The challenge of surviving a years-long journey through space has been romanticized by classic sci-fi media like Battlestar Galactica and Lost in Space. In Ixion, you'll get to experience that journey firsthand as the poor sap who is in charge of an interstellar migration.
Ixion puts you in command of a truly massive spaceship, a few dozen crew members, and a heap of potential. What starts out as a promising exploration mission quickly spirals into disaster, forcing you to adapt to a situation that no one could have anticipated.
Space City Tiqqun
The spaceship Tiqqun (pronounced "tycoon") uses centrifugal force to provide gravity on the interior of a cylindrical outer structure. This cylinder is split into six distinct "Sectors," and only one Sector is open at the beginning of the game. These Sectors serve as the "city" you'll be building throughout Ixion.
The ship as a whole is protected by the Tiqqun's outer hull and draws power from its massive solar panels, but each Sector is otherwise distinct. Commanding this city-ship is less about managing one big city and more about managing six interconnected small cities, ensuring that supplies move between the Sectors so that everyone has what they need.
Casual fans of city builders may face an uphill battle in dealing with the challenges of Ixion.
Things aren't quite that complex at the beginning, though. Your shakedown cruise focuses on setting up basic infrastructure, housing, and research facilities in preparation for making the first faster-than-light leap with the VOHLE Engine. As the Prologue concludes, you press the button to jump -- and everything goes badly wrong.
Echoes of Kharak
Upon completing the Prologue, the Tiqqun reemerges into space in a flash of light. Nearly everything that could go wrong has gone wrong: the Moon is shattered into pieces, Earth seems devoid of life, and the Tiqqun seems truly alone in the solar system. Worst of all, no one knows what happened.
Intentionally or not, Ixion pays homage to the 3D space RTS Homeworld -- a celebrated test of a faster-than-light engine results in disaster and the destruction of civilization as we know it. That, however, is where the comparisons end.
While both Ixion and Homeworld have fair amounts of resource and population management, Ixion lacks the thrilling 3D spaceship combat of its older cousin. Instead, your focus is on keeping the Tiqqun running, keeping the Crew alive, and finding a new home for humanity. Unfortunately, the foundations of this city aren't quite as sturdy as you'd like.
Hull's Well That Ends Well
One of the major challenges of Ixion has to do with the ship's Hull Integrity. The VOHLE Jump permanently damaged the Tiqqun's hull, reducing its maximum health by 10%. Worse still, the Hull Integrity health bar is constantly draining, necessitating a constant influx of Iron and Alloy to patch it up.
The Hull Integrity is, in a sense, similar to Frostpunk's Generator -- a critical piece of infrastructure that requires a constant supply of resources to avert disaster. A key difference between these two games is that each Chapter of Ixion has a finite amount of these resources, effectively serving as a loose time limit. If these resources run out, the Tiqqun will tear itself apart and you'll have to load an earlier save.
Although there is constant pressure to move on, taking your time to explore the area and conservatively expand your operation is equally important.
This aspect of resource management also has to be balanced against the need to construct new buildings and keep your crew fed and happy. It's no easy task, and casual fans of city builders may face an uphill battle in dealing with the challenges of Ixion.
Keeping your spaceship city running is not enough. In addition to the day-to-day needs of the crew and the ship, you'll also have to explore the solar system, exploiting whatever useful resources you can find and searching for clues that will lead you to a new home for humanity.
Ixion Preview - Final Thoughts
I played through the Prologue and the first two Chapters of Ixion. That doesn't sound like much, but it took me the better part of 25 to 30 hours to reach that point. Carefully exploring a Solar System and gradually expanding the Tiqqun's infrastructure takes time.
That is, perhaps, one of the great paradoxes of this game. Although there is constant pressure to move on, taking your time to explore the area and conservatively expand your operation is equally important. It felt like quite some time before I hit my stride, and I still had more than a few stumbles along the way.
If you're looking for a traditional city builder, Ixion might be a bit too tough for you. If you're in search of a survival city builder that will put your management skills to the test, though, you'll find that Ixion is a game that's more than up to the challenge.
TechRaptor previewed Ixion on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the publisher.