Ixion – from Bulwark Studios and Kasedo Games – is a space station management title that delivers above and beyond the city-building aspects at its core. Players will take on the role of an administrator aboard the “Tiqqun”, humanity’s last bastion of hope. It’s aboard the Tiqqun where you’ll make decisions that will determine not only the fate of the crew but also your own and humanity’s fate too.
Welcome to Tiqqun
An introductory cutscene shows a shuttle being launched into space by DOLOS, a global conglomerate. You’re aboard this shuttle as it docks aboard a massive space station currently orbiting Earth. This is the Tiqqun and, as its newly appointed administrator, it’s now your responsibility to manage it. Ixion throws you straight into the deep end. No pressure huh?
Thankfully, the prologue gets you up to speed with the basic mechanics necessary to keep your crew alive and run the Tiqqun. There are a lot of tutorial pop-ups and fully voiced dialogue between the ship’s computer and other key characters, such as DOLOS’s founder Vanir Dolos. During the prologue, you’ll eventually work your way towards getting the Tiqqun ready for an interstellar engine test.
It’s safe to say the learning curve in Ixion is pretty steep and it’s entirely possible to fail early on. And yes, “early on” includes the prologue. If you let too many deaths occur aboard the Tiqqun and lose the trust of your crew, you’ll be tossed out like yesterday’s space trash. You’ll therefore need to carefully balance and manage your resources in sectors of the Tiqqun, while still maintaining the trust of your crew. This is a key aspect of the game and is very reminiscent of 11 Bit Studio’s Frostpunk. As an example, if you fail to provide food for your crew over consecutive “meal cycles”, they’ll eventually starve and start to die. Building up food production facilities and obtaining the necessary resources to keep the Tiqqun’s crew happy and fed is necessary for their survival and yours.
Prepare to VOHLE jump!
Without spoiling too much, once you’ve managed to get through the prologue, the VOHLE test engine is fired up and the Tiqqun travels through space to an unknown location. Upon emerging, the ship’s hull is severely damaged and your chances of survival sit at around 7%. The ship’s computer then activates emergency protocols and you need to quickly get the Tiqqun’s hull repaired so as to prevent it from falling apart completely.
At the same time, you’ve lost all communications with Earth and the crew requests that you try to make contact with mission control again. Balancing these competing objectives is easier said than done and you’ll have to build up a dock for mining, cargo, and science vessels as well as an airlock to allow for hull repairs to take place. Getting through this takes some trial and error and, again, it’s quite easy to run out of resources and fail. If you aren’t consistently careful and strategic about what buildings you place and what resources you consume, you can easily block yourself from progressing further. Chances are, if you didn’t fail in the prologue, you’ll fail here and will have to restart with your newfound knowledge of what to expect and how to manage the situation.
Now while Ixion is challenging, it’s not an excessively hard game. Once you know the basics – and it takes quite some getting used to the ebb and flow of things – it becomes manageable. Players will be able to build structures that perform specific functions and these are all intertwined with the technology tree you need to research in order to maintain the Tiqqun and its systems. The crew needs living quarters and food, but they also need not be overworked or they’ll be dissatisfied with you. At the same time, the Tiqqun’s hull needs to constantly be repaired due to ongoing deterioration that occurs every cycle, and you’ll need to maintain a stable power supply for all the related systems.
New resources in Ixion are gathered via sending out cargo and mining ships. A science ship can also be sent out to explore points of interest on the solar system map and it’s during these sequences that the storytelling is the star of the show. After you’ve built a probe launcher, you’ll be able to construct and deploy stellar probes throughout the solar system to discover resources and uncover points of interest where you can send your science ship. Mass Effect 2 is that you?
At these points of interest, your science ship crew will be able to investigate numerous things such as abandoned space derelicts, unmanned research bases on planets, strange environmental conditions, and much more. Investigating these points leads you to you learning more about just what the heck happened after you used the VOHLE test engine. It’s intriguing and uncovering the mysteries behind these points of interest will keep you exploring and coming back for more.
