Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review: Vostok Inc [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

As popular as some of the games are on mobile platforms (as well as the PC) I’m a bit surprised that the “clicker” (also known as incremental in some circles) genre hasn’t yet made its way to the Nintendo Switch. For those unfamiliar these games usually revolve around collecting money to build resources that help you generate more money even faster so that you can then purchase more gear or equipment that will then allow you to go even faster than that, etc. That all has changed, at least somewhat, with the release of Vostok Inc but the good news is that it has embraced some of the elements of that genre and blended them with a space shooter (replacing what was often the “clicking”), to make something unique and better in the process.

The name of the game in Vostok is money… a whole lot of it, and to make money you’re going to have to slowly make your way through every planet in every galaxy to plant your flag of capitalism. The more you build, the more money you make, the more you unlock... it’s a pretty straight-forward system. Or it would be, if it weren’t for either pesky space pirates or, eventually, the locals who may not be appreciative of your determination to spread your financial empire into every corner of the universe. That’s where the shooting typically comes in, and while it may not feel all that elaborate or challenging early on I’ve continued to be surprised at how things kept evolving the further I got.

The tug of war in the game ends up revolving mostly around upgrading your ship (and then which elements to upgrade first) and developing resources on the planets. In order to unlock everything and progress you need to do a combination of both, but the more I’ve played I’ve tended to work on maximizing the ship’s capabilities first and would recommend getting a second weapon slot going with the laser weapon to take control of the Particle Beam Refractor. While some other weapon combinations that open up like the Love Gun can be useful and fun I’ve found that cutting through asteroids and enemies alike goes a lot faster with that bad boy (though then there’s the freaking crazy unicorn-shooting gun when you get all 3 slots going). In general the game tries to guide you early on to some good decisions and I’d definitely recommend paying attention to them. I didn’t buy the Manager Detector as early on as I should have and my money-making was far slower than it needed to be because of it. In general you’ll want to spread out, colonize everywhere you can, buy the add-on that allows you to collect your money without returning to the planet constantly, and then have some fun.

In terms of the downsides there’s no getting around the fact that elements of the game are repetitive on a general level since even when you go to different galaxies there tend to be similarities in the alien opposition you’ll face. That said, each new area does tend to introduce a new unit or two to the mix and many of them can prove to be challenging, especially the bosses. It’s not so much the challenge that will continue to bring you back it is more the reward loop and discovery of new things. In some spaces if you’re not necessarily working the optimum path for making money the game can drag as well though. Specifically for people familiar with this genre you’ll also want to be aware that while the game isn’t running you aren’t accumulating wealth as you do in many games from the genre. While you can accumulate money by leaving the game on (and I’ve done this) what you’ll discover is that if you properly upgrade your ship you’ll be capable of making money far faster if you just go out and blow things up.

While Vostok Inc isn’t a terribly complicated game there’s an element to it that can get its hooks into you. I’d say in a way that’s very similar to something like Stardew Valley you can get into a pattern of habits that are somewhat relaxing. Blow up asteroids, upgrade planets, get in some fights, upgrade your ship, take out a boss, move onto the next galaxy and repeat. The addition of the game’s very strange sense of humor at times as you’ll interact with the representatives from each galaxy helps keep things light as well and many of the game’s seemingly infinite achievements are laced with comedic undertones as well. I started playing Vostok Inc expecting to have some silly fun, the fact that it turned out to have some depth and hidden surprises throughout was just icing on the cake.

Score: 8

  • A satisfying sense of progress as your empire grows along with your bank account
  • A nice variety of weapons you’ll acquire from the creative to the downright silly but devastating
  • Boss fights and bigger conflicts can have a bullet hell edge to them at times, keeping you on your toes

  • If you don’t get sucked in by the reward loop the game falls apart as a somewhat lacking space shooter
  • Some may find the nature of moving to planets and setting up resources tedious
  • If you don’t balance your spending correctly the game can hit dull points as you try to accumulate money