Coming from developers LAB132 and publishers Klabater, is a game that makes my typing fingers itch due a lack of capitalisation – orbit.industries. And yes, the “dot” is intentional, not just sloppy punctuation on my part.
Billed as giving players the chance to “become a Space Pioneer by building and managing a station of your own on the orbit of distant planets!”, I’m not sure what else I can add to that, as this represents a genre that has always seemed more at home on the PC platform; resource management, basically. The big question is this: does orbit.industries work on an Xbox, and if it does, is it worthy of your time and money? Let’s blast off and find out.
The presentation of the game is fairly dull, and whilst that my seem like a harsh word, there are absolutely no whizz bang graphics on display here. There are three basic screens that you will spend your time in: one is an outside view of the station that you are constructing, and this is where you will add new modules to your dwelling in order to try and meet the demands of the various missions that you are given. The second screen is a wall of text and various menus, and the third one is a kind of overview of the plumbing and circuitry of the station you are building.
And this is the sum total of the visuals, and while it wouldn’t make my work laptop sweat (and that’s not a great machine, folks) it is sufficient for what orbit.industries is trying to do. Looking at the endless reaches of space is quite nice, and being able to zoom and pan the view around your station is decent enough; in a relaxing kind of way. Sound wise it is all very minimal as well, with a robotic voice over teaching you the basics and introducing each step of the missions you have to complete. Or if you run your station as efficiently as I did, telling you that funds are critically low.
So, orbit.industries isn’t going to blow your socks off with its presentation (indeed, they remained firmly on throughout the entirety of the review process), but how about actual gameplay? What is it like to be a bold Space Pioneer, building a space station using only your wits and available money? Well, slow, is the word that springs to mind, along with ‘strangely calming’ and ‘almost zen-like’.
Let me set the scene for you: you are in charge of a space station, which has a certain amount of resources at its disposal. These resources are used to either complete steps on the main mission, or to complete contracts that will award you a fixed amount of Kreedits (in-game credits) that can then be reinvested in more modules for the space station, giving you additional available resources to complete missions and so on and so forth. That, in a sentence, is the entire gameplay loop of orbit.industries – build stuff, get money, build more stuff.
Now, remember the three screens that I mentioned earlier? This is where they come into play.
The external view of the space station is the screen that we need to use in order to build new modules and attach them to the station. As you start off a mission, there are a number of free nodes available that you can plainly see, allowing you to attach modules to them, such as extra habitation, giving you more workforce, or an administration centre to allow you to perform extra tasks. Helpfully, each module has a symbol assigned to it, and the missions that you can undertake also have symbols against them, so if you are lacking a necessary module it is easy to see what you need to build. Once a module has been constructed and attached, it then needs to have the plumbing attached, which is where the third of the aforementioned screens come in. There are up to three connectors on a module, and they need to be linked into the existing circuits in order to provide (I assume) air, power and all the things that are required to live and work in space.
The final screen is where we can accept jobs, and is a very text dense, quite small text kind of screen. There are missions and contracts on the left, a bit of info about the selected mission in the middle, and then the interface with the station A.I. on the right. While I had to move a bit closer to the screen to read what I was meant to be doing, it all works fairly well.
There are niggles, especially with a port of a fairly complex game from mouse and keyboard to controller, as you’d expect. The biggest of these is an annoying imprecision when trying to select a particular node to build on. Now, with a mouse, you’d assume this is nice and easy, just click and away you go, but with a controller you have to kind of aim a beam of light to the node you want, and hope it selects the right one. It does make things harder than it should be, to be fair.
Another issue seems to be the Galactic economy, as the reward for doing jobs seems to be nowhere near what it costs to run the station, and this makes everything jolly hard. Other than that, this is quite a calming game, with no stress involved, and even when everything is going down the tubes and you have negative Kreedits, it’s still quite Zen. For someone who, like me, has been addicted to Elden Ring, say, this is almost the antidote.
In conclusion then, orbit.industries is a game that will appeal to the control freaks out there. You can take charge and amend every little bit of life aboard your station; keeping people happy and efficient is quite involving on its own – and that’s without doing any of the missions. Building, expanding and reinvesting is strangely fun, and if it wasn’t for the control issues, this would be on for a pretty good score. As it is, those issues do spoil orbit.industries somewhat, leaving it firmly middle of the road.
orbit.industries is available to download from the Xbox Store