Review by ElderGamer

"Strategy or Random Click-Fest?"

Startopia combines elements of the ''Theme'' series of games (Theme Hospital, Theme Park, etc) and places them within an orbiting space station.

For a strategy game to work, each piece or item you must manipulate must have clearly defined values (that are visible to the player). You must know how this piece interacts with this piece, in order to develop an effective strategy.

Otherwise, you're just randomly clicking; laying this building down next to another building, hoping it all works.

Startopia suffers from this problem. The manual is skimpy, giving you no idea if or why you should place an ultra-holographic lamp (or whatever) in a room, along with a great number of assorted techno-drivel related objects.

The tutorial only covers the bare minium, giving you no reason, no plan, no strategy for how to set up your buildings for maximum effiency. See Theme Hospital for an excellent way to develop this.

In order to manuver about such a large space station, you'd hope the designers installed an effective camera system for you to view your inhabitants. They didn't. You control the camera with the mouse, moving horizontially or vertically along a fixed plane. To rotate the plane, hold down the Ctrl key, and watch as the camera spins wildly out of control.

Combine this with the inability to adjust the game's playing speed or to issue orders while paused, and you've got yourself a heady exercise in frustration.

Whereas other games provide you with too much information, startopia gives out far too little. The overview interface, takes up one-fourth of you're main window and is only a few small pie and bar graphs.

The station is often too overly populated to really be able to track your customers and manage their satisfaction, you have little to no clue or control as to what each 'warning' message pertains too.

''Sorry, the health inspector has issued you a warning'' (for what?) ''The 'x' building is out of power'' (But there's no option to purchase more power collectors) ''You're out of this type of supplies'' (You can only acquire more suppliers during the random appearances of the merchant traders, who only carry random items)

Tack one a frustrating combat system (why combat in a building/design style game?) in addition to a poorly thought out bio-deck system that is only used in the arbitary trading system, and you've got yourself a mess.

Pick this up if you enjoy any sort of building/strategy games where you're not informed of the rules, all your pieces seem interchangable, and you can win more through luck and random clicking than any thought-out process.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 08/11/01, Updated 08/11/01

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