Spacebase DF-9: Most fun had in a vacuum
“Ground control to Major Tom, please revoke early access to this player, “ would be heard over the speakers of the mission control room in my mind whilst I asphyxiated yet another crew of space pioneers. Against their better judgement, base after base has been put in my care. Time and time again I manage to smite the hopeful spacers. I won’t stop. Ever.
Spacebase DF-9 is a space station building and simulation game in early access on Steam. It was developed alongside Hack ‘n’ Slash and Costume Quest for Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight 2012 crowd-sourced game development event. In the spirit of its simulation predecessors, Spacebase DF-9 places you with the responsibility of creating a functional and harmonious existence in space. While it does resemble and honor space sim games of another age, it most resembles a Star Trek Deep Space 9, The Sims, Laugh-In cross-bred cross-over.
Once you accept command, you are given control over three space exploration volunteers of random ability who aid you in constructing a space station. Through a series of logical progressions, you build rooms, assign room roles and attach room items to activate these roles. All the while fellow space travelers visit, space debris rains down and raiders invade your base. As you mine, build, sleep and eat you you have to negotiate the sprawl of your spacebase.
I love building games - though I would never hire myself for any contract work. I often built my workers into rooms without doors leaving them to starve. I would sometimes neglect the air production only to have dozens of panicked suffocating residents running about the base. Don’t they know that expends even more oxygen? Starting over from scratch never felt like a chore, but was another chance to spectacularly fail. Need to build faster? Welcome more travelers to maintain your station. Need better food and gear? Get that botanist and scientist out of the pub.Getting attacked? Install defenses or shift your crew to security. But above all, give those poor workers some space and R&R or else they just mope around the base. Not only do they drag their feet like a sullen teenager, but they complain about the food, work and each other.
There seems to be another game bubbling just below the surface with the tracking of the emotions, health and thoughts of your space residents. I felt bad when my little people were sad, very sad and DEEPLY sad. I showered them with fresh food, private sleeping quarters, monitors and booze to adjust their mood, to varying effects. Mostly, I just want them to be happy, I’m not a monster. I mean, not mostly a monster.
Spacebase is imbued with a specific element that is particular to and that I only experience with Double Fine titles. Its humor, style and simplicity draws me in and tempts me to scrawl my next base on graph paper, but its charisma makes me stay. Spacebase DF-9 is no different, even its alpha state. It makes you feel at home, even while it’s being invaded by raiders. It sparks my hope that as they further develop this game they add expansions to explore space like say Star Control or recent indie darling FTL, all with that Double Fine bravado.
It could very well be that I am playing this game wrong, but it feels so good. I found myself creating my own personal achievements in play sessions. Remember those? I pat myself on the back when I complete the residential wing of the space station, those guys and gals deserve their own rooms, down to their little square personal spaces, in space. I designed hallways housing my life support or acres of huge rooms devoted to the requisite air scrubbers. I push my miners, builders, scientists and technicians to their limits, creating an impressive grid of spacebase artistry. And though I have invested this time, I have no problem watching it burn. Be sure to neglect the fire extinguishers if you actually want to watch it burn.
Space base DF-9 can be enjoyed in early access on Steam.
Day 19 | Double Fine Productions