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17 Mar 2023


UPDATE: 20/12/22 - Development Studio Bulwark have responded to various clomplaints made in my review as well as complaints from users. I have added their notes at the bottom, so please do read.

Review by Jon Donnis
IXION is a space-based city building game from Bulwark Studios, you are the Administrator of the space station Tiqqun, and after a warp like jump, you seemingly cause the destruction of the Earth and are now charged with finding a new home for humanity.

Including city building mechanics, as well as survival elements and space exploration, the game is advertised as a thrilling space opera.

As the game starts, you have access to a sector of the space station, from here you will start to lay the foundations of what you hope will be the start of the survival for humanity.

To start with you will build storage units to store various things you will find, mine or grow. You need places for your workers to live, food for them to eat and so on.

Everything is pretty straight forward, however the way it is first laid out is terrible, you see the tutorial is awful. There is no real hand holding here. Basic instructions that miss a lot of the important things. 

Luckily you will eventually figure out basic things, for example a building needs to be attached to a road, but only from a certain direction, you are not really told this. So expect lots of screaming at the screen, when it tells you to do something and you think you have done it, but the building needs to be rotated 90 degrees, of course it is too late now as you built it, meaning you either destroy it, which wastes valuable resources, or you build endless roads to connect things, which then wastes space.

There are endless little issues like this, that are frustrating beyond belief, but eventually when you figure it out, you will just start the game over and get a bit further along, well until the next annoying thing.

The prologue (which is supposed to be the tutorial), is set before you destroy the earth, once you have build an air lock, various types of ships etc, you can then make the jump that causes everything to go wrong.

General gameplay has you sending your science ship to investigate planets, and other issues, a mining ship to erm.. mine, and a cargo ship which goes and collects things. You will eventually get to send out probes which will scan areas, and unlock new quests etc. And you can unlock new sectors on the space station that you can then use.

The game works from 3 viewpoints, inside the space station, immediately on the outside, where you will need to build solar powered units and constantly fix the ship (this is beyond annoying and dumb), and finally galaxy view, where you can see the planets, asteroids and stars etc. You can speed up and slow down "cycles".

You will need to maintain your crew's trust in the corporation that started this, and if you reach 0% trust, it is game over. As you play you will find other survivors in cryopods which you can rescue and reanimate. You have a tech tree so you can unlock new buildings, and in general expand and explore.

For what is the final release of the game, it plays much more like an easy access game, there are countless bugs and balancing issues, the tutorial is poorly written, and at £27, there will be a lot of disappointed players.

I even waited a few days after release to write this, because I knew there would be a lot of complaints, just to give the developers chance to release a few fixes, but this game is at least 6 months away from being the finished article.

It is disappointing as there is a good game here, it's just so badly made, with so many issues that it just stops being fun. You will find yourself frustrated more than anything.

The balance of what you do, to what you achieve is way off. The learning curve is way too steep. And there are pointless elements in the game that you need to keep an eye on, that just become tedious.

I understand that the developers wanted to make a serious game, but this game needed to be more fun. Even if they just added a dumb mode, for people, so they could just have fun building their little space station, explore the galaxy etc, without the constant threat of game over. Things get stressful way too quick, and I play games to have fun, not shout at the screen in frustration.

The Good
The graphics are good, and I like the detail used in telling a story.

The Bad
Terrible tutorial, poorly designed game mechanics, a way too steep learning curve, over complicated menus and lack of general fun.

A lot of time and effort has clearly been put in the game, and it is salvageable, but it needs the developers to humble themselves, admit they messed up on a few issues, and think seriously about a redesign of the game. Make it fun, make it simple, and listen to what people are telling you. Not everyone is a hardcore city building game fanatic. 

I score IXION on PC (Steam) a disappointing 5 out of 10. This game has potential, and if this was an early access game, 6 months ahead of release, I would give it a much higher score. If I was the developers I would move it back to beta testing, fix all the issues after reading the thousands of pissed off reviews on Steam. And then try a new release in the future.

Out now on Steam

UPDATE: 20/12/22 - Press Release from Development Studio Bulwark
Following early feedback from the tens of thousands of players that played IXION since release, we have addressed a number of issues in a new update. This wide-ranging update fixes the most common bug & balancing issues. Steam reviews have seen a dramatic up turn since the patch went live yesterday.

IXION is intended to be hard. Learning from your mistakes and replaying saves is part of the process. That being said, some players - especially newcomers to the genre – have struggled with the difficulty. While the balance updates will help to a degree, we will be looking to address this early in the new year to add difficulty sliders/options to allow for different playstyles. There will however still be a recommended setting to play how it was intended.

Next Steps
As Bulwark are a small dev studio, they will take a well-earned rest and return in 2023 where they will look at:
Continued Balancing - We feel passionately about continuing to refine and update IXION’s balancing to bring you the best experience possible.
UI improvements - There are some areas of the UI we would like to review and improve, to ensure player understanding and enjoyment.
Accessibility Options - We would like to add further accessibility options to support IXION’s players.

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