Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Vostok Inc. Review (XONE)

Vostok Inc. is a brilliant combination of a wildly addictive clicker-type game with solid twin-stick shooter gameplay to create one of the most unexpectedly satisfying and wonderful games of 2017. While the 1980’s Wall Street theme falls pretty flat, the sci-fi exploration aspect and thrill of watching your bank account fill with an increasingly astoundingly huge sum of money as your planetary investments pay off is just insanely fun. Vostok Inc. is destined to be one of the surprise PS4 and Xbox One hits of the year. See our full review for details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Badland Games                       
  • Developer: Nosebleed Interactive
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Twin-Stick Shooter
  • Pros: Incredibly addictive; decent gameplay; very satisfying; interesting aliens
  • Cons: Bit grindy at times; lame minigames; dumb wall street theme
  • MSRP: $15
Vostok Inc. page at Microsoft.com

Vostok Inc. is the name of your exploration and colonization company that seeks to exploit the riches of outer space. Starting out in our own Solar System, you eventually can move on to other systems filled with strange alien creatures who aren’t happy that a bunch of humans showed up and are trying to make money in their territory. The five alien races you come across are fascinating (the third system is downright hilarious) and give the game a great sense of humor and personality. I’m not as big of a fan of the 80’s Stock Market Guy that is your main advisor, nor the Wall Street in Spaaaaace overall theme, but they honestly aren’t all that intrusive or in your face about it once you get into the meat of the game.

Honestly, the Wall Street theme is just plain weird and doesn’t really play into the actual mechanics of the game. You aren’t buying or selling stocks or anything like that, so it seems like it is only present just to be quirky and weird and in order to make references to 80’s / 90’s culture like playing Tamagatchi-like minigames (that all suck) . It would have been just as fun and interesting with a more straight sci-fi theme than the slimy investment banker angle. It doesn’t seriously detract from the experience, thankfully.

The real meat of the gameplay in Vostok Inc. consists of flying around 2D solar systems in your little luxury space yacht and landing on planets in order to build stuff. You build mines and factories and power plants, among many other industries, as well as build civilian housing, entertainment, education, banking, and more. The happier your workers are, the more money you make. The more stable your government and banking system is, the more money you make. You don’t really need to keep track of anything complicated, though. You just keep investing in stuff so that the money counter in the corner of the screen keeps ticking up up up.

At first, the game is pretty slow and grindy as you don’t make very much money to start with. As you land on more planets and make more and more “stuff”, however, money starts coming in exponentially faster and faster, which lets you invest more and more and buy new things all in the effort to make more money even faster. The investments you can make and upgrades you can buy get increasingly more and more expensive so, naturally, you just keep investing until you’re making millions, billions, trillions, and even sextillions of credits every single second and it is incredibly addictive. The game goes through peaks and valleys of being very slow and grindy as you reach each new plateau, and then suddenly very fast and frenetic as you start making enough money to buy all of the stuff at that level. Then you hit another plateau and do it all over again. It’s awesome.

The other aspect of the gameplay in Vostok Inc. is that it is also a twin-stick shooter. The other folks out in the universe aren’t happy about humans coming into their territory, you see, so they’ll attack you with increasingly powerful ships in order to drive you off. The shooting gameplay here is pretty solid – not spectacular, but mechanically very sound – and the upgrades you can buy for your ship and the wealth of new weapons (you can shoot out herds of unstoppable unicorns …) you can buy make the combat pretty satisfying. Shooting stuff also turns out to be a pretty good way to make extra money, too, as destroying asteroids and killing enemies nets you a fair bit of income that helps kill time and fill your coffers while you wait for your investments to start adding up. You can also save people that randomly appear around the system as well, and these people will become middle managers to make your businesses more efficient and make more money, upper managers that increase your productivity significantly, and even investors that will instantly double your bank account.

All of this comes together to make a pretty darn addictive and satisfying overall experience. The “clicker” game routine of going from planet to planet, buying everything and anything you can afford to invest in, and then moving on to the next one and shooting everything you see in between is just really, really fun. Every new system you move on to also provides a new silly set of aliens to fight and it’s just all so good.

One thing about it, though, is that it is an undeniably repetitive overall experience and that repetition does eventually catch up to you. You’ll run out of ship upgrades to buy and planetary investments will no longer have much of an impact on your bottom line when you’re making quintillions of dollars per second. The game isn’t particularly replayable because of this, and once you get all of the achievements and see your way through to beating all of the bosses and your bank account is in the sextillions the fun is effectively over. It’ll take you 15-hours or so to get to that point, though, at which point it is hard to argue you didn’t get your $15 worth.

The presentation in Vostok Inc. is nice overall with a nice and consistent cartoony art style. Each solar system you visit has new aliens, enemy ships, different looking planets, and its own unique soundtrack. And I have to say it again – the third system you visit is freaking awesome. The sound effects can get kind of grating as you’ll hear the same weapon and money collecting sounds over and over and over again, but you can turn them down when it starts to wear on you.

All in all, Vostok Inc. is an incredibly pleasant surprise that I can’t recommend highly enough. Watching your income soar into the sextillions is addictive and satisfying as all get out and the twin-stick shooting that makes up the majority of your time spent with the game is also very well done. Vostok Inc. is awesome overall. Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.