I had high hopes for this game. There was something in the way it was covered that made me think that this high-concept game would be something special, a singularity almost on the indie scene. On paper, the concept is an intriguing one: a virtual social media game, set in a faux Star Treks sci-fi universe where your destiny is largely out of your hands. There was a commentary there on modern life and social media that I found pleasing, plus it had Star Trek jokes, what’s not to love.
Almost inevitably though, the game doesn’t live up to the lofty concept.
You ‘play’ someone from one of several races (including an awesome space-octopus), and you’re then tasked with tracking and ultimately, manipulating their lives and successes through the use of the in-game social site. You start as a transporter-accident clean-up crew member and through your connections and friends you try to progress in your career. There are also a number of randomly assigned goals such as getting into a relationship, for you to try to achieve, which aim to flesh out the story.
The way you do this is not very clear. You’re given a number of action points to use per turn (a turn includes work and off time and ends in sleep) which can then be spent on individual actions. Weirdly though ‘liking’ someone’s status costs the same as arranging a date or having a conversation with someone. There’s an odd balance there and I think it adds to the growing sense of bewilderment I felt playing the game.
>Not that I’m actually clear what the game is. I’m still not sure how my actions (mostly posting on walls and ‘friending’ people) impact my character and the goals they are trying to achieve. The level of feedback is slight and often I found myself lost at the end of the turn as to what to do.
It’s really odd. I like the design and the art style, though basic, is nice and quirky. It sits just on the right side of functional. The humour too is very good as it’s mostly quite subtle, laden with in-jokes and the joyful abuse of sci-fi tropes, but it is effective nonetheless. The peripheral details, such as the loading screens and the ‘work’ pages too help to create quite a believable sense of place, which is quite a shame given the game never quite matches up to it.
There is a lot to like about this title, but the game itself, is unfortunately not one of them. The helplessness you feel in-game, seems like a deliberate decision, but it goes too far. There’s not enough for you to manipulate, and certainly nothing complex or rewarding. Further the progress feels arbitrary, unrewarding and you feel that even for your own character, your actions have very little overall effect.
The away missions and the ‘large events’ too feel secondary, rather than the large set-pieces they aspire to be and in the end they just feel again arbitrary. You certainly don’t think that you have any real degree of control, which I concede may be the point, but if that is so I don’t think it entirely works.
In the end, the lack of direct agency is the main issue here and I just don’t feel there is enough ‘game’ in this game. It’s a shame too, there’s a lot of promise here.
Verdict – Off Target
Platforms available/reviewed – PC
Review copy supplied by Cliff Harris from publishers Positech. Check this post for more on our scoring policy.