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StellarHub Review

Test your management skills in this space station simulator! Decide who to hire, which technologies to research and build, or become the next tourist destination. Be careful though, as rogue asteroids and dastardly pirates attempt to thwart even the best laid out plans, or the worst.

StellarHub Review

Intro

Begin your life as a space station manager in StellarHub, from infancy to thriving adulthood. Along the way, you will have to decide which technologies to research and unlock new module types as you battle the need for more resources and increased revenue. Casualogic's attempt at a strong colony simulation, albeit in space, hits the mark in some aspects, but ultimately leaves the player wanting more in the end. Despite being a two-man studio, they show great promise in being able to deliver a solid game which is fun, even with a few issues.

StellarHub can be found on Steam for $8.99 (20% off until 9/25/17).

Story

This is where I think the game could have excelled, given enough time and resources, but with a small studio, it's understandable that there is no story/campaign mode. As with most colony simulation games, after a while, the game just seems to stall once you get to a certain point. Missions or a dynamic goal system would have been perfect and would have brought more enjoyment to the game personally.

Gameplay

Colony Management

After playing the tutorials, which I couldn't finish the "Advanced" one due to it not completing one of the tasks properly, you get to select which map to play on. There is even a Free Play mode that will randomly generate everything for you so you won't know how your map is set up going in. Once you make your selection, you are then dumped into the game with your Hub and have free reign over the direction your station will take.

StellarHub Review - Find the key resources to plan your build
At the beginning, it is essential to go straight for oxygen and solar power collectors, or you will have a very short session. Depending on the map, this can be a little tedious, but with connector sections that don't cost much or drain any resources, it's more of an annoyance getting to the nodes. I always prefer to give my workers their Canteen (dining room), Lounge, and Crew Quarters first to keep morale high enough so nobody has a drop in productivity. Once you start collecting oxygen and power, you are free to build your station to your heart's content.

There are zero goals (despite what they popups tell you) and you aren't required to mine or produce food. Building a Supply or Trade Depot allows you to purchase anything you need. This won't get you very far due to not having an income, but is a route you could go. Building a Mining Platform and a Research Center will give you the chance to accumulate goods and start unlocking more modules and technologies. From here, you can choose to manufacture goods, create a space farm, or focus on bringing in more tourists to generate revenue.

Eventually, you will need to build defenses against the ever-present dangers of asteroids and pirates. While you can pay to avoid any fights, it's usually at a much higher cost than you can afford, so it's much easier to just shoot them down. Plus you will get paid for the bounties they have on them. From pulse turrets to missiles to lasers, the defense systems are one of the deepest technologies you can research in the game. Just remember, you will need ammunition for the higher tier weapons, so deciding whether you will make your ammo or buy it is something to keep in mind at the beginning.

StellarHub Review - Buying off pirates is expensive business...
Each person you hire or look to hire has a whole host of skills and stats that accompany them. Physical stats are your normal strength, health, stamina, agility, and intelligence. Certain professions take these traits into account, like the hauler, while others only use the intelligence stat to increase the speed which someone becomes a specialist in whichever job you assign them. There is a much greater amount of skills and this usually determines what profession you will give them upon hiring. Mining jobs will either use the ore mining or mineral mining skill, which does affect the amount of resources you get out of the corresponding nodes. Stick someone who has no skill in a job and they could cause a disaster, especially if you put someone who loves chemistry as your doctor. However, given enough time and learning, anyone can become anything; it will just take more time and possibly hurt your space station in the meantime.

Difficulty

I played three of the provided maps and tried a custom one, and they all seemed too easy. About the only thing to can change that will make it more difficult is having a finite supply of oxygen in the nodes. Even with that, you can purchase oxygen from trade ships or the resupply depot and it tends to be fairly cheap. The learning curve for managing the number of workers and, more specifically, how many of each profession you have, is about one playthrough.

My first play session, I ran out of a resource that was needed to repair modules that decay over time. Despite having four people to haul stuff around and only one destination for them to carry it to, twenty minutes went by without them delivering the necessary items. This resulted in all my modules eventually being broken and unable to fix them. I am not sure if it was a bug or if there was something else preventing them from doing their jobs, but making sure I had plenty of haulers in all proceeding playthroughs prevented this from happening again.

