Capsule Review: Vostok Inc.

A mediocre idle game mixed with a mediocre twin-stick shooter to form something that is sometimes but not always more than the sum of its parts. The game takes place in a series of six star systems. The planets house the idle game mechanics - on each one, you can buy and upgrade buildings from a menu to generate passive income. Flying your ship between the planets is where you’ll find the twin-stick shooter gameplay - there are asteroids to mine, enemies to defeat, and a few other randomly-placed interactions like survivors to pick up and checkpoint races to run. Once you have enough money, defeat the boss to unlock the next star system and move forward.

Switching between the game modes works surprisingly well. If you’re looking for active gameplay you can fly around shooting things, when you want a break you can land and build up a planet, and when you get bored of that you can fly around again. And whatever you’re doing, you’re making progress toward the game’s goals, since your passive income continues and most activities in the ship generate money as well.

The two halves of the game intertwine in a few ways, to mixed effect. Money isn’t just used to make more money but also to upgrade your ship with new abilities, lending the game additional satisfying progression rather than just seeing the numbers get higher and higher. Some buildings are only available for purchase after doing things in space like destroying a certain number of asteroids or completing a certain number of checkpoint races, which in theory seems like a good way to give some extra meaning to your actions in space but in practice is either easily ignored (as when the required actions are things you’re doing anyway and you may not even notice you’ve unlocked a building in this way, as you still need to have enough money to buy one anyway) or creates a need for grinding (when the action isn’t something you’d normally do, but now you have to do it to be able to buy the next building).

This sort of inconsistency is unfortunately pervasive. Mechanics are piled on top of each other without much apparent thought and a final layer of polish to smooth out and balance their interactions would have gone a long way. For example, checkpoint races can take you through boss spawn areas, trapping you in a fight you weren’t intending to trigger and rendering the race unfinishable. In general, it’s a little too easy to get trapped in combat you didn’t want, since enemies can spawn randomly at any time and one enemy type can trigger “screen-locked” battles which prevent you from fleeing until you’ve dealt with three waves of enemies. There’s also maybe one more star system than there should be, as by the time you reach the final one you’ve probably got all the interesting ship upgrades and all that’s left to do is the same stuff you’ve done many times before, visiting each planet and building it up.

The core design conceit of combining these two genres is solid. Vostok Inc. isn’t a perfect expression of this idea’s inherent potential, but it’s still worth a look for fans of those genres.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the story by beating the final boss. You can keep playing after that - accumulating wealth, completing hundreds of challenge objectives, or starting over via a New Game Plus with faster progression - but I did not wish to do so.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.