We’ve been eagerly anticipating IXION for quite a while now, and the game was recently released on Steam – time for the review.
We first saw IXION by Bulwark Studios in the summer of last year. The studio behind Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus was partnering up with publisher Kasedo Games once again when they announced the game at Gamescom, and we were very impressed by what we saw and the scope of the developer’s ambitions with the project.
Essentially a city-building and survival game set in deep space, IXION paints a scenario in which mankind has to now find a way to survive while away from Earth, as we managed to deplete all of the natural resources there. All hope now rests on the Tiqqun, a massive space station produced by the DOLOS organization. You’re in charge of it, and the early game is all about getting familiar with the game’s city-building mechanics.
In other words – the station’s far from finished, and instead you’re presented with a grid on which you can place buildings, roads and other useful facilities, like stockpiles for your precious resources. You’ll need to provide places to sleep and eat as well, and of course everything has to run smoothly – familiar stuff for anyone who’s played a city builder, and you’ll learn as you go thanks to a helpful tutorial.
Some of that city building ties into the survival aspect rather directly. Mankind is on a quest for survival here, so caring for them is a crucial task and involves, food, power and medical aid. You’ll have to keep people happy, but they also need to have trust in you as the administrator, or you risk rebellion on board. Doing well at the various challenges and minor disasters the game throws at you helps to avert this, while failure only makes things derail quicker.
IXION’s mechanics keep getting piled on though, which means that this ends up being a fairly hardcore experience with more micro-management than in games like Cities or (to stay closer to home) Startopia. There’s a serious learning curve to it as well, because one misplaced cog in the machine can make the station come crashing down (not literally, but in the sense that tons of stuff will go wrong and it’s an uphill battle to make things right again).
That difficulty level, combined with the fact that the game will throw a lot of unforeseen problems your way, makes this far removed from the kind of casual city builder you might be used to – this is a “last hope for mankind” type of situation and it’s almost as if the game wants to shove that down your throat one too many times. It’s a joy when you get thing running in an automatic way, but there are so many wrenches thrown into the machinery that you have to be prepared for some frustrations along the way.
Luckily, what helps in that regard is that IXION looks great. Cutscenes are fantastic, and we absolutely love the intricate little details on many of the buildings you can place. Where most city builders will just show you exteriors, the buildings here often have a lot of depth to them, allowing you to peer inside and see things going on there as well. It can be pretty brutal, but sci-fi fans will get a kick of IXION.