Retrospective: Startopia • Page 3

Science friction.

So, a lot of ideas then, and as a lot of reviewers noted at the time the concept behind Startopia's Biodeck could make an entire standalone game. But here it is, buried in a management game, like you bought a car and found the keys to a jet-ski down the back of one of the seats.

But there's a tiny tragedy in Startopia being remembered for VAL and the Biodeck, a Space Operetta if you will. It means people are forgetting the other spark of genius in Startopia, which is how it gets competitive.

Your space station in Startopia is donut-shaped (or 'toroidal', fact fans), and divided into many segments like you'd cut up a cake (or like you might cut up a donut if you were an enormous diva).

When one of your decks starts feeling a little cramped, you pay a big wad of Energy to unlock a segment on either side of it, gradually expanding each of your decks into a surreal inwards-curving arc.

Sorted. Except other players are building on the same station as you, and they're also unlocking segment after segment. Eventually the time will come where your borders touch and the two of you are separated by a single deck-wide airlock.

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Broken windows and darkness means uninhabited. Light means: keep an eye on this one, see if it expands towards you.

Where the fun comes in is that you can launch takeovers of enemy segments by hacking the airlock open, then using your fuzzers and staff to wage a quick war while you hack the next airlock over closed, taking the segment and all of its facilities for yourself and ideally leaving your opponent without a functioning lavotron.

It's a lovely, spiteful way of messing with your opponents, not least because (outside of the Biodeck with its snoop-friendly glass roof) you have no idea what's on the other side of the airlock. It could be an expensive row of laser towers waiting to shred your optimistic interlopers, or it could be a vast starport and a cargo bay full of hardplans and research documents.

Then again, a smart enemy could desperately beam all those items away and fling them messily onto the floor of the next segment over. But then, his loyal, aimless scuzzers might end up collecting them and going waddling over to slot them back into the cargo deck. Ah.

Between both Urban Chaos and this game failing to sell, Mucky Foot have got to be some of the unluckiest developers of all time. Startopia deserves to be remembered with the Theme Hospitals and Dungeon Keepers of the world.

So, let's toast to them, eh? I've got a whole crate of mucus wine in from Arona Daal. To Mucky Foot! If you're out there, I thank you, from the bottom of all four of my hearts.

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