IXION is a city-builder survival game that combines the strategic elements of city management with the thrill of space exploration. The strategy city-builder genre is nothing short of memorable titles, such as Banished and Frostpunk. The core gameplay loop of managing and expanding your “city” is what hooks most gamers. In this IXION review, we’ll talk about how Bulwark Studios’ latest title incorporates its own twist to the genre.
Predictable Story But Compelling Narrative
IXION is set in the near future when the Earth is on the brink of collapse due to human greed and carelessness. Earth has sustained irreversible damage, and humanity has started to roam the universe in search of an alternative habitat.
Although the game draws a lot of concepts from sci-fi, the story isn’t set too far into the future.
Sci-fi fans will probably find the story a bit too clichéd, and it is inspired by many familiar depictions of sci-fi in the post-apocalyptic era, and the themes and elements are nothing new.
But despite the unoriginal story, I find the narrative to be quite compelling. The way the events unfold will still get you curious as to what happens next. Not to mention, the epic cinematics in the game will help catch your attention and maintain your interest in the story.
And this leads us to…
City-builder games aren’t known for having exceptional graphics, but I’d say it’s one of IXION’s strengths. The game’s stunning visuals create an immersive atmosphere as you manage Tiqqun and navigate outer space.
The game has a realistic art style, and the developers definitely did a great job in the graphics department—from the stellar execution to the small details. You can find various fine visual details throughout the game that breathe life into the different elements of this strategy city builder.
However, one issue I noticed is that some units’ movement seems unrefined, especially the crew members walking around the Sector. Zooming in, you’ll see that some units look like smudges of paint in motion.
The game also needs a more creative loading screen, as the current one is just underwhelming.
Nonetheless, the game has excellent graphics overall—the sight of the Tiqqun and the outer space help create a captivating experience for the player.
Same Core Gameplay But With Some Innovations
There’s nothing revolutionary about IXION’s core gameplay, but the game has enough unique elements to potentially make it stand out in the genre. The primary aspects of city-building remain the same in IXION but are repurposed for the game’s astronomical theme.
As with all city builders, IXION features various raw and manufactured resources used to build more advanced structures, unlock upgrades, and provide sustenance to the crew.
However, aspects of IXION’s gameplay I find most notable are the multi-level management system, multi-sectoral management, and space and road management.
Multi-Level Management System
An interesting aspect of IXION’s gameplay is its multi-level management system. This feature provides you with a good amount of content and exploration while also adding a decent level of challenge.
The game has three levels of management: the Tiqqun Interior, the Tiqqun Exterior, and the Planetary Systems.
The Tiqqun Interior is where most player actions and events take place. You will mostly focus on managing your crew on this level.
The Tiqqun Exterior refers to the exterior of the space station. Unlike the station’s interior, this section rarely requires your attention. Its role is mainly to perform passive structural improvements and upgrades to the space station.
Lastly, the Planetary Systems level is where you conduct space exploration and perform actions to complete many of the story’s objectives.
The environment and setting at this level change depending on your current progression in the game’s story. Most of the new objectives and missions in the game will show up as events in space.
Another feature that adds exciting complexity to IXION’s gameplay is the existence of multiple Sectors within the Tiqqun. You start with only Sector 1 unlocked, then you’ll be able to unlock up to Sector 6 as you progress through the game.
The Sectors are independent of each other in terms of the crew’s happiness (Trust), Resources, and the like. This means you’ll have to manage multiple Sectors at the same time while dealing with different challenges.
Stockpiles in one Sector cannot provide resources to another, so proper resource management and distribution are also crucial to keeping all the Sectors stable.
The main challenge here is effectively managing all the resources, crew, and structure across the active Sectors. This can pose a great deal of difficulty in the later stages, which players may find exciting.
Plenty of Content Available Via Space Exploration
Another nice feature of IXION is the ability to explore the vast universe, which offers you plenty of content and objectives to work on.
Space exploration is an essential part of IXION’s gameplay. Many objectives and missions require you to roam outer space to progress through the story.
But aside from the main story objectives, exploring the various planetary systems may also reveal various side quests that offer different resources and special events.
Internal Space and Roads Management
Although terrain and space management is common in most city-builder games, this aspect is much more restrictive and challenging in IXION. Planning the positions of your structures is essential to building a sustainable Sector, and suboptimal placement can be very punishing.
All the Sectors have limited spaces for structures and roads, and they have preestablished resource buildings.
Annoying Preestablished Resource Nodes
These preestablished resource buildings can be annoying at the start—at least, that’s the case during my playthrough.
The problem with these resources is you cannot remove them immediately at the beginning, so you would have to adjust your building’s placement accordingly.