Ixion is thankfully broken up into chapters and it’s possible to restart a chapter if you do mess up along the way. The storytelling is excellent, with a lot of hard science fiction at its core. The impact of story beats is expanded upon somewhat with in-game requests back at the Tiqqun. The crew will react to new events and you’ll have to make some tough moral decisions at times, which will affect their trust in you.
Again, this is very reminiscent of Frostpunk but that’s not to say that’s a bad thing. In fact, if you enjoyed playing Frostpunk, you’ll find yourself right at home with Ixion since it’s quite similar in terms of gameplay mechanics. Survival-strategy city-building is a genre we’re always glad to see is alive and well.
A solar flare for the eyes
Graphically, Ixion is flat-out gorgeous. Everything is dripping with detail in the Tiqqun and the animations of functioning buildings is quite visually appealing. Even while being constructed, they look great and it’s cool seeing the steel mill producing alloy from raw iron. Outside of the Tiqqun’s many sectors, players will have access to the exterior of the Tiqqun, where they can rotate the camera view around and see the entirety of the space station. Building upgrades onto the Tiqqun – such as solar panels – is an equally satisfying task as you’ll actually see them appear all over the station itself. It makes it feel as if you’re really getting somewhere with repairing and enhancing the Tiqqun as you continuously research new technologies.
Zooming out, you can access a solar system map that shows you nearby planets, the sun, asteroids, probes, and your fleet of mining, cargo, or science vessels. This too looks great, and being able to watch your ships and probes move across this solar system map is a nice touch.
The soundtrack is also a highlight, featuring several fantastic tracks that play in the background and really adds to the overall atmosphere of the game. The main theme itself really sets the mood, while tension-inducing tracks kick in during more chaotic events later in the story. Composed by Guillaume David, the 15-track soundtrack is a fantastic fit for the game and is well worth listening to.
Downtime and micromanaging
The gameplay loop in Ixion does suffer from some drawbacks that are seemingly always present in its genre. There is a lot of downtime as you have to wait for resources to be gathered before something can be constructed. There’s even more waiting necessary before you’ll be able to unlock new sectors of the Tiqqun since they require a hefty amount of resources. And this is despite the fact that there are 3 speed-levels you can toggle between. Thankfully, when events get chaotic, you can also pause time and properly plan for future construction or story progression.
Another issue is that each sector of the Tiqqun operates independently of the other so, unless you specifically set up trading between sectors, each sector operates in isolation. This means that you’ll have to do some micromanagement if you want to ensure that all sectors are transferring resources and running optimally. If you’re not a fan of more hands-on survival strategy titles, this might annoy you since you can’t just build something and then forget about it. You need to be paying attention for the most part, especially since the hull is always taking a beating from the harsh environment of space.
Speaking of that hull, the damage the Tiqqun takes seems to be rather excessive at the time of review. Players will have to focus a lot of effort on simply securing enough iron to produce alloy for repairs and this really bogs down your progress in the story. You’ll have to constantly shift the flow of resources towards a sector dedicated to producing the necessary alloy for repairs. Hopefully this will be addressed with a patch in the future to improve the story flow.
The final verdict
Ixion is a fantastic survival strategy city-builder centered on a space station and mankind’s preservation as a species in the dark recesses of space. The storytelling and lore built up by the game’s in-game events is pure distilled science fiction at its best and while there are some space opera tropes that the game sticks to, it’s still very enjoyable throughout. Unfortunately, the busy work and micromanagement required in keeping the Tiqqun from disintegrating do put a damper on things at times and could do with some tweaking. Regardless, Ixion however still gets a solid recommendation here for fans of city-building strategy titles but do be wary of the difficulty curve involved.
A review code for Ixion was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
Ixion (PC) ReviewIxion (PC) Review
Story8/10 Very Good
Visuals10/10 The Best
- Storytelling is great
- Beautiful visuals and animations
- Solid core gameplay mechanics
- Steep learning curve
- Lots of micro-management necessary to progress
- The Tiqqun's hull is made of paper it seems