Management is not just an aspect of everyday life; in the video game world, it can often mean the difference between crushing failure or resounding success. For Kasedo Games and Bulwark Studios, that one element is elevated in Ixion, a city-builder that pushes players to the brink in the neverending quest to survive the perils of space.
Just understanding the backstory of Ixion is enough to heap massive pressure on anyone’s shoulders, unlike say, the more slapstick nature of something like Two Point Campus. As Earth is on the brink of ecosystemic collapse, the time to find a new home for the human race is upon us. Taking on the role of the Administrator, the destiny of humanity is entirely in your hands on board the prototype space station, Tiqqun.
Built with everything the human race needs, Tiqqun is able to house the population, feed them, and keep them occupied. Space travel is also made possible thanks to the massive VOHLE engine, but things obviously take a turn for the worse. With the station left damaged and stranded in space, keeping everyone alive while searching for a new planet to call home becomes the main goal.
Ixion stretches players in a multitude of ways. The dangers of space creates an ever-present issue, but there is always value in extracting its resources. Within Tiqqun itself, the infrastructure needs maintenance and development, while the people and your crew will have their own issues that need dealing with. Simply put, there are no easy choices or answers, and actions can lead to consequences both dire and good.
This all unfolds across three distinct experiences, with the first being the most familiar form. Peering into the interior of Tiqqun, Ixion becomes all about managing the station and your resources. Homes need to be built; a food supply has to be constant, while the stability of this society requires maintaining as various factions put forward their needs and wants.
Organising and planning out effective production chains for the likes of alloys and electronics is the best way forward, but Ixion never makes that an easy task. With limited room in each of the six sectors, balancing these operationally independent sectors while ensuring the transition of vital goods between them is a high-wire act. Exporting and importing never felt so deadly, and the world of logistics was never more complex than in Ixion.
Having only a finite number of workers adds another dimension of stress to the overall management of Tiqqun. Overwork can lead to discontent and industrial accidents, but critical jobs need to be done if you hope to have the station running; who said being a leader was ever going to be easy?
While dealing with the people remains a crucial part of the spacefaring adventure, Ixion also requires you to take care of the exterior of Tiqqun, affording players a rare breather comparatively together with the wonder of space. Building solar panels for power and other important additions made possible with progress through the story allows Tiqqun to stay running, but there is also the bonus of the wonderfully realised star systems to marvel at. The scenery can almost make you forget just how stressful it can be to keep the human race alive.
Yet, that calm won’t last, as Ixion also introduces the third aspect for players to look after, space itself. The various star systems that Tiqqun currently resides in are never empty, and sending probes will help uncover new directions for exploration. This is how players can discover new resources to harvest and anomalies to investigate, leading to choices that must be made for humanity’s future. Perhaps you will discover a new element that can up the efficiency of your production lines, retrieve long-dormant cryo pods for more workers, or more likely, cause the death of your science team in the last gambit to survive
The way all three layers of Ixion work together is impressive stuff, truly bringing to life a space station that needs all of its parts working in tandem to keep chugging along. Will your logistics chain hold up to the challenge of errant cargo ships? How do you handle dwindling morale that is a result of you making the wrong choice? Even having Tiqqun make a jump is a tough decision as it places immense strain on the damaged hull, but not doing so presents its own set of issues.
However, with every bit of success, progress is marked by such stories of risk and reward, a majestic endeavour that is only made possible with the human spirit. The storytelling, with the overarching narrative and adventures of your own making, makes for compelling sci-fi fodder, and that uniqueness helps Ixion stand out from other games attempting to do the same.
At the end of the day, Ixion caters to a specific group of players looking for the ultimate management challenge, and largely succeeds in making things count. The way the systems and mechanics are designed, the challenges that await players at every turn, and the idea of a spacefaring journey that is balanced precariously on your own decisions make for a tantalising concoction. The time to prove the strength of the human spirit is upon us, and what an adventure it promises to be.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A grand adventure in need of a stellar hand at the helm, Ixion is not shy about pushing players and making them pay for mistakes, resulting in a management challenge that is out of this world.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Story - 8.5/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 8/10