Sometimes you’re surprised by how fun and deep a game is. The gameplay just grabs onto you and you don’t want to let go. For me, I had that experience recently with a game called The Spatials.
The premise for The Spatials is as simple as it can be. You’re tasked with creating a premiere tourist attraction, that just so happens to be located on an asteroid. Sound simple? Not so fast, you literally have to build everything to make this a successful location. Not only for the tourists that’ll eventually come to your would be space station, but also to the crew that are under your care.
Unlike certain other games in this kind of genre, like Civilization (of which I am a proud fan of), you are in almost total control of what happens in the game. If I was to put a percentage on this, I would say about 97%. The only things you don’t control are the personalities of the crew, the needs of the tourists and the people/events that are in the worlds you will visit throughout the game. Everything else? That’s on you.
How big is a room? You decide. How many items of importance do I put in said room? You decide. Where do I put these items in the room? You decide. It is an in depth experience that really gives you a clue as to how stressful (and yet fun) running a place like this can be. Everyone has needs that you’ll eventually need to facilitate, or else. Your crew needs to sleep, so you’ll have to make beds. The tourists that arrive will want to eat, drink, buy souvenirs, take a shower, etc. The ability to make them happy rests on you.
That’s where the real fun of the game begins. You’ll establish your skeleton base at first to accommodate your crew, but then you’ll have to make stuff to not only bring the tourists to your location, but make them happy once they arrive. The ability to discern where to put what, and how much of something to make can be paramount. For example, one of my crew threatened to leave because he was hungry. I was confused, because I had a food dispenser for him to eat from. Then it hit me, EVERYONE was using that ONE dispenser to eat, thus he couldn’t get food. So I made another dispenser, and his problem was solved. This is but one of the things you’ll be thinking about during your time in The Spatials.
Also important is resource management. You can’t simply make anything out of thin air, especially food, drinking items, tourist items, etc. For that, you’ll have to travel to nearby planets to obtain said resources. This opens up an entirely new part of the game, where you’ll control up to a 5-person crew to explore, fight, learn and harvest the resources of nearby planets. The fun part is that you can actually flip between a mission on a planet and what’s going on at your space station quickly. In fact, it’s with a click of a button. This way you can keep track of what’s going on in multiple places and make sure that everything is taken care of while you fight pirates, kill aliens, etc.
The planets you’re able to explore are vast and varied. Sometimes you’ll kill pirates so you can claim the resources of the planet. Other times you’ll be mingling with aliens on the planet to get items for your station. Such as a talking tree… I kid you not. There is a talking tree.
Exploring the galaxy and its planets can be a welcome change of pace from managing the station and its inhabitants. You’ll be able to let off steam by fighting aliens and pirates. But be warned! If you don’t keep your officers up to snuff, they will fail their mission. Send them on special missions to raise their level, complete missions to get better gear and stats. How they grow is on you. Keep an eye on them, for the more the do and the more they grow, the more resources they’ll need to survive. Once you obtain the materials, you’ll need to make sure they get back to your planet quickly. Use of the local embassy makes that possible. It’s also where you can hire new team members for your base.
I know what you’re thinking, “This sounds like too much to remember!”, and yes, at times it can be. There were times I didn’t realize how much of a resource I was using and thus when it ran low I had to rush to a planet to try and claim more as it’ll facilitate to my base more quickly and without disruption. At time my desire to grow caused me to forget I had a finite source of funds to use. It can be overwhelming, but if you take your time and feel out the game, you will enjoy it. More importantly, the things you need to remember will become second nature.
I tried to do a run-through by myself and I kind of bombed. So I asked a friend who had played the game previously to guide me a little through a second run on the game. Within less than an hour I knew more-or-less everything I need to in order to play this game with skill and precision. Sure, there were things later on I had to learn on my own, but it was worth it. I was actually amazed at how different my playing styles were between the two runs. If I was to play a third (I probably will), I’d probably change up my style even more given what I know now.
That’s one of the true joys of The Spatials, if you get stuck or frustrated with something you did in your current run, you can start over with a clean slate, new knowledge and not feel like you’re starting from scratch. In fact, you’ll find that the game is almost totally different as the planets you’ll visit and collect resources from are different nearly every single run. There are over 100 planets in The Spatials that you’ll be able to visit via multiple runs. The talking tree I mentioned earlier? It was in my first run, but not the second. So it shakes things up, all the while giving you the ability to make this work in your own way.
I wish the more advanced tutorials of The Spatials was more easily accessible. The basic tutorial is great, as a robot (that looks like Eva from Wall-E) helps you in what in building the beginnings of your space station. After that, you don’t know what other tutorials there are unless you click the various buttons on the menu. For example, I didn’t know there was a technology tree that you could unlock after certain missions. So I clicked a button randomly, was brought to that new page and there was Eva with a tutorial. Yes, it’s there, but if I didn’t know it was there, I could have been in trouble. There were also some confusing A.I. choices among my crew, but I got over that pretty quickly.
Finally, even though my missions were varied in some cases, I found more often than not that many of my planetary missions dealt with killing pirates. It was fun and admittedly they get stronger as you traverse through the galaxies, but I wish there was a little more variety.
In the end, The Spatials is a fun, deep, very gratifying experience that only gets better as you progress and learn more. You will get frustrated at times, but I find that made me hungrier to make it work instead of rage quitting. So if you’re looking for a fun experience that’ll test what you can do management wise? Try out the Spatials. It’s available on Mac and PC today!