Managing a business empire is a challenge. Finding your way through the cold darkness of space is challenging. Designing and engineering a ship is challenging. What happens when you mix all 3? You get a challenging game in the form of Starship Corporation where you can explore the stars and deliver on shipbuilding contracts to your heart's content.
With a plethora of experience in simulation and management/empire type games, I felt Starship Corporation was in my wheelhouse. What I didn't expect was the level of detail the game truly goes into. It ended up being more along the lines of a very involved managerial title when it came to actually running my business. Not only did I handle the starship design and overall build (which was fun), I also handed running the Kobayashi Maru of tests on them afterward while also handling daily business, directing research, and exploring the stars.
Whew, what a chore it is to be the boss. It's absolutely exhausting!
Perhaps one of the most enriching pieces of the game is the starship design itself. While you have to use preset hulls and adhere to design requirements and needs (hatches for days), I found this to be the most rewarding aspect of the game itself. While the learning curve surrounding building and designing your ship can be annoying at times, it's still worth learning and perfecting. A better-made ship means better ratings and ultimately better profits for your burgeoning company. However, the next aspect of the game where you run your operational tests on the vessels you build is what started to irk me more over time. After a period, the tests themselves change from a trial of ship management and survivability over to a test of patience, but you can thankfully run the simulations without your involvement.
To go with all of those tests you run, you have to strategically manage your company's shipbuilding as well as any necessary research. The game's turn-based system is broken into quarters, meaning you set up a laundry list of items to complete before ending your turn for the next. Ships take time, but so does any required research. One of the absolute best aspects in all of the turn-based pieces was the ability to not just research individual items at once. There's a multitude of categories (weapons, berthing, storage, armor, etc.) and you can dump money into research areas quarterly rather than spending time to do them one at a time. More advanced or complex research will take longer, but you end up getting research done on 2+ items through this method. And it's all based on whatever budget you want, so go wild if you feel the need. Seeing my research come to fruition within my ship design phase was a blast, too.
Additionally, I was surprised at the level of opportunity my company had within the galaxy as a whole. My ability to find new mining locations, develop new passageways to remote systems, and engage in some serious control over my minions on a ship was somewhat surprising. I was more or less expecting a game where I managed and built an empire on my shipyards, so it was a nice, unexpected set of additions. That being said, the UI in some of these scenarios feels a bit clunky, and you have to use the mouse and mouse buttons in context-sensitive situations primarily. Left click on a ship, right click on an area and hold the button, then drag out to a command and let go. Or if you want to have a crewmember do their rounds; left click on the crewmember, hold another button, right click then select the wait command AND then drag the mouse up or down to adjust the amount of time your crewmember spends in a given location. I'm not saying it was terrible; it just felt overly cumbersome to control and manage.
However, I will say the game's look, and vibe is very classic sim/management gaming. There are lots of menus, text, and more. Numbers are everywhere with spreadsheets galore, and there isn't a ton of what you'd call character sprites to gawk at. Sure, seeing your ship's design and crewmember dots ambling about it is great, but that's probably the most excitement you'll see mid-game. It just helps Starship Corporation feel like a great, niche throwback in several ways.
I feel like Starship Corporation has some lofty goals and I applaud the developers behind it. I think a better approach would have been an early smaller, more laser-sighted focus on fewer items to strengthen those out before expanding fully. The game's tutorial is beneficial, but there's still a somewhat steep learning curve behind it, and there's just so much at any given point. If players can get past that and overlook some clunky UI aspects, they'll enjoy Starship Corporation immensely for its depth.Note: Starship Corporation was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.