While initially fun and full of promise, this base-building game quickly turns into a frustrating mess. As a fan of the genre, I'm generally willing to look over minor flaws in base-building games, and when I first fired up Spacebase DF-9, I'll admit I let the excitement of building a space-station get the better of me. Now, countless hours in, I find myself pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration and dissappointment everytime I boot the game up.
The game begins by mousing over an imaginary galaxy to find an area to establish a new space-base. While I dreamed of building my own Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5 at an optimal location, I found that I needed to spend 5 full minutes dragging my mouse around the galaxy map looking for an ideal location. Rather than allowing the player to set start parameters, the designers force you to hunt the 2D galaxy map for 4 varying starting conditions, consisiting of generally unclear parameters. Sure, levels of mining materials, a threat level, and a proximity to a warp gate seemed to make sense since I was a sci-fi fan, but through different playthoughs, they had only small differences. The final and fourth parameter, Magnetic Interference, remains unclear. This is because none of these parameters are ever explained, even during the tutorial.
Once the game begins, regardless of the parameters selected, the player has but a few minutes to build a basic base before the three astronuats supplied run out of air to breath. They must be assigned tasks, which, at first are dictated by necessity, and later by NPC prefence, which is shown via an assignment screen using varying degrees of happy and sad faces.
The problem with building a basic base is that your resources are so low, no matter what world parameters you set, that you need to be near absolute barebones. There is very little room for error. Of course, once basic resources, like air, food and the ability to create building material are met, a player can always expand, and sometimes with ease. But, this is where bugs, even in version 1.03 begin to appear.
I've had my start point pressed up against materials which have made it extremely difficult to start a base. I've had one of my 3 vital NPCs get caught on what little terrain there is at the start. NPCs get caught inside fully constructed rooms until you place a door, which usually isn't bad, unless you go pet your cat for 30 seconds and then look up to find everyone dead.
Or, in my last three games in a row, which inspired this review, have NPC's get stuck in terrain that was under construction, rendering the game a death sentence. Since there is only one save, this requires a new base, which in turn requires mousing over the 2D galaxy for 5 minutes to find starting parameters...
Once a player has a basic base up and running, the game begins to punish it much too soon. Incoming asteroids, disease, incoming asteroids, raiders, incoming asteroids, and NPC incompatibilty all appear just a 4 or 5 rooms into the base. Did I mention that incoming asteroids will hit your base and ALWAYS target vital systems?
Once a base is established, NPCs start getting sad, angry or upset. They all have demands. Nobody knows how to please those demands. I even doubt the developers know. I have never found a correlation between the limited items I can place and NPC happiness. I try to supply them with, say, Monitors. What do Monitors do? I have no idea. Are Monitors cosmetic? Do they increase Happiness? Do they decrease stress? No one knows.
In summation: The game works. It does some basic stuff. But, I get so frustrated everytime I bring myself to give the game a 8th or 9th chance than I'd rather watch watch seconds tick by. Furthermore, I'd like to say that my faith in Double Fine is rattled - a company that once did no wrong has now done wrong.