Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: August 17th, 2017
The concept of a base-building game in space seems simple. Take the familiar formula of games like Sim City or Dwarf Fortress, only remove the ground element and put everything in the vast nothingness of the cosmos. It is a concept yet to be totally mastered, with most games preferring to stick to building on terra firma instead. The latest attempt to move things off-world is StellarHub from Casualogic games. But the question still lingers, does Stellar Hub truly ascend to the stars, or just languish as space scrap?
There’s no campaign in StellarHub to keep you moving forward, only a short bit of backstory to setup the game’s premise. Basically, in the near future Earth is turned to total crap and now people are leaving and striking out into the stars to attempt to rebuild. You take control of one of these star bases and it’s now up to you to make it profitable, either by exploiting resources and selling them off or becoming a tourist attraction.
At least that’s what the game wants you to do. In practice, none of this actually matters, and that’s the unfortunate overarching issue with StellarHub: nothing matters. With no campaign or mission structure to tie everything together, there doesn’t seem to be a point to playing beyond a few minutes curiosity. There’s no end-game or goal to work towards, the game just runs till you get bored, which will likely be very soon.
Gameplay is spent laying out your base and assigning your workers to maintain it. The workers are all autonomous and perform tasks related to one of the many different jobs that can be assigned. There’s also a mountain of different stats they can level up, but assigning an NPC to a job they’re not proficient in will damage your station, so there’s no point to swapping people around. There’s also supposed to be NPC attributes like “lazy” or “technologically challenged” but unlike say, RimWorld, these are just meaningless identifiers that don’t affect anything.
The only challenge comes in the occasional asteroid attack, which becomes meaningless after you research and develop base defenses. There are hull breaches which can cause your hubs to blow up, but as long as you have one technician on shift this doesn’t matter. Characters can have mental breakdowns, but assign them to a few hours of rest or a visit to the medic and they’re right as rain again.
Graphically the game is largely unimpressive, looking not that much different than games that came out in 2003 (StarScape in particular looks about on-par) Backgrounds look ok but remain static throughout the game. NPCs are almost hilariously bad, and it appears their only three animations are either walking, “working” at terminals, or writhing on the floor in pain. At the very least the entire game is functionally minded, and the UI gives clear feedback on everything and is easy to navigate.
On the audio side, StellarHub is absolutely bare-bones. Background music is largely generic space music, heavy with synth beats you could pull out of 100 other games. Sound effects for everything else sound like they were ripped out of a free-use library and dropped in where necessary. There’s no voice-over work, probably for the best since the written dialogue often looks like it was run through Google Translate wrong (although the devs are patching this. I kind of wish they weren’t though).
Overall there’s not a whole lot to recommend about StellarHub. While it does successfully manage to move the base-building genre into space, and it’s far more playable than some other titles (Space DF-9 for instance) there’s just nothing here to grab on to for more than a few minutes. Even if you’re absolutely straining for something new there are far better titles to spend your money on, and playing this game for too long will just make you wish you were playing those games instead.