Image via Bulwark Studios
Game developers, especially strategy game creators, often try to pick the best elements from hit titles to emulate in their video games. The creators of Ixion also tried to replicate the same formula by taking inspiration from popular city-building titles like Forstpunk and They Are Billions in their new game. Unfortunately, instead of making a blockbuster commercial title, they ended up with a product that can be loved by the most hardcore strategy gamers and hated by the casual audience due to its unbalanced gameplay.
Although Ixion is a strategy-based simulation game, it has a well-written story woven into its complex gameplay. Earth is in its last days and as part of a fictional organization called Dolos, you are supposed to search for other habitable planets using your Tiqqun spaceship. While preparing for your expedition, you accidentally destroy parts of the Moon, which eventually triggers the destruction of Earth due to natural calamities. The rest of the story revolves around dealing with all your guilt for destroying everything back home and whether you can find a planet for the few hundred remaining crew before the hull corrodes.
Related: Better chronological order of tech tree upgrades in Ixion
Although it sounds like a cliché tale from famous Hollywood movies, it is unique in its presentation and storytelling. With beautifully written dialogues/scenes that explain the emergency of the dire situation. The few characters we know of, like the boss of Dolos, are well integrated and provide a purpose to the arc rather than just showing up for the sake of it. Also, as you progress, the story gets even more complicated as you learn the secrets of Dolos and the ultimate purpose of your journey. The climactic part of the story is best of all, as it’s compelling enough to justify my 50+ hours of playing. Also, to increase the replay value, the developers have included an alternate ending to the default.
While the story and storytelling are top-notch, it’s a linear experience and can be off-putting for players who expect a variety of narrative choices that will lead to multiple outcomes.
Score: 3.5/5 Stars
how to play
Right off the bat, Ixion looks and plays like any traditional city builder on the market. As the chief administrator of his Tiqqun spaceship, he must maintain trust and stability among his crew members by providing them with all the basic comforts as they search for a new planet. This is accomplished with common gameplay elements found in strategy games, such as resource management, research upgrades, and layout planning. The gameplay is solid and all the features work as intended. But there is a big problem: the game is incredibly hard. To be precise, it is so difficult that many players will leave right after chapter 2.
The main reason players would quit is the unavailability of adjustable difficulty settings, and the one that is available creates unnecessary and frustrating obstacles beyond your control to hinder your progress. For example, there may be a permanent drop in trust statistic due to incidents in the story or randomly generated accidents in any of the buildings. It all feels like it’s curated to make new players riled up. Also, you can’t ignore these random antics, as they often come back to bite you later in the game, ultimately resorting to going back and replaying several hours of a particular chapter.
On top of this, the flawed design and writing ideas further increase the difficulty factor. For example, you would expect the last group of people to be hardworking and focused. Instead, the game declares that most of the people on the ship are not workers who accumulate build slots and eat for free. They cannot be trained to learn skills or cruelly kicked out to give space. This is in contrast to Frostpunk, which allows players to send children to work. Even simple things like transferring resources are made quite difficult for no reason, since you can’t share raw materials between each sector even though they all reside on the same boat. Also, vital features like sector policy implementation are available so late in the game that they become redundant and serve as mere fancy buttons.
Score: 2/5 Stars
From the opening cutscene, Ixion looks and feels like a premium strategy game with AAA graphics qualities. Everything from the planets to the interiors is well rendered and never looks distorted or gloomy from any angle when zoomed in. Aside from the looks, the game is also pretty well animated. Especially the ship and building models, as they have a unique animation based on their current state. For example, you can find people working on a ship if they are undergoing maintenance in the dock area. Little details like these add style and increase the Ixion’s immersive value.
The other highlight in terms of visuals is the lighting of the sectors, as they are neither too bright nor too gloomy, but have a balanced tone that matches the vibe of a space survival game. The game’s UI is also pretty neat, unlike most strategy games that clutter the menu with unwanted toolbars and stat bars that you won’t need for most of the game. I mainly liked the separate buttons for the three playable areas, as they helped me quickly navigate between them and solve urgent problems without much hassle.
Score: 3.5/5 Stars
Related: How to use space probes in Ixion
Music and sound design are two aspects that Ixion does not compromise on. The original score is perfectly composed to fit the tempo of the environment in each setting. Let it be the gloomy theme to show the destruction of the Moon or the synth-based music played as we ascend to spread human civilization throughout the Ashangites. Everything feels natural and takes the scene to the next level. The home screen music is also so addictive that you may be inclined to spend a few extra minutes in the menu before jumping into a game. Even if you don’t buy or play the game, I recommend that you listen to or at least read some parts of the original YouTube playlist if you are a fan of the Synth/Electronic genre.
The game’s sound design is also equally brilliant. Each game mechanism has a unique sound that perfectly represents its functionality. For example, you can hear molten iron being poured at the steel mill, which adds more life to the overall atmosphere. Even the cut scenes like moving your Tiqqun spaceship are well composed and never seem contrived or incomparable to the engine explosion sequence.
Although there aren’t many characters in the game, the voice acting of those who do appear is crisp and conveys their mood and intent. The highlight of the lot was the voice acting of Dolos CEO Vanir Dolos, as the actor perfectly portrayed a fictionalized version of a desperate CEO doing everything he can to save human civilization.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Verdict – Casuals can pass this
Ixion has moments in the form of a good story, great sound score, and visual quality. Other times it can be a tough game, and combined with its few flaws in game design, it becomes extremely unpleasant for new players entering the world of strategy games. For this reason, we recommend Ixion for veterans of the strategy genre who would be better prepared to face such tough challenges. For casuals eager to play sim-based strategy games, you can skip this one and look for other 2022 hits, like The Wandering Village or Land of the Vikings, which are more beginner-friendly.
We received this code from Bulwark Studios for review purposes.
For more information on Ixion, see How to Maintain Hull Integrity in Ixion or How to Transfer Resources in Ixion in MyFullGames.