One Spin for IXION, One Leap for Space Sims?
This promising "Frostpunk in space" needs some refinements in order to truly shine
IXION has a curious history. It's the name of a Greek king who was punished by the gods, bound to a burning solar wheel for eternity. The game, made by a 10-person team over at Kasebo Games and Bulwark Studios, also features a spinning wheel of a spacecraft. A city builder and colony management sim set in a hulking space carrier, IXION attempts to capture the tension of Frostpunk with a new set of crushed hopes and broken dreams.
I thought the title was misleading until IXION blew up the moon.
By accident, of course. The VOHLE engine in the Tiqqun, capable of travel beyond our solar system, busts a hole in our celestial neighbor and wipes humanity off the Earth. Your mission quickly changes from exploration to survival. It's a fitting retort to the "abandon space travel, we have bigger problems at home" critics.
No home, no problem. That's where the Tiqqun comes in. Dubbed a "space habitat" and pronounced as "Tycoon", this massive carousel of capitalism fits six sectors of real estate. It's perfect for cramped space quarters and the industries of tomorrow. IXION's buildings are gorgeous, featuring a visual style that sits between utilitarian and desperation.
Explore IXION's unknown as you move across orbits
The game's occupants need little beyond tight space quarters and insect food to survive. You get more of them by reviving frozen personnel strewn across space like living confetti. IXION also lets you grow mushrooms off waste and use water (a rare resource) to grow real crops, but your workers will make do with whatever they get. While their needs aren't complex, overwork them and you'll find industrial accidents chewing away at your hull integrity.
Hull repairs caused by those accidents, VOHLE jumps, or bizarre space weather cost Alloy, just like regular buildings. At first, you'll find Alloy strewn about in cartons at your first Sector. You'll get to unlock the other Sectors by using a ton of resources, opening up more building room at the cost of higher electricity upkeep. The game expects you to juggle multiple resources and their refined versions to keep the lights on. Lose enough power during an interstellar VOHLE jump and your sectors shut down, hacking away at the faith of the remaining survivors. Your ship's hull gets weaker with each jump so it's only a matter of time before everything falls apart. Death is reduced to a statistic.
As for the other stats, you'll increase them by discovering minerals with probes. A probe launcher lets you hunt for mineral deposits in asteroids as well as discover key narrative events across planets and moons. Once you've found your Silicon, Carbon, or Iron deposits, a mining ship gets them ready for a cargo ship to transport. Wait a couple of cycles (or increase the in-game speed) for your factories to get the materials they need to build refined materials like Electronics, Polymer, and Alloy. Science expeditions using your science ship net Science, used to research new technologies for the Tiqqun.
It's a change of pace from building chains that produce resources on the spot. You can apparently colonize safe planets too but I didn't do well enough to get there just yet. In IXION, even frozen water is a planet away.
As for your resource chains, you need workers and electricity. Insufficient power just grinds them to a halt but a small workforce increases the risk of explosions. These are nasty events that damage the Tiqqun's hull, held together by an airlock that consumes Alloy and heals it over time. I was coasting along at my own pace, surprised by the comparisons to the unforgiving colony sim Frostpunk. But when things take a turn for the worse in IXION, it can bring the whole ship down with it. Resolve an event with a promise to do better and it can come back to haunt you.
A single move of greed can undo hours of hard work.
Case in point, a minor hiccup I faced that quickly sent me to the main menu. IXION didn't explain cross-sector resource transfers clearly, resulting in my hull blowing up due to insufficient resources with a bunch of Alloy sitting in another sector. Reading through the instruction manual like a panicking pilot didn't help. It tells me that inter-sector transporters exist but not how to use them. While I loved the tension it induced, a growing hole in your ship soon becomes an annoyance.
One failed attempt later, I vowed to understand the beast that had bested me.
After a few clicks, I figured out how to prioritize resources on a per-sector basis. Turns out I could even migrate workers across sectors. I can understand why IXION doesn't hold my hand but an intuitive tutorial isn't a big ask considering the complexity of its systems.
IXION is a murky looking-glass at the wonders of space
The game's cutscenes are top-notch, displaying a sense of care and respect for man's journey into the unknown. The production values are excellent across the board, presenting IXION as a polished alternative to competing colony sims. I didn't encounter any bugs or dips in performance, even with multiple sectors on the brink of collapse. The building design and animation lend a sense of urgency to every task, be it avoiding mutiny or tackling the next main quest. IXION's haunting soundtrack kept me engrossed throughout my micromanagement spree.
The narrative, besides wordy skippable dialogue, is promising.
Reading about bodies taped to the sides of space stations and conspiracies against the organization unsettled me. While I didn't play well enough to get to the bottom of things, IXION has my attention.
In unforgiving sims, the player usually meets failure with a restart, vowing to do better. But that one moment in IXION felt like it had robbed me. I ended up understanding inter-sector resource management an attempt too late, but it's nothing a tutorial can't fix. And while it can easily be ironed, this marred my otherwise excellent time with IXION. Despite not being a space person, the game piqued my interest in Tiqqun's voyage across the stars. I can't wait to hop aboard with my newfound knowledge of the wizardry behind inter-sector transport. Spoiler: it's simpler than interstellar travel.
Sign in or become a SUPERJUMP member to join the conversation.