I'm not really a strategy guy, but I'll put up with it if the vibes are right: That's why, for instance, I loved Homeworld even though RTS games are normally a quick "no" from me. Starminer, a sort-of-new game announced today by persuasively-named Slovenian studio CoolAndGoodGames, might just fit into that specific niche: For a game about working a blue collar job, it looks very slick.
Starminer, as the name suggests, is about deep-space mining: Find some asteroids, suck 'em dry, move on to the next. But the real name of the game is capitalism. Earning means expansion, and as your wealth grows you'll develop more and better hardware, grow your operation, and branch out into ever-bigger jobs and even more money. Repeat ad infinitum, because as the man once famously said, greed is good, even in the endless void of space.
Homeworld was the first game that leap to my mind when I saw the new Starminer trailer, due as much to that cold, distant voice as the visual style, but there's also an element of Hardspace: Shipbreaker here. Both games are ostensibly about getting a job, earning a living, and trying to be a normal, employed person of the future—and of course, in neither game is it quite that simple.
If there's one thing videogames have taught us over the years, it's that you can't just keep your head down, mind your business, work your 40, and cash your cheque at the end of the week: Sooner or later, some space asshole is going to come along and make a mess of everything. And that's definitely the case in Starminer, although in this game you're more the hard-driving boss rather than the hard-working guy. Regardless of the specifics of your role, though, the net result is the same: Your bottomless rapacity will eventually attract the wrong kind of attention—specifically that of aliens, who for one reason or another take issue with your business and set about stopping it. You'll need to design and build ships and defense systems to protect your fleet from attack and ensure your bottom line remains solid.
I said Starminer is "sort of new" because it was actually announced several years ago under the name Ill Space. CoolAndGoodGames said the name was changed for a few reasons, including a naming conflict with another project, "but we also felt that it made more sense to have a name that gave some context to the game." It's also possible that input from new publisher Paradox Arc, an indie-styled publishing label launched by Paradox Interactive in 2022, may have played a role. The core game itself remains unchanged, however.
"Starminer is a space industry and logistics simulation that strives to be at the forefront of space strategy gaming, blending cutting-edge rendering technologies with deep tactical and creative gameplay," the studio said on Steam. "It's set against backdrops of fully-realized 3D environments, where the beauty of space becomes an integral part of player immersion, setting Starminer apart as a visually stunning and technologically advanced space base-building game.
"Starminer is built with realism and immersion as core design pillars through the incorporation of Newtonian physics for propulsion and movement. This not only adds a layer of authenticity and complexity to the gameplay but also introduces a rewarding learning curve for players seeking a genuinely advanced spacefaring experience."
Realistic Newtonian physics isn't the sort of thing that sells me on a game, but cold, distorted voices echoing across the desolation of deep space as C-beams glitter in the dark? That, I very much have room for. Whether it's enough to keep me engaged over the long term remains to be seen, but it worked for Homeworld and I'm eager to give Starminer the same shot. It's due to launch into early access on Steam sometime in 2024, and until that happens you can keep up with what's what on Discord.