Let’s talk about … – Sol Trader is back on Kickstarter

Earlier in the year we covered Sol Trader, an in-depth space sim from Chris Parsons. If you missed that article you can check it out here. After the first Kickstart fell short of its target, raising £9,251/£20,000, Sol Trader is back with a second Kickstarter campaign, this time only looking for half the original goal, £10,000.

We had a quick play of Sol Trader when the first Kickstarter launched, and one of the things we loved was the depth of gameplay and the social aspects of gameplay: it seems we weren’t alone. After feedback from both players and industry, gameplay has been re-written to place even greater emphasis on these features. There’s also been lots of work put into the graphics, so the game is prettier than ever.

To coincide with the new Kickstarter, a fresh demo is available showing the current state of the game. Bear in mind, some features promised in the Kickstarter are not yet available.

Here’s a full feature list taken from the Kickstarter page:

  • Single-player combination of arcade 2D spaceflight and strategic manipulation of your network of contacts
  • Run missions using your family and friends’ connections to government or business
  • No ship given to you at game start: you must take a loan and hire a ship, or borrow one from a wealthy relative
  • Fly between planets, interacting with the various characters you come across in cities and in space
  • Research information on other characters through chatting to friends and relatives
  • Customise your ship with lasers, passenger quarters, shields, bolt weapons, missiles and scanners (coming soon)
  • Blackmail others with the information you find, or sell it to the press (coming soon)
  • Trade goods for profit
  • Procedural generation of a whole society of thousands of random characters
  • Start every new game from your character’s birth
  • Choose your parents and all your major life choices as you grow up
  • Your choices determine your personality and your friends, relatives and enemies
  • Full modding support: change all the organisations, events, weapons, planets, ships, conversations and tutorial system.
  • Windows, Mac and Linux at launch
  • Already greenlit on Steam

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We liked what we played of Sol Trader, and will be picking up the new demo soon! It was also Greenlit earlier this year, so there’s certainly the audience, it just needs a little help getting across the finish line. Head to the Kickstarter to show your support, or visit the official website for more information on the game.

Indie Showcase … – Redemption: Eternal Quest

Redemption: Eternal Quest is a simulation RPG by indie games developer SimProse Studios in which you take charge of a party of 6 adventurers, sending them on adventures across the land to complete thrilling quests and to collect rare treasure and precious relics.

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R:EQ combines resource-management with classing RPG elements to create a challenging and unique randomly generated scenario for each turn and every game session. You have full control over your party, and it’s down to you to lead them to victory. With a variety of lands to be explored, and treasures to be found, it’s important you lead your adventurers with a level head. After joining your guild as novices, you’ll see them grow into legendary heroes as your adventures unfold.

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Adventuring is dangerous work, and your party will come across many who wish to stand in your way. R:EQ features a card-based combat system, with over 200 special minion cards available, each differing in combat strength.

If RPG/simulation games are your thing, Redemption: Eternal Quest is definitely worth a look. The depth of the systems, and number of possibilities that are therefore possible, are vast, and promise to offer a great RPG experience.

Redemption: Eternal Quest is currently on Greenlight, and is 94% to the top 100 at the time of writing, so it’s nearly there! Visit the Greenlight Page to leave your vote if you like the look of the game, and if you do, let them know IGUK sent you!

Let’s take a look at … – Big Pharma (Beta)

Big Pharma is a pharmaceutical-themed strategy game from one-man games studio Twice Circled. Published by Positech Games, Big Pharma is currently in beta, and available for purchase through its official website, however not yet available on Steam. Both I and Heather have been playing the title, and we’ve combined our thoughts! Let’s take a look.

Pharmacy is big business. And it is a business. Although the production of drugs benefits us all greatly, pharmaceutical companies still have overhead, shareholders, and ultimately need to make money. Big Pharma puts you at the helm of a pharmaceutical giant so you can face these challenges yourself. In one hand you hold the duty to the public, and in the other the balance sheet.

