Game

Review: Base One Is a Compelling but Flawed Space Station Builder

Screenshot: Base One

I always wanted to play a really good base management and/or building game with a focus on space stations. There have been a few I’ve played over the years, and even a few I enjoyed like Starbase Startopia. But Starbase Startopia was more like building a gas station or truck stop in space, Base One takes a serious, almost hard sci-fi look at building extra solar space habitats. It’s not exactly a hard “simulation” but it’s definitely focused on survival and the harsh realities of life living in the void.

Base One is a base building and management game with some strategy and simulation sprinkled in. In it, you play as a station manager who survived a catastrophic event. You and a convoy of ships pass through a wormhole to the systems beyond, hoping to colonize unknown space, but disaster strikes. The mothership is destroyed, marooning the convoy far from home. The only way to survive is to help each other out, and that manifests into space station building gameplay. You have to build stations for many purposes—at first it’s for support reasons, but later you must make more permanent living facilities—and even fight off those that threaten the safety of your stations.

Screenshot: Base One

To start off, you have a hub building—this hub is the heart of the station. If for some reason this hub is destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable, your station will fail. The hub obviously isn’t enough for people to survive—and certainly not enough for the people to thrive—so you must build off of it by adding specialized rooms, or modules, each automatically connected by a corridor. Building in Base One is very simple: each module usually only has four points to which you can connect other modules. Sometimes, modules can’t connect to certain ends, like in the case of the solar module, or the docking module. Despite these rooms being specialized, you still have to build the equipment that goes into them—and you have to make sure they’re connected properly.

One of my biggest gripes with Base One is how everything connects together. I know for sure in the custom game mode, you can have these connections happen automatically. When you build, say, a life support device, you have enter connections mode to connect it to the rest of the station. The way you connect these devices isn’t really physical, rather, it’s more of a logical connection. The equipment obviously needs to be physically connected to function, but you’re not physically routing oxygen lines. Rather, the modules all have these connections hardwired into them, and you’re merely telling the stuff where to go. You even have to hook up the “logistics” to the appropriate place—usually the main hub—for these things to function. I would have preferred this gameplay to exist differently—either as a menu where you can assign power/O2/heat, etc. based on an available pool, or be required to build physical attachments. The system that’s currently in place feels like a halfway point between the two–it’s a little confusing and not very fun. Despite this, I do appreciate the level of control you have over each of the station’s rooms—and whether they’re heated, oxygenated, etc. Of course, you’ll want them habitable if you want people working in them.

Screenshot: Base One

Your station inhabitants will, of course, also want to stay alive. You can also make sure they’re not so miserable, either. People have their normal wants: an occupation, comfort, to be fed, water, and to eat and breathe. There are many dangers in space, however. Things like radiation and pollution have to be mitigated, and there is the threat of asteroids and even pirates. There seems to be an increasing trend in building and management games to add strategy and combat elements to these games. That’s okay while handled correctly, but Base One’s implementation is a little flat, and mostly involves running around building turret defenses. At least explosions look cool in space.

Production-wise, Base One isn’t cutting edge, but it’s also a mix of modern and retro. I always tend to think space is pretty, and Base One doesn’t mess it up with appropriate grand space vistas—though you don’t get much of a look at them. Base One even has a compelling story, though not exactly original. The story is told in a way that’s slightly old school, with animated talking heads whose lips move when they talk, but don’t match the sounds coming out of them. It really feels like something from around or before the PS1 era, and while it seemed a little cheap at first grew on me quickly. I just wish I would have been able to see the story to its conclusion.

Screenshot: Base One

My biggest problem with Base One is its campaign. I really wish it worked, but I frequently ran into issues with objectives not completing, even when I met the criteria. In one mission, for instance, I had to build a medical facility to treat patients. I treated four out of seven of them, but then the number of treated patients dropped to three. Mind you, this is in the first full non-tutorial mission of the game. Base One does an excellent job of easing you into its style of building and management, but then it just doesn’t work. I thought having the tutorial mode enabled was the problem, so after restarting my mission with it off I was able to complete it. And then the next mission, still with tutorial mode off, it didn’t work, despite me doing everything it asked. My workers would occasionally just not perform any tasks, and despite diving into the UI to find out why, I couldn’t reason it out. I’m hoping my experience is unique, but I struggled to finish the first of three acts—and ran out of patience. Sometimes I had to restart a mission three or more times for each step to finally complete successfully.

If Base One’s campaign didn’t feel so broken, I would be able to recommend it. It might even be fixed by the time it’s fully released tomorrow—I played it for longer than I had scheduled hoping it was something I was missing. Base One is a promising, more serious take on space station building—and that’s still something I really want to play.

 

Base One is available tomorrow on Steam.

 

 

 

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