Ixion (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 21.12.2022

Review for Ixion on PC

Coming from Bulwark Studios, the team behind the sci-fi tactics game Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus comes Ixion, a genre blend of strategy, sci-fi, city builder and space opera. While that sounds like a handful, the way the game is structured comes together in a coherent way. Players take the role of an administrator who is in charge of the first interstellar colony ship. The game opens up with a small tutorial, and a basic story, but by the end of the tutorial things take a very dark turn that now has players in charge of humanity's survival.

Looking at a few screenshots, or hearing a general description of 'city builder in space', sells short how much of a nice surprise playing Ixion can be. While expecting at least some degree of quality from the pictures, the way the game pulls the player into the narrative experience is such a rare thing these days that it leaves a very good impression on anyone looking into the game. So, what makes this game such a breath of fresh air in the strategy genre initially, and how far does it fall from here? Cubed3 heads off into space to check it out.

From the beginning, the graphics of the game are largely very well done. The way the space station is rendered, the light effects and so on are all very pleasant to look at. The game throws players into a tutorial chapter where they must get this base off the ground, learning the basics of resources, building, moving, and everything else needed for the experience while being given a story about how this is the first interstellar space station / colony ship for humans to escape a dying earth.

At this point, the game, while good, was not remarkable; there are some problems present that continued for the entire duration that drag it down somewhat. However, the real thrust of the game has yet to hit players. The tutorial ends on a bang, a huge one in fact, with a lot of people dead and the severity of the mission cranked up to 10. The story suddenly starts hitting like a ton of bricks, and players find themselves a part of the story, not just reading how bad things suck, but actually feeling the desolation, the loneliness, and the hopelessness of the situation.

Screenshot for Ixion on PC

Overall, the game masterfully weaves exploring the solar systems with probes to find resources, maintaining the base, and slowly building up the various sectors with everything from food, to power, to material processing. The overall feeling in the game is one of shortage, and it feels right at home with not knowing where you are, how you got there and just trying to survive. From drip-fed segments of story that the player has to try to piece together, to the feeling that something isn't quite as it seems, this title really keeps the player going through some of its criticisms.

While much of the gameplay is largely pretty basic, it comes together very well until it eventually falls apart. Players have to find resources out in space, mine them, then haul them back to the space station. From there they have to carefully manage several resources: from population to food and minerals, all in very short supply. This is done on a grid system of placing buildings, running roads, and keeping supply pipelines rolling.

This reviewer has not been pulled into a game like this is a long time, and it was such a fresh feeling being engaged with the story and wondering how it was going to play out; which makes its fall from grace that much stronger. The extreme plot twist right out of the tutorial, along with finding themselves so utterly alone in space, was just really well done. What felt like a simple romp and Sim City in space suddenly felt much darker, more alone, and more hostile. There were never enough resources, never enough time, and things just keep getting worse.

Screenshot for Ixion on PC

There are some issues for sure, and they are simple enough, so hopefully they will get fixed, but they are somewhat significant. Among the problems is that the game can become very long and grindy. Once things are largely set up in a system and stuff is explored, it's mostly just waiting around for something to happen and resources to get harvested. At times like these there isn't much to do, but it still has to get done with all the 'farming', lest players lose. This is because the game is fairly hard...make that very hard. Most players are going to lose hard, even a veteran strategy gamer like this reviewer and being good at min/maxing, there were still far too many close calls.

What this really means is that some players are going to be put off by the experience, which is unfortunate because the tale of survival is far more interesting than the gameplay. The game really needs to be trimmed by about 40-50% of its length and incorporate a difficulty slider to give players more resources because it's the story and experience here that shines, not so much the gameplay. Everything from the hypnotic music that fits so well, to a strong 'lost in space' feeling, to the race against the clock, the entire experience was largely very enjoyable. One of the last big hits against it is that once it has been played once, as enjoyable as it was, there isn't much replayability.

Screenshot for Ixion on PC

Where the game really starts to unwind, after all this praise, is about at the 10+ hour mark. All the cool parts of building a spaceship wear off, and a harsh reality sets in that unless the player built their ship perfectly, and that is not hyperbole, they are going to lose. The game is going to grind out 95% of players with its relentless difficulty, and just how long everything and anything takes. This game feels like a bad rollercoaster, it starts off so strong, but then it starts crashing hard. There are too many things that just get in the way of what was so, so good. The interesting plot unravels, the game still just grinds the player down with more and more trash, and there is nothing intriguing or fun keeping the player going.

Everything is designed to make the player angry. From the constant resource drain of repairing the ship (really just a way to force players to move on), to food usage, to limited resources in each planet sector, players can never get ahead. This is even playing very, very good. It only takes a glance at the 'perfect' builds players post to know any sort of normal play is not going to cut it. When you factor in how often things blow up or people get killed one has to wonder are these the best of the best up there, or deranged children in charge of Earth's intergalatic future? Jokes aside, it does not make for a fun experience as the player.

Screenshot for Ixion on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Ixion perhaps could be used as an example of flying so high... and then missing the mark and falling pretty far down. There was so much to recommend and enjoy about the game, especially if only checking the first few hours. But the more you play, the flaws, difficulty, unraveling story, and pretty much everything else frustrates the player to such a degree that many players are not going to finish the game, either due to the difficulty, or simply not wanting to do the same thing for 5 hours and hoping their ship doesn't blow up randomly.

Developer

Bulwark Studios

Publisher

Kasedo Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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