Starship Corporation Review: Good, but Unrefined
Starship Corporation is a “space tycoon odyssey” game in which you run your own starship company, published by Iceberg Interactive and developed by Coronado Games, a team consisting of one (1) person. It is a “4D” game, meaning players can Develop, Design, Deal, and Deliver their own pre-built or custom-made starships. The game has been in development since 2012, and was crowdfunded on Indiegogo then through Steam’s Project Greenlight.
The review copy I was given had a few things that weren’t available until the game exited early access on the 3rd, but now includes:
- Campaign mode with around 100 contracts and two different endings
- Sandbox mode
- 177 unlockables for ship designs
- 22 unlockable fuselages
- 24 missions for Crew Management
First things first, this game is hard. Not in the traditional sense, but that there is a very high learning curve and even after having spent some time in tutorials and dabbling about in sandbox mode I still don’t completely get it. That being said, I also enjoyed the time I’ve spent and plan on spending more. The game takes a while to boot up, but appears to be preloading information, which means while playing I encountered only a handful of loading screens (most of which were between the separate tutorials), although some of them were fairly lengthy considering.
The options menu is large, only lacking in the graphics department, which isn’t really a big deal considering the style of the game, but more choices would still be appreciated. The tutorials are comprehensive and nicely voice acted and are definitely worth playing through and each specific one can be gone back to at any time. The different modes have win conditions that can be set to make the game either easier or harder (and sandbox mode can continue to be played even after the win conditions have been met), and you can also name your company and your CEO whatever you like (though you can’t pick a portrait for your company or yourself).
The game is turn-based and progresses through quarters, with four turns in one standard year. The map, which players won’t spend a long time looking at but is a bit difficult for me to read, at least. Compared to the galaxy maps in games like FTL or SPAZ it’s a bit basic, and the icons are hard to pick out; this is just my personal opinion, it could have everything to do with how I’m personally seeing the map and other people might not have any problem at all.
The bulk of the game, regardless of if you’re in campaign or sandbox mode, is spent taking contracts and building the appropriate ships, which is good since that’s what I enjoy the most. You can name and describe any ships you build, and work off of pre-existing or custom made blueprints, as well as save any ships you build). The art for the ship is nice, even if the pictures for the crew (and the loading screens) is a bit cheesy. There is a massive amount of research and technology available, which can be purchased outright if you have the funds, or invested in for progress each turn. You can put the rooms in your ships wherever you want, but it’s wise to keep certain things together, and make sure that the crew has easy access to what they need (for example, put your pilot crew quarters close to the bridge). Once you’re done with your ship and have met the requirements for the contract you send it off and get paid.
That’s the good stuff, and the stuff that I really liked. What’s not so nice is the menus. You can decide what to show or not while on the galaxy map, building a ship or in the crew management, but the information is important to have and I like to see everything at once, which leaves the screen looking incredibly cluttered. Some things have very helpful tooltips, while others, like the research and ship building category buttons, have none at all and just rely on little icons, some of which are more obtuse than others. I personally didn’t experience any bugs, but even after having left early access the Steam forums are full of bugs that haven’t been fixed yet, so keep that in mind.
The controls aren’t the most intuitive either. It’s difficult to control units and there’s no real indication on the galaxy map when you’ve found a mining node or a combat area. The menus are unintuitive and, while I enjoy the ship building, I feel like what each thing is and what it does as well as what your ship is missing to fill a contract could be more easily explained (via a checklist, for example).
What I like the least was the Crew Management aspect of the game, where you put your ships through simulation tests to make sure they’re suited for whatever you want to use them for. Thankfully this can all be automated rather than forcing you to play through the missions yourself, which I found frustrating and annoying, though I understand the point of them being there and do appreciate the extra level of depth.
Overall, as stated at the beginning of this review, I do enjoy this game, and the fact that it was made by one guy is amazing considering the depth it has, but I feel like it could use some refinement before it’s truly a gem. I give Starship Corporation a 3/5.