Startopia is the best management game you’ve never played. No, I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to that other person, the one who didn’t play it. And especially to that other guy who never even heard of it. One of just three games created by taken-before-their-time Bullfrog offshot and Urban Chaos dev Mucky Foot, it took the Dungeon Keeper/Theme Park model to the stars, with greater complexity and nuance and grand galactic vistas to warm the cockles of one’s soul. Inevitably, it didn’t sell well. With slightly eerie timing, given we were only yesterday cooing at the inadvertently similar-in-concept Maia, this oft-forgotten space station sim has just been granted a new lease of life on GoG.
$5.99 is a more than reasonable price for the old dear, trust me. It might be old, but it’s still rewardingly pretty, wide-ranging and rammed with possibilities – such as terraforming and the way each of the NPCs has their identity of sorts. It was also very silly. It was the Stage Two of the management genre, but no other followed its cues.
Startopia is one of those What If games, forever standing at a crossroads of what might have been. In a universe just slightly to the side of our own, it was the success it deserved to be, it kept the management genre thriving and evolving, and that universe’s earthlings were spoilt for choice of detailed, procedural, whip-smart, unpredictable social simulations. Because the genre didn’t atrophy, Farmville never happened.
Look at where we are now.