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Have you played… Startopia?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The Last Great Management Game, at least of their first generation. (I’m not counting Dwarf Fortress, because Dwarf Fortress is so much more than that). A team partially composed of ex-Bullfrog guys was inevitably behind it, because that long-lost studio was very much the Lucasarts of management games, and if anything it shot for the stars even more than any Molyneux-led offering from that genre ever did. It’s just that Startopia quietly got on with it, I suppose.

Startopia lacked the immediacy of Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper; it’s a slower-burn game, and particularly its construction doesn’t quite manage the clicky-satisfaction of its better-remembered predecessors. I think that’s a natural, even worthwhile consequence of being far more invested in what it was actually simulating, rather than approaching it from a position of broad-strokes and comedy.

Startopia’s about running and expanding a working space station, full of aliens with different needs and different attitudes, all floating in a tin can.

It never loses sight of that latter, even as the management aspect grows frantic: Startopia’s camera, allowing you to pull out and see everything, remains a rare and precious thing. I’d do unspeakable things for a VR mod, I think.

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Alec Meer

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Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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