IXION prioritizes unwavering functionality to survive

By Fragnarok, Posted 27 Dec 2022

Things go awry in IXION, as the Tiqqun space station gets stranded during its maiden voyage across the stars. IXION appears to be a true passion project from developer Bulwark Studios, best known for the very strategic Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus. So it is no surprise that IXION feels very much at home with hardcore space exploration and survival.

With the earth itself in ruins, the corporation DOLOS has built Tiqqun to explore the outer reaches of space for resources and a new home. As the station televises the first use of its experimental warp drive, malfunctions occur. Strangely, they arrive not far from earth, but all signs of life have disappeared. Now with dwindling resources, the massive crew of Tiqqun must do whatever they can to live in this desolate galaxy.

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Players will mostly be guided by Edden, the Tiqqun’s main computer. It will send diagnostics and confirm new main objectives. Other crew members might also send radio communications for buildings and supplies they want. These messages typically first appear as a prompt that needs to be manually accepted for each transmission. 

At other points, the larger crew may also have some kind of momentary concern or complaint. This typically requires the player to decide what to do and may result in a side quest. These bonus objectives tend to require building something specific in the allotted timeframe while failing to do so can cause morale to crash.

IXION is story-driven, with long cutscenes set up for each chapter of the narrative. An interesting choice is that characters and quest givers always talk steadily, regardless of fast-forward gameplay speed. This means there can be long lulls of no objectives as several NPCs send out messages explaining the situation. 

At other points, the story unfolds without regard to what the player has done for previous main and side quests. Each chapter is its own set of narratives, but the Tiqqun itself does not reset. This can lead players into nasty situations where they may have mismanaged their food supplies or built poorly patched infrastructure many hours ago.

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Players do not select individual units or allocate jobs. Instead, construction areas are marked for high or low priority, and the AI will determine what to make first. This can lead to some uneven distribution as workers may stand around buildings doing nothing as they wait for supplies to arrive.

Workers only move along constructed roads and not on the direct surface of the Tiqqun. These roads are not made instantly like in many other simulation games and need to be built by the workers by piloting drones. Additionally, different buildings and resources may only have entrances on one or two sides, requiring the road to align with at least one door.

There are almost a staggering number of resources around the station. This includes alloy, polymer, electronics, ice, food, iron, carbon, silicon, hydrogen, waste garbage, and cryonic pods. Various combinations of supplies are needed to make various buildings and devices. Additionally, most early warehouses can only store a single resource type, leading to a lot of space being dedicated to stocking and logistics.

IXION, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Simulation, NoobFeed

IXION focuses on deconstruction and renovation as much as it does on construction. Each sector of the Tiqqun has limited open space and may have resources laid out in strange places. Often players may need to build roads and structures to accommodate a current objective but smash them down at some point in the future. Essentially, even with the best planning, the Tiqqun will rarely ever remain to stagnate.

Players also need to be mindful of the power grid. Each building uses an amount of solar energy, and the whole system will shut down if the supply reaches negative numbers. One can select specific buildings to temporally shut off, though this will disrupt the entire related supply chain. For example, turning off a space dock could delay a ship already outside the Tiqqun.

Players can also improve the exterior of the Tiqqun with new devices. For the most part, this is improved solar panels that increase the power grid in one or multiple sectors. Other gadgets might improve the speed of the Tiqqun or protect the hull from debris.

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Most of these new improvements are gained via research facilities and picking from the large tech tree. Many of the techniques apply to survival and resource management. However, other discoveries are luxuries for the crew’s well-being, like a sports arena or high-rise apartments.

Besides the Tiqqun, players can also build spaceships to explore the larger galaxy. This includes science vessels that scan planets and undergo missions, mining ships that gather up new raw elements, and cargo ships that deal with manufactured goods and transporting people. One can also send out probes, but it is a gamble if they will genuinely find new locations or just be a waste of precious resources.

The juxtaposition of linear narrative events, real-time, and a bit of randomness really start to show deeper into the campaign. Players may find themselves accidently walking into no-win situations without knowing what is coming next as land, food, and trust dwindle. This can often lead to a knee-jerk reaction to reload, restart the current chapter, or begin IXION from scratch. While this tends to be expected with long RPGs like Divinity Original Sin or Pathfinder: Kingmaker, frequent save scumming in a city builder can be really demoralizing.

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IXION would benefit from having some kind of sandbox or endless mode option. This could allow players to at least learn the fundamental mechanics without stumbling during the main campaign. It also means a lack of either creativity or customization when making a working space station and city. Almost everything instead needs to focus on efficiency.

The sound design of IXION is a real stand-out. The music is always impressive, ranging from foreboding to adventurous. Actual sound effects are rich, with the right amount of gritty and technological crunch reminiscent of Starcraft or Aliens. The entire voice cast does a great job, with good delivery and a clear cadence. It would have been nice if some random events had voice acting, but the in-mission dialogue makes up for it.

The small tutorials IXION contains aren’t comprehensive. Often a mission objective may state the goal is to build a science lab or feed people, but never how actually to do this task. More highlights or audio prompts would be extremely helpful. For example, Edden will often say when a ship has arrived but not that it has new supplies.

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Thankfully, the game has a sprawling encyclopedia of all terms and concepts. It is highly text-heavy with some example pictures. This can be a bit hard to digest all at once, but after reading all of it, one can at least grasp the basics of IXION’s intentions and gameplay. The encyclopedia has popups for related concepts - like productions and resources - but does not actually forward to a linked page.

IXION can be extremely overwhelming and punishes players for not having nearly precognition levels of foresight. Still, once these roadblocks are understood and avoided, the game can become an excellent and welcome challenge. IXION is defiantly for survival fans first, while city planners may find things a bit more aggravating.

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Kasedo Games
Developer(s): Bulwark Studios
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Survival, Space, Exploration, City Builder
Release Date: 2022-12-08

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