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Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role-playing Game launched into early access on April 6, 2021. Developed by Iron Tower Studio, the team behind The Age of Decadence and its tactical spin-off Dungeon Rats, Colony Ship combines some of the mechanics and design principles present in those earlier games with a number of fresh ideas and a gritty sci-fi setting.
According to the developers, the game will properly set out for the stars in about a year and a half, while for the time being, we’re free to explore its first chapter and familiarize ourselves with its many systems. This is exactly what we did. And now, you can read our preview below to find out why you should be excited about Iron Tower’s latest project.
Iron Tower’s previous big RPG, The Age of Decadence, was positioned as this post-post-apocalyptic Fallout-inspired game with an Ancient Roman coat of paint. But it was much more than that. It had fresh ideas, a strong uncompromising vision, a great story you had to work to uncover, and a fair amount of challenge. Basically, it was everything I want out of an RPG.
However, it’s important to note that I have a rather interesting relationship with that game. Way back in the day, I tried the free demo and found it clunky, slow, and downright boring. This led to some confusion on my part when The Age of Decadence finally launched and swiftly gained a cult following. I simply couldn’t believe people were enjoying that clunky mess. I had to see for myself.
I went in with the lowest of expectations, yet even so, by the time I finished my first playthrough, I already knew I had just experienced something special. Then later, I also quite enjoyed Dungeon Rats that refined Iron Tower’s signature turn-based combat system and introduced NPC companions into the mix.
And this brings us to Colony Ship and its early access release. I jumped on the first chance to play it but didn't expect much. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. The initial early access build is already very much playable and quite fun. So, let’s take a closer look at what Colony Ship’s first chapter has to offer.
Let’s start with the setting. Colony Ship takes the idea of space as the final frontier and runs with it. Basically, at some point in the future, a Christian sect decides to leave Earth and its many problems behind. To that end, they turn a freighter into a generational colony ship with the intention of eventually colonizing some distant world.
On the way there, things go terribly wrong, a big mutiny happens, and once the dust settles, three new factions rise to prominence - one that’s all about freedom and anarchy, one that wants to return some semblance of order to the ship, and one that doesn’t care about the petty squabbles and just wants to refocus on the ship’s original religious mission. Naturally, all three also want to be making a mint while they’re espousing their virtues.
Lacking a clear chain of command, the ship comes into disrepair, countless sub-factions, interest groups, and gangs form, and resources begin growing scarce. This is where you come in as a regular nobody stuck on the ship without a chance to see either Earth or the planet of your destination.
Right after you create your character, you’re treated to several paragraphs of introductory text and a few questions that can help you determine your character’s personal beliefs and goals.
But let’s go back for a moment. Creating your character is a pretty involved process here, as you might expect from an Iron Tower game. You start by distributing a bunch of stat points. The game’s six attributes are pretty standard and do what you would expect them to do.
Then, you need to pick a feat, and these tend to be pretty impactful across the board. My only complaint there is that most of the currently available feats are combat-oriented. I would’ve liked there to be more stealth-related, utility, and social options.
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