Stream Post-Mortem: The Spatials: Galactology
Last night’s stream was of The Spatials: Galactology which is a sequel to The Spatials. At this point, I’ve heard, said, or said in my head “The Spatials” so many times it’s crossed over from “words applied to a concept” and into the realm of “no, spiders are not printing circuit boards made of sheep saliva, so stop asking!“. I’m just going to call it TSG, which isn’t too far off from another relevant abbreviation you might be familiar with, TNG.
TSG is a two part game. In the first part, you are tasked with creating a space base on a distant asteroid in the far-flung future intended to house your crew of explorers-slash-hoteliers. You begin with several room styles unlocked which allow you to design your single-story station room by room and corridor by corridor. Being the future, your weebles can’t live without amenities, so you also have access to the machinery of life, such as food processors, beds, and research tables that can be deployed to allow your team to survive and thrive.
As nothing comes from nothing, the second half of the game involves sending exploration vessels out into the galaxy to find resources to harvest. Your crew of two or more set down, find deposits of fruit, slime, and bacteria, and deploy machines to continuously collect the materials for transport back to your growing interstellar utopia. Along the way, however, you may run into hostile fauna or even other civilizations who might not be amenable to your presence, so be sure to arm your away team…strictly for defense, of course.
According to the literature, the later game has you opening your station for business. You’ll get visitors arriving who want to see the sights of your solar system, so you need to provide entertainment, food services, and even tourist brochures to ensure their happiness. If the videos on Steam are accurate, this doesn’t always go so well and your weebles may be called upon to defend their base against angry mobs.
Galactology is a sequel, and I picked up both in a bundle during the Steam sale, although I jumped straight into the Early Access sequel because there were comments regarding opinions on the depth of the first game that I’d hope would wash out in the second, although I’m not far enough into it to tell one way or another. As far as builders go, it’s as good as any. You start with a single room, six (?) explorers inside, and some water, fruit, and aluminum. From there, expansion is as easy as selecting a corridor or room style and dragging it out across the ground where you want the crew to build. There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions inherent in this: no need to power anything or provide running water or O2; in the future, everything Just Works.
Speaking of work, TSG takes a page out of RimWorld’s book and couples workstations with your colonist’s work schedule. You’ll need a kitchen device to convert organic resources into food, and a food distribution kiosk to avoid leaving the food lying on the floor. In order to use these devices, at least one of your weebles needs to be assigned to cooking duty through the work schedule panel. Unlike RimWorld, though, your people all start out as “redshirts” — generalists who earn XP by doing tasks which can then be applied to promoting them into a more specialized role which, I assume, removes their ability to be assigned certain work functions in exchange for success rate and efficiency increases.
On the planet, your explorers basically just teleport around (literally, or you can make them walk) to resource nodes in order to build harvesters. They then only need to hang around until the cargo hold is full, at which point they can take off and return home to deliver the groceries. I was able to secure a good number of resources without any incident, which made the harvesting portion kind of boring considering the fact that exploration maps were Of Good Size, and populated with friendly colonist NPCs who had little to no bearing on my activities. I hope there’s more planned for exploration, because right now it’s a 30-40% deadweight around the neck of a pretty decent building game.
The complaints levied against the first game in the series centered on the realization that there’s not a lot to do overall, and that there’s no real strategy to building out your base aside from space management. Looking at videos for either game show massive bases with dozens upon dozens of rooms serving many functions, all of which need to be unlocked through continuous research. For a game like TSG I look towards other builders such as RimWorld and Prison Architect and even Dungeon Keeper, Dungeons, or War for the Overworld where positioning of rooms matters because of transit limitations or internal resource availability. I’d like to see those kinds of potentially limiting factors come into play when building the station because I think that would put the management aspect into play. There does seem to be a RW-style NPC simulation system in its infancy, where your explorers care about their aesthetics and interpersonal relationships, so I hope that expands to include more options as well. As much as I hate it when a pyro burns down my generator in RW, I appreciate the freedom that the devs allowed for him or her to do so.
What I really like is the visual approach that the devs have taken here. I’ve been using the term “weebles”, which might be over the head of some readers, but surely strikes a chord with others; I didn’t choose that term arbitrarily because on some level the characters remind me of those egg-shaped toys and make me giggle when these cute little critters are shown trying to look bad-ass. Some of the animations are sometimes a little silly, but I’m ok with the status quo: these folks are representative of time-sinks and resources so I don’t expect mo-cap realism here. The one thing that I felt could use some real polish in the interem is the UI. It’s pretty massive, and while I don’t think it’s actually intrusive in any way, when there are popups (like the work-in-progress tutorial), it’s very difficult to manage anything but that popup. Mind you, I don’t hold any of these aspects against the devs because this is in Early Access, and I want to close this paragraph by saying that during my play time I didn’t run into any technical issues, which is always a big plus when trying EA games.
Bottom line: The Spatials: Galactology is off to a good start, which is a way of saying that hopefully the devs have more features up their sleeves so that there’s more strategy, risk, and reward in building the bases, and that there are additional purposes in exploring other planets aside from just setting up harvesters and coming back on occasion to pick up the spoils. Granted, I’ve only played for the “learning hour” and these points may be addressed later on, but I’d like to see TSG grow to RimWorld level proportions in feature set and acclaim.
Late breaking addendum: You can apparently get The Spatials on the iTunes store for $1.99!