Even if you’re not a fan of management sims, it’s impossible to deny how amazing Jumplight Odyssey looks. The 70s-inspired anime made it instantly appealing to me, and before I’d even took charge of the SDF Catalina, I wanted to play. League of Geeks has created a gorgeous looking game, and despite it being in Early Access, there’re some interesting mechanics that draw you in. Despite a lacking tutorial and seldom help as you dive into the daily goings-on of captaining a crew of space dwellers, there’s a healthy dose of objectives that keep you busy.
Captain Future, Space Runway Ideon, and countless other anime from decades prior seem to have been a huge inspiration for the art style in Jumplight Odyssey, and that warmth and excitement from these shows grab you from the start. It’s so delightfully vibrant, from the cutscenes to the gameplay, it’s so aesthetically pleasing and colourful. Once you get past the beautiful visuals, it’s a detailed space colony management sim that throws a lot at you; you just need to be prepared to give it time and be patient when objectives aren’t always clear.
In the Early Access release of Jumplight Odyssey, you play through Princess Euphora’s campaign (with seemingly more to be added at a later date) as she leads the crew of SDF Catalina in a mission to reach the Forever Star. If you’ve ever watched the incredible remake of Battlestar Galactica, you’ll know the stress involved in constantly jumping through space to avoid impending attacks from the enemy, and here, you’re only a step away from being attacked by the evil Admiral Voltan and the Zutopans.
You’re journey to the Forever Star doesn’t just involve escaping the enemy. Managing an entire crew, gathering supplies, exploring untouched planets, and improving your ship re just some of the things you’re required to do, and the general loop of gameplay is satisfying enough that you’ve always got something on the go, and while playing through the tutorial is a must, it can still be frustrating when you’re not given clear instructions in how certain tasks work.
Despite those early struggles (and a fair few bugs), there’s something cool about how the core principals of Jumplight Odyssey work. You’re not just running the ship, you’re trying to satisfy the needs of your crew and making sure their wellbeing is in tact. It can be stressful running away, and certain individuals can crumble to the stress, or they can get sick in the process. Overseeing your crew is straightforward enough, as you can jump from deck to deck checking out how everyone is doing.
If there’s an issue, you can click on an individual to see what they need, with multiple options available to try and help them out. Some might suffer from exhaustion or fall ill, so utilising your medbay to help them out will become a top priority. There are also different alert levels you can switch between, with each one affecting crew performance, also helping them to act differently depending on how close Voltan is to your ship.
Your crew fall into four categories (engineering, science, combat, and supplies), and each one has a particular role within the ship. This is when some of the bugs started to show, or mechanics just didn’t seem to work. When you think you’ve given a particular command, it can take an age for anyone to react or even follow your commands. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right, however, I was simply following what I was told in the tutorial. I needed more fuel, but my supplies team just weren’t getting the job done, and not being able to directly control a single member, it took a while for my actions to kick in.
It was also unclear how to jump to different planets, or how certain actions in build mode worked. Jumplight Odyssey never explains itself in the best way, and it was only through various runs in the roguelike that I began to understand the nuances of its gameplay to get to grips with building key components for my ship and sending ships off to planets to gain resources. When the Zutopans do encroach on you, it becomes apparent what you’ve done wrong if they manage to destroy you, and as steep a learning curve as there is, I always did better the next time we came to blows.
Jumplight Odyssey throws a lot at you, but the more you play and work things out for yourself, the better the game becomes. Hopefully the aid available as far as direction and tip pop-ups get added through the Early Access phase, as it can be daunting and off-putting. It’s a stunning game to look at, and the level of design on each deck is incredible. Managing your crew’s emotional state and work rate does get easier, and the constant threat of the Zutopans gives you more than enough motivation to harvest materials and keep your ship afloat on the mission to reach the Forever Star.