I didn't create a disaster in this complex spaceship colony sim: It started that way

On my massive starship deep in outer space, I've just received a notification that someone named Estrella "Apricot" Devilla has joined my colony. Typically in a colony management game, a new arrival is great news. An addition to the group means a new set of hands to perform tasks, new skills in the labor pool, and sometimes even some compelling personality traits. Will Apricot become my new favorite colonist?

To put it bluntly: No. In the opening hours of starship colony sim Stardeus, Apricot's arrival is actually terrible news because my ship currently consists mostly of debris and shattered hull walls. Apricot didn't arrive here on a shuttle, she awoke from a malfunctioning cryosleep pod which shouldn't have opened until we'd landed on a habitable planet. The cryo chamber has no food, no heat, no oxygen, and is exposed to the void of space through several hull breaches. Habitable planet? I don't even have a habitable bedroom yet.

Apricot stands in the cryo chamber for less than a second before realizing she can't breathe, then runs through an open door into an adjoining room which also has no air. Her health plummeting, she desperately sprints into a third room just in time to fall to the floor dead.

Um. Welcome to the colony? As the starship's manager I stare in horror at Apricot's first few moments and final few moments (they're the same moments). I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that while my colony ship is a complete disaster, it's not a disaster I created: The scenario I'm playing begins that way, with the ship smashed to pieces following an unknown catastrophe.

A less comforting thought: there are almost 900 more colonists in cryosleep in the same room, and any of them could potentially wake up at any time. I really, really need to sort this place out.

Hardspace: Ship-broken

Stardeus is inspired by games like RimWorld and Factorio, a top-down colony building and management sim with some pretty deep systems to manage, everything from power to temperature to oxygen levels to pressurization as your ship drifts through the void of space. Your workforce consists of a handful of drones, and once you've repaired, rebuilt, and researched new technology on your ship, you can eventually add guidance systems and engines and visit asteroids, planets, and solar systems. Deeper into the game there are space pirates, traders, shuttle expeditions, and hazards like asteroid strikes and raiding parties.

(Image credit: Paradox Arc)

I have no idea where the giant spiders came from.

That's a long way off for me: I'm still trying to accomplish the basics like restoring power and sealing off the cryo room from the vacuum of space. I've got my drones cannibalizing part of my busted ship so they'll have the resources to repair the rest of it, literally tearing up floors for scrap metal to burn as fuel in my reactor. It feels like the desperate end of a campaign rather than the hopeful beginning of one, but I have managed to connect the cryosleep room to my main generator and computer, linking it with a long line of electrical conduits, so at least the next time someone wakes up and suffocates to death… I don't know, the lights will be on? Maybe that'll be nicer for them?

Speaking of which, before Apricot woke up and promptly died I'd noticed there was already a troubling amount of corpses of other colonists who had earlier woken up and promptly died. Even more troubling, somehow, is that among the human corpses are the corpses of giant spiders. I have no idea where the giant spiders came from—surely I don't have giant spiders in cryosleep pods, because why would that be a thing—but the silver lining is that my colony is such a complete disaster that even giant alien bugs can't survive here. 

While I'm salvaging one part of the ship to rebuild the other part of the ship, I have one of my spare drones stack the dead spiders in another room just in case their bodies prove useful somehow for research (or a food source). I don't feel quite as comfortable doing that with the human corpses, so I have the drone just dump them into space, where they unfortunately just float right alongside the ship. Remind me not to build any windows on that side, I guess. Still, I'm feeling more positive: now when a colonist wakes up and dies they won't be staring at a pile of well-lit corpses while it happens.

Sole survivor

(Image credit: Paradox Arc)

No one else wakes up while I finish repairing and replacing walls and powering electronic doors around the cryo room. My fragile human cargo also requires a breathable atmosphere, and I've been researching an oxygen pump for, frankly, days now. Researching in Stardeus takes quite a long time, which is in some ways frustrating but feels sort of realistic. I don't love the long wait for my robots to discover how to create products, but I respect it. It's a complicated piece of machinery, so it probably would take quite a while to figure it out. 

But even with walls and floors and sealed doors and oxygen flowing, the room remains unpressurized. Finally I stumble on the solution, noticing there's an "airtightness" overlay I can toggle. This lets me see any spots on the ship where oxygen leaks may be occurring, and even in this room I've been working on for ages, there are many. A tiny crack in a floor panel here, a powered but damaged air vent there, several sections of hull that aren't 100%. Cripes, humans require a lot of engineering to not die horribly.

(Image credit: Paradox Arc)

Finally, days into my mission, with about a dozen corpses floating alongside my ship, my cryosleep chamber is sealed airtight, has power and air, and can actually support human life. As if to celebrate, a colonist named Bork wakes up and doesn't immediately begin running around in a panic while he suffocates. There's no time to celebrate my success: Having a living colonist means I'll need to feed him and probably provide things like furniture, hygiene, and entertainment, but after looking through the tech tree the only nutrition-based item I've unlocked is a dog food bowl. An empty dog food bowl. I start researching biotechnology so I can generate some food, but feeling a little bad for Bork, who is going to have quite a while to wait, I go ahead and build the dog food bowl in the room. He doesn't seem impressed, but at least he isn't dead. Yet.

A few hours in I've only barely scratched the surface of Stardeus but it already feels like a pretty deep and complex colony sim, which is especially impressive coming from solo developer Kodo Linija. Stardeus is in Early Access on Steam (published by Paradox Arc) where the dev expects it to remain for the next 2-3 years. In the meantime, colony sim fans should definitely keep it at the top of their lists. Colonists, on the other hand, should approach it with extreme caution. 

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.