While I’m dreaming, I figured, why not imagine other sequels that will probably never happen? So I’d like to talk a bit about Startopia 2, a game that will never exist. The original was one of my favorites, and I’ve always been a little surprised that it never even got a spiritual successor. Along with Evil Genius, it’s the game I’d most like a sequel for.
Just to give a quick summary, in Startopia, you run a space station. Each alien race has its own preferences and desires that affect their needs, and they each have a particular job they specialize in. Zedem Monks handle religion, while Greys take care of your station’s medical needs. As your station grows, you need to think about entertainment, security, medicine, and trade. Trade was always my favorite part of the game. Each race has its own prices for different goods, so it’s easy to buy medical stuff cheap from the Greys and sell it as a massive profit to the Sirens, then use that money to buy their entertainment wares to sell to the Turakken, and so on.
For me, the appeal was running this space station with all these various aliens and trying to make the best station I could. It was a lot more personal than Tropico, probably the most similar game I’ve played to it, since you’d have far fewer aliens working for you, and I loved the humor.
The first change I’d like to make in a sequel is to make the game more transparent. While I loved Startopia, it was a very opaque game. It was basically impossible to tell which buildings were profitable or whether your station was performing well. There were little bars that told you whether the aliens on your station were getting their needs satisfied, but that was really it.
I’d like something similar to what Tropico has. You can click on a building, and see it’s lifetime profit and it’s profit over the last year. It makes it a lot easier to compare different buildings and get an idea about what’s best to focus on. Similarly, Tropico 4 had various tourism rating for different classes of tourist. It’d be great to be able to see what different alien species think of your station, so you know whether you need to focus more on attracting certain species. I could look and see which species were most common on my station, but it’d be a lot easier to check and see that, for example, my station has a 60% popularity rating with Greys, and they like the Roulesse Wheel, but dislike all the crappy motels, and they wish I had nicer bars. Something to give me an idea of how I can improve things and how I’m currently doing.
In terms of the aliens themselves, while I’d like to see new races, I have a hard time imagining where they could fit it. The original nine do a pretty good job of filling the available space, and there aren’t really any obvious holes. You’ve already got manufacturing, medicine, communications, military/police, love, science, farming, religion, and the useless aristocracy represented. What else could you have? Artists, perhaps? Office workers? Explorers?
On the note of the various professions, I feel like it makes more sense to pay your workers a salary. In Startopia, you just pay then one lump sum to work for you indefinitely. You need to give them raises as their skills improve, but it still feels like an odd arrangement, economically. I feel like it would make more sense to pay them a certain amount per cycle, which you can then raise based on their skills.
I do like the little CVs all the aliens have. It gives them a bit of personality. I wish you could see recent thoughts/conversations, though, as in the Tropico series. It gave you an idea of what people were thinking, and a lot of them were pretty funny. I’d like to know what they think of the various buildings aboard the station.
One minor gripe I have is that all members of a given species act the same way. It’d be more realistic if the benefits they get from buildings or their own preferences were randomized a bit. Are they really no Turakken who like talking to Zedem Monks?
Combat needs an update. In Startopia, combat boils down to having more guys who shoot guns than the other side and hoping they go bankrupt first. Taking over their sections is rarely even worth it, as you’re basically just saddled with junk for a while. I’m uncertain how to improve it, though. Maybe make it possible to buy segments from other players, so that war isn’t the only way to expand. Maybe place limits on army size, or allow for various upgrades, so that a small, elite force is a practical way to go. It was nice being able to send assassins and saboteurs, but why not let us control them? Maybe there’s something specific I want to blow up.
Lastly, I’d like more extensive missions. Part of this is my own problem. I just don’t like sandbox mode. My favorite mission of Startopia was the ninth, where you’re paying rent to the slugs who own the station. I spent most of the mission right on the edge of going bankrupt. It was thrilling. If there is a sandbox mode, I’d like to be able to set conditions like that. Allow for rent. Allow for very specific criteria, like healing 200 patients or reforming 200 criminals. Stuff like that would make it more fun, I think.
That’s really about it, though. Startopia as it is is already a great game. With some updated graphics and some more clarity, it’d be pretty much perfect. If you like management games, you should give it a try. It’s pretty cheap on Steam.