Orbit.industries is a new sci-fi, strategy, simulation game where you are in charge of building, managing, and maintaining a space station. The game was developed by LAB132 and published with Klabater and Klabater S.A., and it’s available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series S and X, PS4, PS5, and PC. This review is for the Nintendo Switch version which a copy of which we received for free from the developer.
The game starts with a list of all the different mission types, which is a little overwhelming if you’re new to the game, but the first type is actually already auto selected for you. The first is ‘No Time for Caution’, (which is presumably a reference to the song title with the same name, from the soundtrack of Interstellar), but you can also play endless mode where you have no limit to resources/money/time. There’s a slightly more difficult mode, and then the last two options are more story-based. Rather annoyingly, when you’re on the mission select screen, you have the option to scroll and read the description, but if you then switch to the next mission type, the scroll doesn’t reset. This is a tiny detail, granted, but it’s things like this that make a difference to the player-experience.
After selecting the first mission type, the game greets you in a pretty to-be-expected way, throwing all sorts of acronyms and foreign names and concepts at you while you try and figure out what you’re looking at. It’s a lot, to say the least, but it does make sense and you get used to the meaning behind things once you’ve figured out the basics. It was really nice to see a game of this genre have different screens for the systems, as they’re often on the same screen and segregated by colour or transparency, which is just far too busy to look at. The connector system was easy to use and easy to understand and that was because the UI is well designed, but also because there wasn’t anything else to look at and confuse you.
The game mechanics are recognisable from similar games, there are different types of resources available, there are different types of constructions you can build onto the station, there’s a workforce which you monitor through supply and demand, and there’s the finances to watch as well. You can’t take out loans to help with this, and you can fast forward time to keep things moving.
The controls are probably the hardest thing to figure out. I imagine on PC it’s easier, but the switch controls were very tedious, and I found I was constantly pressing the wrong button. It’s set out like a PC game, where you’re able to just move the cursor and select what you need, and so the Switch controls feel unnatural. Actually, a Switch really lends itself for touchpad controls, but Orbit Industries doesn’t take advantage of this. The in-game menu even has a symbol next to some items so you know which button to use, but there was a D-pad sign in the shape of a plus, which the Switch actually doesn’t have. It was pretty obvious they meant the Switch version of the D-pad, but again, it’s a missed detail that really makes you feel as though the game hasn’t quite been optimised enough yet for cross-platform. Although you do get the hang of things, it’s one of those games where you can’t help but feel as though you’re really missing something. It’s definitely a game that requires some tactics that can only be thought of after a few re-plays. This makes it an excellent game for people who really like to throw themselves into a project and figure out how things tick, and there’s a real sense of adventure when you truly understand a mechanic and are able to get creative with it.
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Visually, the game is really nice looking. It’s got the space aesthetic down, with a calming atmosphere, good depth, and nothing too busy in the background. The design of the individual elements you put around the ship are really great and all piece together very nicely, and when on the power grid, if you zoom in far enough it shows the circuit boards which is such a fun detail. The music is also very calming and thematic, and the sound effects aren’t at all distracting or annoying. The visuals and the music really come together to help your focus and keep you on track. There is a story, which will differ a little depending on the mission type you choose and then the missions you select during a game, but to be honest, the story wasn’t stand out. It had a bit of voice acting, where someone would talk to you, the “Commander”, to explain what was going on, and there were little bits of text to read here and there, but the story was more to give the game some bulk and variation in gameplay. This isn’t an issue, and it’s common with the genre, but I do think sci-fi lends itself to storytelling, so even a quick dialogue every now and then might have been a nice way to tell the player’s progress.
As you progress through the game and build your station, you’ll get access to more resources, missions, contracts and research opportunities. You’ll also run into different types of errors, (for example, a microscopic contaminate, or an intelligence attack). The game does a very good job of keeping you on your toes and making it hard to predict what’s round the corner. I’m not sure just how varied this gets, as it might be that after a number of hours the game has no more curveballs to throw, but from what I’ve seen and played, that doesn’t look to be the case.
Overall, Orbit Industries seems to be a promising game, one that’s well designed and will absolutely piques the interest of fans of strategy and simulation games. There’s lots to discover, and I’ve only touched on a handful of what I’ve seen, let alone what else is out there. However, I would recommend you buy the PC version, if possible, purely for ease of control.