve had at least one run when I was incredibly unlucky with deaths, and I had to restart that chapter fully – it just feels a bit too RNG based at times.
Progress is tracked by chapters, and you’ll need to complete the story exploration events in a sector before you can move to the next. There are usually several optional events as well, and these give you an opportunity to learn more about what has happened during your disappearance. The story is very intriguing, and I felt the worldbuilding was good overall and kept me hooked on what had happened. The entire game just feels incredibly atmospheric and immersive.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Struggle
The visuals in Ixion are also good; I loved the visual design of the Tiqqun and the general realistic sci fi design style and tone in use throughout the game. On top of this, the sound is fantastic – the music in particular is a treat and gave an eerie and mysterious vibe to the game, even slightly foreboding at times. It really helped with the immersion and I think the soundtrack is something that I’ll be listening to even on its own in future.
That being said, there are a few problems – the difficulty is rather extreme at times, and if often feels like you need to know what happens before it happens in order to actually deal with problems without too many knock on effects. There isn’t much chance to deal with problems in a natural reactionary fashion, and it feels like you’re just expected to fail multiple runs via trial and error to actually succeed and know what the events you should take are, and how to deal with your residents demands.
Some of the events you’ll encounter don’t even really give you a fair amount of time to deal with them – this is compounded by the lack of any difficulty options, so there aren’t any ways to make the game a little easier to try and just enjoy the game a bit more and not deal with what, at times, can be an exhausting struggle. Ixion often feels oppressive and anxiety inducing just because there isn’t any time to relax – you’ve never got enough resources, or enough power, or enough time… it can be very draining, and a slightly easier difficulty option for less skilled players would be welcome to enjoy the game more.
In addition, I did run into various bugs during the game – events requiring me to complete them twice, progress being stalled as new missions wouldn’t appear and resources not being transferred between sectors properly. These did prove irritating at the time and set me back somewhat, but restarting the chapter did fix them and they didn’t end my game prematurely,
The Final Frontier
Finally, the UI and menus just aren’t particularly intuitive to use, and I often struggled to find just where things were – specialisations, for example, are mentioned early on but you can’t see them until much later into the game using a specific building. The populations migration screen is fine, but the resource management interface just feels finickity to use and often led to frustration.
There is a lot to like about Ixion – it is an atmospheric tale of humanity dealing with the odds and the overcoming any obstacle in its path, one way or another. That same difficulty is often too oppressive, however, and I feel that it will be a bit of an obstacle for some. In addition, there are a few foibles elsewhere which can make for a frustrating experience. Overall, though, for those who want a challenge, Ixion will be an excellent and immersive choice that I heartily recommend.
There is a lot to like about Ixion – it is an atmospheric tale of humanity dealing with the odds and overcoming any obstacle in its path, one way or another. That same difficulty is often too oppressive however, and I feel that it will be a bit of an obstacle for some; in addition, there are a few foibles elsewhere which can make for a frustrating experience and have marked down my enthusiasm. For those who want a challenge though, Ixion will be an excellent and immersive choice.
Ixion is available now on PC via Steam
Developer: Bulwark Studios
Publisher: Kasedo Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this Review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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