I’ve always had a soft spot for any kind of game where the main objective is to build things to keep tiny characters happy, and outer space has been a popular feature of these games over the years. I cut my space-station building teeth on games like Startopia and Space Colony.
After (just barely) talking myself out of picking up Space Haven, I decided to instead dive deep into the back room of the library to see what similar games I might already be sitting on, and decided to put some time into The Spatials: Galactology to see if it would satisfy my need to make something functional in a not-of-this-world setting.
At this point, I’m about 9 hours in, and I’m on my fourth colony, so I feel like I can probably scratch the surface of a quick look. So what can you expect from your first couple hours of game time?
I get it – not everyone loves tutorials, and I do appreciate the fact that all the tutorials in the The Spatials: Galactology are completely optional. Just click the X to close the window the first time it pops up in different screens, and do your own thing, if you’re so inclined. But if – like me – you don’t relish the idea of wasting a lot of time on trial and error, tutorials can be great.
The tutorials here are not great.
If you’ve ever played any similar sort of game, it probably won’t be too hard to figure out how to put up some walls, and drop some floor tiles, and install a bed. You’re probably not a stranger to doing research to unlock new build-able items, and there’s nothing particularly revolutionary here. Now, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing – it’s the flavor of these building games that differentiate them, and there’s no reason to keep inventing the wheel as far as I’m concerned.
But it’s the flair here that’s completely left up to you to figure out. Aesthetics come into play when building and designing rooms, as well as noise. Of course, better aesthetics cost more, and credits aren’t always plentiful. In my first colony, I made the erroneous assumption that bigger rooms automatically are better rooms – and in The Spatials: Galactology, that’s absolutely not the truth. If you can fit everything you need in a 2 X 2 square, go for it. Having empty space does not make for a more pleasant room, and in fact, those empty squares hurt you by reducing the relative aesthetic value of the decorations & facilities you do add.
None of this is explained adequately in the tutorials, and worse, I couldn’t even really find much information on how to build well in the games help section. My first colony was doomed by overspending on building, and being left in a position of having no real way to fix my finances because I’d ignored all the other things I needed to be focusing on as well.
A Lot to Pay Attention To
If you want to succeed, you’re going to need gobs of raw materials. In a lot of games of this type, you just buy raw materials from faceless traders. In The Spatials: Galactology you need to go out, explore nearby planets, build resource collectors, storage units, delivery centers and recruitment offices. The first two allow you to pick up resources from a given planet, delivery centers allow you to sell ONE type of item on that planet, and without recruitment offices, you’ll never get anyone applying to work on your station.
You will start off with two spaceships, and they’ll have crew assigned to them, but once you set up your initial nearby trade centers, you pretty much lose one of those ships to constantly running around picking up resources. In my second colony, resources were coming in much too slowly – I had built the required resource collectors, but ignored storage units, so each planet would only store up to five of a given resource at a time. It slowed my production (and therefore my profit) to a crawl, and since that wasn’t the only big mistake I had made, I elected to start over.
Another critical piece of information that was easy to miss (well, I missed it, so I’m hoping it’s easy to miss) was the increased demands of your crew once you start promoting them into specialist roles. While I expected they would want nicer quarters and higher pay, I did not anticipate that Diplomats would suddenly refuse to eat anything but dessert, or that Scientists would revolt if you hadn’t built a library and stocked it with books.
The good news is, that your staff will appear to work happily in their red shirts making minimum wage pretty much forever. Just because you can promote someone, doesn’t mean you have to. Keeping your staff un-promoted also enables them to do ANY job on your station. There are very compelling reasons to promote, but when in doubt, it’s probably best to err on the side of leaving them all at entry level. This was the second major issue that lead to my abandonment of my second colony – I had specialized staff that I was completely unable to satisfy. You won’t believe what these guys put in pizza (the only food an Engineer will eat).
Support for Multiple Management Styles
I know it seems like I’m really beating up the systems here, but trust me, if I thought it was awful, I wouldn’t have lasted long enough to write this post.
Although it took me a bit to figure it out, I am impressed with the range of options you have as far as management style goes. If you want to micromanage production, you have the option to create bills at any work station, and even assign workstation to specific staff if you choose. If you’re more laid back about production, you can set your stations to global and indicate how many of a particular item you’d like to keep in stock – when you hit that number, production will stop, and when you fall below it, it’ll automatically resume with no input from you. This is great for things like basic meals and purified water – you’re always going to need these items, but when you’ve got plenty in stock, your crew members are free to go do other things instead.
If you want to start specializing your workers from the get go, you can do that with manual priorities. Otherwise, leave priorities alone, and they’ll pretty much work on set tasks from most urgent to least urgent. You can manually pick up stock from the neighboring planets, or you can create an autopilot loop which will keep the goods rolling in at a regular clip.
You’re given a lot of leeway in how much energy you want to put into managing things, which is great, especially considering that it feels like you have so much more to do than your average base building game.
Goals, Quests & Random Events
There’s an ever evolving list of goals in The Spatials: Galactology. You are pretty much open to focus on whatever you like during play, but if you’re at a loss for what to do, checking the goals list might point you in a direction you hadn’t thought of. Mostly, these are very small rewards for hitting milestones you were likely to hit anyway, and in the early game, you will be getting goal notifications left and right.
There are also quests – usually one planet per system will have a quest for you at any given time. During the early game, there’s a good chance these quests will kill your people, and after a few massacres, I mostly ignore them. However, I expect once you start meeting new civilizations that don’t already love you, these are going to be a hugely important part of working on inter-species relations.
Then, sometimes, this happens.
This was the demise of my third colony. I was taking things very slowly – possibly far too slowly – and all of a sudden, evil robot overlords. Although the occasional drop into my station was handled without casualties, neighboring planets started to be invaded, breaking trade routes, and leaving me with no access to raw materials, without which I was ill-equipped to build a liberation force.
So, now, I’m working on my fourth colony. I’ve learned quite a bit about building effectively, station layout, and how to make money (hint: it’s tourism). There are definitely some things going on that feel like glitches – for example, despite having showers and soap, um, no one showers. Maybe they’ll start eventually. But the bottom line is – I’m really enjoying getting my tourist trap – I mean, colony – up and running like a well oiled machine.
If you’re the type who hates restarting, rebuilding, and figuring out things via epic failure, you probably want to give this one a pass. I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to do, and for a game with a retail price of $13 is kind of impressive. I’ve certainly already gotten more than my money’s worth – I paid $6.49 for the previous game and received this one for free when the developers decided to start over from scratch.
I know this has been rather lengthy for a quick look, and for that I apologize, but there’s just too much going on in The Spatials: Galactology to sum up quickly. It does have an early game that certain types of players will find frustrating, and you can easily find yourself up against a point of no return. It does lack the personality of some other colony / base builders, but it’s a solid play experience so far.