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Big Pharma has no single campaign. Instead, it features a selection of challenges stretching over various difficulties. These start with a tutorials that teach you the key concepts behind producing drugs, managing machines, and managing the financial side of your empire. While the tutorials provide a wealth of information, they are a bit overwhelming. Each tutorial is presented as a single lump of text in a clunky menu that you have to work through. An interactive tutorial that took you through the game mechanics step-by-step would be a much nicer introduction to the game.

The goal of Big Pharma depends on which challenge you select, but they all essentially boil down to create X drugs in a given time period. You start in an empty lot, with a given budget, and the rest is up to you, including what drugs you create, how you lay out your factory, and who you hire. Let’s start with drug creation.

drug creation

Creating drugs is a process with multiple steps, starting with sourcing raw ingredients. These have different costs, positive effects, and negative side-effects. In the screenshot above you can see one relieves hypertension, and the other soothes cold symptoms. There is also a red bar which shows the negative side-effects. The goal is to process the ingredient to a stage when it has the strongest effect with minimal side-effects. This is done through refining and diluting the drug with various machines. The better combination you get, the higher rating the drug will have, and the more money it will make.

These machines add another aspect to the game; the puzzle of logistics. Each machine has one entry point, and one exit point. By stringing the machines together with conveyor belts, and ending at an outlet on the wall, you creating a working production line. Machines can be rotated, but even still, there’s no fine control to be found. I found the system a bit cumbersome, and all my production lines took horribly circuitous routes. Despite my best efforts, my production floor was a mess.

production floor

Every machine costs money each time it is used, so you need to weigh the costs of the machine, and the ingredients, against the final selling price of the drug to make sure you’re profitable. That’s the crux of what you’ll be doing. There are different machines to place and different drugs to create, but it all boils down to watching the numbers.

To add to this, you’re not the only company developing drugs. Depending on which difficulty you’re playing on, you’ll have anywhere from 1-4 competing companies. That means not only do you have to keep an eye on your numbers, but theirs as well.

scientist

To progress and unlock more ingredients and machines, you need to hire explorers and scientists. If not assigned to a job, they will earn ingredient update and research points respectively. These can be used to bring down the cost of your ingredients and production. They can also be sent to explore and research, which is where new things are unlocked. They don’t work for free though! Each explorer/scientist will take a wage, so you need to ensure you’re generating enough revenue to pay them.

The graphics of Big Pharma are very nice. Everything is to a high polish. The menus are simple and solid, moving around the map is solid and the assets look and feel great. There’s depth to the mechanics. Keeping on top of your expenses, watching your competitors and reading the market to find which drugs are most desired … it’s just not that fun.

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As I mentioned at the beginning, both myself and Heather played this game. When we came to compare notes, we both agreed it’s a solid game, but both posed the same question. Where is the fun? Everything in Big Pharma boils down to watching numbers and math. There is no story, no ultimate goal and no surprises. If that’s your thing, a straight sim focused on numbers, then I’m sure you’ll find Big Pharma will hold your interests, but for us casual sim players it was too much.

The game’s official page says ‘What if you had it in your power to rid the world of disease, to improve the lives of millions, to ease suffering and cure the sick… and earn a tidy profit?’. If you let your imagination do 90% of the work, then you might find that in Big Pharma. We however got bogged down in the numbers, and wanted more gameplay. Playing felt more like a job or a school lesson in economics than something relaxing, but this very technical and methodical micro-managing might be just up your alley if you enjoy that play style.

Tl:dr – Big Pharma is a solid looking, and feeling, business sim. A lack of ultimate direction, and a strong focus on the numbers however left us anchoring for more gameplay. For those of you into this methodical, micro-management, and number watching sim style, Big Pharma is right up your street. For casual sim players however it might be a bit stale as it was for us.

Rating – 6/10

Purchase Big Pharma can be pre-ordered via the official site for roughly £12.99 (converted from $19.95) giving instant access to the beta

Trailer –