Ixion is a recent city-building simulation game, which merges the idea of intergalactic space travel, – à la Mass Effect, – with a whole load of resource management. It carries with it a weighty tone reminiscent of a Stanley Kubrick joint and is presented beautifully. If you have ever wondered what Elon Musk sees himself as in his own narcissistic mind, then this game is likely a pretty accurate representation of that.
Ixion is out now and is available on PC.
As is the case with a lot of city-building simulators, the story component in Ixion is kept to a minimum. However, there is enough hinted at in the cinematic, Chris Nolan-Esque opening minutes of the game to tee up an intriguing sense of shrouded mystery surrounding the bigger picture. This in combination with the child-like wonderment of space exploration gives a pretty clear idea of the game’s themes and influences.
Also similarly to the works of Christopher Nolan and Stanley Kubrick, there is a depressing sense of oppression and despair bearing down on even the game’s more seemingly victorious moments. This is amplified when this feeling of impending doom is caused by a seemingly throwaway decision made by the player hours ago. The voice acting in the game helps to add levity to these life-or-death situations.
This feeling of foreboding dread also feeds into the gameplay in Ixion. The first couple of hours of the game had me thinking that the developers had managed to find that elusive balance of complexity and accessibility in a city-building simulation game.
As someone who does not play a great deal of these types of games, I found it exceedingly refreshing that I was only made to feel overwhelmed whilst playing during the exact moments in which the developers wanted me to feel overwhelmed. This is certainly preferable to the feeling of being overburdened due to the unnecessarily complex gameplay mechanics and confusing UI, as has been the case with many city-building games which I have played in the past.
However, whilst the difficulty balance initially feels fair and well-paced, Ixion does have an extremely steep difficulty curve to it which is very hard to anticipate. Things can go from being fine and dandy in one instant, to being catastrophically grim the next. This can happen due to things like the overconsumption of power onboard the ship, or from overpopulation.
Whilst it can be argued that those specific issues listed above are owed to the fault of the player, an equally life-threatening situation can arise from a random scripted event like an invasion, or a collision with another vessel. Once one of these detrimental situations takes place, it is extremely difficult to course-correct and thus, more often than not, they lead to the player losing hours of progress through no fault of their own.
One thing which Ixion absolutely nails is its sensory presentation. Although one could nit-pick some of the lower-fidelity textures in the game, the satisfying building animations are very smooth and are so fun to watch. The audio in the game is also very pleasing on the ears, with each mechanical click and thud hitting with just the right level of ASMR satisfaction. When these sound effects combine with the game’s epic musical score, it can result in some glorious moments.
Overall, Ixion is a very well made game. Despite the fact that games in this genre is not normally my type of thing, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ixion. With that said, there are still some issues that inexperienced city-builders may run into after the first few hours of the game, which will take some real persistence to overcome. Although if you are willing to persist, then Ixion will undoubtedly make it worth your while.
Ixion – 7/10
Ixion was played on PC with a code supplied by Press Engine.