The moon blowing up isn't the worst thing that happens in space station sim Ixion

So. You just test-fired the experimental engine on your brand new orbiting space station and, well… it kinda blew up the moon. But somehow that's not even the worst bit of news you'll get today. In colony sim Ixion, you're managing a space station and its crew as things quickly go from bad to worse to utterly unthinkable.

I recently got to see the first half-hour or so of Ixion, which serves as a tutorial and sets the stage for the calamity that will change everything. You're the administrator of the space station Tiqqun (pronounced "tycoon") orbiting Earth, charged with getting things up and running: managing the power supply, maintaining the hull integrity, setting up supply lines, and building supplemental structures like crew quarters and science labs. It's like a little city orbiting Earth, and you're the mayor, but you won't be orbiting much longer.

You'll also build a data listening service, which will eavesdrop on your crew so you can measure their morale, which sounds pretty draconian but not too far-fetched in the age of megacorporations that can afford their own space stations. The crew will also directly communicate with you to let you know what they need, such as more housing, infirmaries to deal with their workplace injuries, and other requests. Keeping their trust in you is paramount to success, and just as important as keeping the station's hull in one piece.

(Image credit: Bulwark Studios)

And you'll construct the massive Vohle Engine, meant to transport the station to distant solar systems so humankind can find a new home, now that the Earth has been rendered nearly uninhabitable due to pollution, global warming, and a shortage of resources. But when that engine is ignited for the first time, something goes horribly wrong and it shatters the Moon, turning your mission from an exploratory venture into humanity's last hope of survival. It's a good, sci-fi premise, one we've seen in books like Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora.

The new Ixion teaser video you can see above gives us a closer (if sadly brief) look at the inside of the space station we'll be managing. You can see some of the buildings you'll get to place in the station, and enjoy the detailed animation of each. There are rows of green algae farms you'll need to make food for your crew, shuttle bays for the science and cargo ships you'll be able to deploy, and the supply lines you'll have to lay down in the cramped interior. You begin the game with only one sector of the station available to build in, but as you progress you'll unlock new sectors that will give you more room to expand. Plus, you're gonna have to fix that pesky Vohle Engine to make sure you don't shatter any more moons when you move between different solar systems.

(Image credit: Bulwark Studios)

As we saw when Ixion was announced earlier this year at the PC Gaming Show, there are some pretty strong Frostpunk vibes happening here. Though you're in space instead of on Earth, you still represent the last hope of humanity as you search the galaxy for a new habitable planet. You'll constantly contend with shortages of resources, having to scour locations around the solar systems you visit to salvage parts, discover new technology, and even add to your crew by finding cryogenic pods with frozen astronauts inside. If your station's crew get unhappy enough with your decisions, they'll go on strike, and if their trust in you doesn't improve they'll actually remove you from power, ending your game, similar to how you're thrown out on the tundra in Frostpunk if your citizens lose too much morale.

Another element that reminds me of Frostpunk: the act of charging up your interstellar engine to jump to new star systems will draw so much power from your ship that you'll essentially be in blackout mode for several minutes, and you'll have to scramble to keep everything running on limited power until the engine fires. It makes me think of the harsh blizzards that would periodically sweep through your city in Frostpunk, those tense times where you held your breath as you tried to survive adverse conditions through a period where new resources couldn't be gathered.

Oh, and by the way: the destruction of the moon isn't even the extent of the catastrophe. When your engine fired that first time, your space station, rather than traveling through space, actually moved through time. You're still orbiting the wrecked moon, but you're now several decades in the future. That is a serious engine problem! What happened on Earth and in the rest of the solar system in all those decades you missed? And what went wrong with the Vohle Engine in the first place? In Ixion, uncovering the mystery of the catastrophe and searching for answers is just the beginning.

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.