Ixion Promises RTS Management With Panache

Ixion Preview

There are a lot of strategy games like Ixion, but not many can match it for style. The new strategy game from Warhammer-loving developers Bulwark Studios feels sort of effortless, but already shows lots of promise. Rarely does a studio offer such a tantalizing glimpse at an unfinished game. There’s a lot we still don’t know about Ixion, but one sure thing is that I will be playing the final game. They got me hooked!

Good Luck Commander

In Ixion, you are the administrator of a humongous space station. There’s actually a lot of story business as to who you are and what you are doing (and more on that in a moment) but the situation is familiar. It’s the role you take on in countless management games, but when you get right down to it, you’re doing all the same stuff. You place buildings, take care of logistics routes, collect resources, and research technologies. As with many recent management games, there’s an additional map, in this case representing a star system, that you send units to explore.

If it’s all standard strategy game stuff, what makes Ixion so special? It’s hard to overstate how good to presentation is. This is management with panache. They get so much right. There are big things, like how it feels to place buildings and roads. You’ll be doing a lot of that in the game, and fortunately, the animation of little people in mech-suits with their plasma torches is fantastic. The game needed to make this feel exactly right.

But then there are the smaller touches, like in the sound design. Zoom all the way in on the space station interior and dialogue will echo down the cavernous hallway. But zoom all the way out into space and enjoy the crackle of the radio transmission. Or you can be like me and zoom in and out to make everyone’s voices warp weirdly. They put it in the game, I’m playing with it.

The strategic layer is just as well designed. Fans of this genre know what’s up. You’ve got to build warehouses for your workers to store all their metal ore. Then you’ve got to process that ore into production materials, which you’ll use to build more structures and spacecraft. The resource balance feels just right, I was constantly so close to have what I needed, but rarely did things get critical. Things are scarce enough that you’ll never grow complacent. The brief time I spent with the game showed promise of more building mechanics. You’ll get to clear out sections of the huge space station, which you will design into a self sufficient little artificial world. You’ll also get to add structures onto the outside of your metal home, opening up more possibilities.

A Likely Story

What truly sets Ixion apart from other strategy/management games is the story. It’s not the first real-time strategy game to have one- Warcraft and Starcraft are still a thing, and recent games like Per Aspera have done cool things with story. But the story in Ixion already feels a cut above the others. There’s an ensemble of memorably voiced characters, and a plot involving the beginnings of human extra-solar colonization. But there are also clear themes and a well-earned ominous tone.

While Ixion’s story about corporate hubris and desperate survival covers well-trod science fiction ideas, the script has a strong sense of perspective rarely seen in the collaborative art of video games.

In the demo, you are testing all of the space station’s systems while cruising around the Sol System. This introduces you to your engineers and administrators and slimy corporate agents while coaching you breezily through making more food, researching, and exploring. The commitment to the bit really sold me, and I forgot I was playing the same management tutorial I’ve played a hundred times. It only made sense that I was managing the early stages of this mission.

Then Ixion hits you with a grand inciting incident. Based on marketing materials and the survival focus of the mechanics, I’m sure you can surmise that it’s bad. It’s really bad and again, presented which such sheer panache that the cutscene is burned into my memory. Of course, that is the moment the demo ends, which did make me yell at my PC, but guaranteed that I’ll be coming back to see what happens next.

Boldly Going

I realize that in the malleable world of video game development, it’s possible that Ixion won’t be the same game on release. What I played was a very directed narrative, in what looks to be a challenging game with meaningful choices. This early section did not have very many meaningful choices. But to assume Ixion is nothing but flash is conspiratorial thinking. The game I played was too slick to vanish into vaporware. Keep an eye out for a release date on this one. I hope to see the full release of Ixion deliver on all the promises of its demo.

***PC code provided by the publisher***