Presentation

Graphics

Nobody is going to be blown away with the graphical presentation here, but there were a few things I was surprised with. Namely, all the different animations provided for the workers. Each module that requires a worker (Mining Platform, Greenhouse, Oxygen Collector, etc..) has its own animation as well as numerous random ones. The gym has five or six as anyone going there might perform jumping jacks, pushups, lift weights, or get on a treadmill. It is incredibly nice to see this level of detail in a top-down colony management game, even if you can only see them on one zoom level.

StellarHub Review - Look at all the different modules. Pretty.
Speaking of detail, you can switch between Interior and Exterior views. Interior will let you see everyone running around, doing their jobs and any status effects they have. All the modules have a plethora of detailed environments in them, some that are there just for looks. While the Lounge and Crew Quarters are decked out with beds, chairs, sofas, and tables which are all used, the Manufacturing Plant has a lot of machines and decorations that are just that. The Exterior view is where you get to see what your station looks like to any space pilot. Here, you will see a lot of geometry and lights that give each module a distinct look. Defence turrets will spin when targeting enemy ships or asteroids and you will see trade ships galore flying around en route to various destinations. All this combined with above average effects make the space aspect pretty darn good.

Sound

The sound design is simply bleh in my opinion. Most of the time, I couldn't even tell there were any sounds in the game at all. The occasional disaster the popped up or an asteroid being blown up were the only times I actually heard anything. This isn't to say there isn't music and beeps or boops going on, they just weren't registering with me very well, if at all. Now, is that a bad thing? Guess that depends on your taste, but for me, I prefer my space games to have something that makes me go "Yeah, this is how Star Trek sounds!" Maybe I was just so engrossed with trying to survive that it became white noise and I tuned it out and again, perhaps that isn't a bad thing. I just didn't find the sounds noteworthy.

Issues

Maybe I am nitpicking here, but when you have a tutorial that won't let you progress past a certain point because it's waiting on something that doesn't register as being complete for over ten minutes on the fastest setting, it's bothersome. Also, the part where I mentioned my first station died off because my haulers refused to deliver the needed stuff to my Manufacturing Plant for twenty minutes, it's hard not to get irritated. When they finally did deliver them, I was out of oxygen, out of power, out of food, and couldn't make the items to repair modules at that point.

Skills and personality didn't seem that important. Despite the constant messages in the tutorial that putting the unskilled in a job will result in disaster or death, after a few work shifts, the people were fairly decently trained and producing enough to keep the colony working just fine. I had a few people who were put in a bad mood by someone who wasn't pleasant, but since everyone moves around so often, this was short lived. Really wish these two things had more of an impact, which would have actually brought some much-needed challenge.

StellarHub Review - Skills just didn't seem...important.
Lastly, this is not an issue for me, especially knowing this is made by two guys from a non-English speaking country, the typo's or grammar errors did jump out. While a few of the latest patch notes said they fixed many of these, there were still quite a few that I noticed and I know there are plenty of people out there that get bent in knots about this. Outside of those few things, the game ran incredibly well even with a large station on a large map. So kudos to the devs for that!

Conclusion

StellarHub is a step in the right direction for a good space colony sim, something I personally have been hoping to see for quite some time. For fans of Prison Architect or RimWorld, if you pick this up, know that you are not getting the depth and complexity you get from those stellar games (eh, see what I did there?). Still, with that being said, it was enjoyable for me and I will put more time into building up stations, even if eventually you either run out of money or resources because there is no end-game. Hopefully, others will use this game as inspiration, or even the devs at Casualogic will build upon what they learned here and take another stab at this genre. Until then, $9 is not a bad price for what you get and I know I will be putting some hours into perfecting my space station.

PROSCONS
+ Fun space colony sim– Lacks challenging gameplay
+ Deep research tree– Sound didn't grab attention
+ Good, detailed graphics/animations– Skills/Personality didn't impact gameplay
+ Randomly generated levels add replayability– Lack of an endgame/missions
7
Good

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