To stop them from taking up space, you will have to use up all the resources of the resource nodes. But to do so, you will need to set up the essential structures first (i.e., Workshop, Stockpile). But then again, you won’t be able to place them in spaces occupied by the nodes, preventing you from placing them on ideal tiles.
Of course, this is far from game-breaking. This issue is a nonproblem at best and a mild inconvenience at worst. But the unnecessary challenge that comes with it doesn’t add any complexity to IXION’s gameplay.
Roads Are Simple But Essential
Many city-builder games, such as Banished and Settlement Survival, require different materials to construct various types of roads. Different types of roads may also provide different bonuses like speeding up your units. But for the most part, they aren’t technically required to progress.
In IXION, roads play a different but necessary role in a Sector’s operation. Roads do not provide any bonuses, but they are required for your buildings to function. Structures in a Sector will not be constructed and won’t operate without a proper road connection.
This mechanic forces you to have a different approach to space management, requiring you to plan your Sector’s limited space accordingly.
Underwhelming Crew Requests and “Choice” Events
IXION adopts the mechanic “Book of Laws” from Frostpunk and adds its own version via Crew Requests and “Choice” Events. This mechanic requires you to choose among different actions that lead to various results.
These requests are shown as a magnifying glass icon. Clicking the icon brings up the event or request and presents you with the possible choices and actions
This mechanic supposedly adds another level of complexity and flavor to the game. However, I find it to be underwhelming a lot of times. Most of the “choice” events are unexciting, and many of them have very obvious choices—or none at all.
Most of the time, the decision you’re forced to make is a no-brainer. There isn’t enough complexity in the choices and events to make them impactful enough.
Risks are involved in many cases, such as the death of some crew members or a reduction in the crew’s trust. But they are often easily fixed without significantly affecting the game’s story.
Simplistic Technology Tree
Another frustration I had with IXION is the simplicity of its Technology Tree, which is neither challenging nor exciting. It’s basically a uniform progression where you conduct the necessary research based on a rigid order of priority.
The lack of variety in technology upgrades means that you can’t try out different upgrade paths. You only have to know the correct prioritization of upgrades because it’s more or less the only effective one.
Each upgrade has a set of further upgrades once you unlock it, but most are just stat boosts, such as increased infirmary bed capacity or a boost in the Tiqqun’s speed.
Another issue that I think some players, especially beginners, may have trouble with is it’s easy to run out of Science Points, preventing any substantial progress for a long period.
The relative scarcity of Science Points means that mistakes in spending them will feel very punishing, and the only way to not be punished is by following a strict order of priority in the upgrades. And as I mentioned, this takes the challenge and excitement away from this feature.
The only other way to gain Science Points other than exploring space is via the passive production of the Tech Lab. But the Tech Lab produces a measly single Science Point per 30 cycles, which is such a long time, making it an impractical alternative source.
Overall, IXION’s core gameplay, along with its additional features, got me hooked. Though, I wish there was a difficulty option to make the game more challenging for veterans or easier for beginners.
Intuitive User Interface
City-builder games can get messy, especially during the game’s late stages when the map is usually full of different structures and units moving around. Thankfully, IXION’s simple but effective user interface does a good job of providing essential information.
The game concisely tells you what requires your attention and action. IXION’s simple and intuitive user interface allows you to effectively manage all the levels of management without being overwhelmed.
A Sector’s layout will most likely get chaotic at some point, especially once you start adding a lot of buildings—not to mention having to manage multiple Sectors with multiple buildings all at once.
Fortunately, the game features a Supply Lines view where the player can see lines that clearly show the flow of resources across a Stockpile and the other buildings.
The minimap is also handy for simultaneously managing various tasks among the different Sectors.
My only problem regarding the UI is the Probe Scanner’s clunky interface. It feels slow to hover around the zoomed-out planetary systems map, and it’s easy to accidentally click on a random area.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve already wasted several Probe Scanners this way.
In terms of audio, IXION provides awesome voice acting for its characters, which is uncommon for indie games. The voice acting was done well, and it convincingly brings life to the characters (even the electronic P.A.s).
But the best part about IXION’s audio is its amazingly immersive soundtrack. Playing with your headphones will provide you with an encapsulating audio experience that I can’t praise enough—you just have to listen to it yourself!
IXION feels familiar and accessible as it adopts the classic gameplay formula of city-builder games while also being unique enough with its various levels of management and exciting space exploration.
Overall, IXION brings a lot to the table as a survival strategy city builder. It has solid core mechanics coupled with space-themed features that add enough challenge and variety to your overall gameplay experience.
Moreover, IXION’s stunning visuals and amazing soundtrack create an immersive experience that tells a story in itself. Despite a few shortcomings in its execution of some features, IXION is well worth the try, especially for fans of the genre.
This review is based on the PC version of IXION. The key was provided by Kasedo Games.