The Earth was destroyed for one reason or another—not like we're short on possibilities—so humanity fled to the stars in AI-controlled space ships called Arks. I say AI-controlled, but really they're overseen by Starmancers, a sort of human-AI hybrid resulting from volunteers merging their minds and bodies with machines. Countless years pass and you, one such Starmancer, awaken to find your Ark in dire need of some tidying up and some new colonists. Such is the premise for Starmancer, a space sim proudly inspired by Dwarf Fortress.
Starmancer is currently on Kickstarter (opens in new tab), with developer Ominux Games asking for $40,000. At the time of writing, its campaign has raised $64,287 and will run for another 23 days. With the game now 160 percent funded, Ominux is eyeing stretch goals like improved music and sound effects, a creative mode, and a robot faction. The studio says they're also outlining free post-launch expansions like improved colonist relationships and alien races.
It's shaping up to be an exponentially dense game, but Starmancer is fundamentally about two things: building your space station and managing your colonists. The former consists of adding rooms and utilities, installing defenses, and managing resources like oxygen and water, and strip-mining planets to fuel it all. You can sample some of these features in Starmancer's free Kickstarter demo (opens in new tab) (download links are at the top of the page).
Managing your colonists is a little more complicated, at least at first blush. They're all vat-grown, you see, and it's up to you to decide their backstories and jobs. This shapes their relationships and skill sets, which in turn help determine their classes and morale. You've also got to worry about other colonists and factions: between diplomatic relations and external trade routes, the line between mutiny and magnanimity is a fine one. Luckily, if you do mess it up, you're just a restart away from trying again in a new, randomly generated solar system.
"When your entire station inevitably dies, it's not game over," Ominux says. "You are a Starmancer, after all. Simply grow a fresh batch of colonists and start a new story. Just clean up the dead bodies first."
Ominux plan to release Starmancer in early 2019. Here's hoping its Kickstarter momentum keeps it far, far away from the fate of Spacebase DF-9, Double Fine's Dwarf Fortress-inspired space station sim which came crashing down in 2014 (opens in new tab).