Jumplight Odyssey is a roguelite space colony sim developed by League of Geeks and will release on Steam early access on August 21, 2023. From the opening cutscene, I was taken back to watching cartoons like Roger Ramjet in the 80s as a child. I didn’t watch too much anime though, of which 70s anime is a main inspiration for this game’s visual style. Once in-game, I was impressed with the level of detail of the ship, the SDF Catalina, it’s many decks and the volume of crew we’re in charge of.
In Jumplight Odyssey and its tutorial campaign, players take control of Princess Euphora who is tasked with leading a crew of misfits and outcasts on a journey through dangerous star systems. It looks as if League of Geeks will allow us to play as a different captain, perhaps even on a different ship in the future, but this is an early access release and has plenty to offer players already. While outrunning Admiral Voltan and his fearsome Zutopan war parties, you must manage the ships resources, build structures within each deck, and train their crew to survive in this harsh and unforgiving environment.
As I started to play and explore the multiple decks of the ship, I was reminded of several recent games I have played with a similar aesthetic and structure. This Means Warp and Space Crew came to mind, but Jumplight Odyssey is less about immediate combat (that comes later) and more about ensuring your crew is looked after while you search the galaxy for survivors and additional resources. You crew is split into four divisions – science, engineering, combat, and supply, and each division has an appointed leader that sits with you on the bridge. You can also transfer crew within divisons with ease.
Once you have learned the basics of adding new rooms to decks, providing them with power and oxygen, and prioritising tasks, your primary concern is the generation of starlight that powers your jump drive in order to outrun the Zutopan forces. On the galactic map, you can see how far ahead you are of Admiral Voltan. A timer slower counts down as the red zone inches closer to you, and my primary goal of raising the crew’s hope as we head towards the fabled Forever Star felt achievable. Boy was I wrong.
After about an hour of gameplay I had a solid rotation of jumping to a new system, sending away missions to first survey the area, then search for survivors and resources, and jumping ahead to the next system that came into starlight range. I was very quickly reminded why this is a roguelite game because once I hit maximum Hope, all hell broke loose. I wasn’t paying proper attention to my resources, nor to the compaints of my people. I saw the blinking icons on the resource bar, and next to the Hope meter I saw some of my people were hungry and sick.
I jumped among the decks from the bridge down to the promenade, crew quarters, hangar and so on, and noticed the medbay had debris and sick people everywhere. I submitted an order to clear the debris, and then set about building another medbay and kitchen, but realised I had run out of resources. I then prioritised my away missions to get these resources, but I was currently in an asteroid risk system, and as Murphy’s Law kicked in, sure enough an asteroid crashes into the ship causing fires and a hull breach.
One frustrating thing about the game is that I can’t directly control individual crew members to do specific tasks like I can in Space Crew or This Means Warp. In Jumplight Odyssey, the entire crew manifest can be browsed through, and we can click each individual crew member to see their division, their relationships and their health status. However, I couldn’t assign any crew to any specific tasks. The AI operates automatically without any manual input, meaning even if you set the groundwork for a new facility that would help speed things along, you’ll have to wait a while before the crew gets around to it.
The crew are largely intelligent enough to act on disasters for you, but I had obviously taken them too far beyond what a reasonable Captain would do. Majority of my crew were overworked from doing away missions, malnourished, and now running out of oxygen. I had not built enough engine parts to be able to generate enough starlight to jump quicker, and there weren’t enough able personnel to man the turrets. By this time, Zutopan forces had caught up to me and it was game over. I had learned a heck of a lot though so my next run will be better, I hope!
The game is still in early access so there’s plenty of room to improve on what is available so far. I really love the aesthetic of the cutscenes and the general gameplay. The decks are impeccably detailed, as are the crew members going about their business. I would like to have more direct control over the crew, especially in disaster states, even if crew orders could be prioritised just within the divisions.
Overall, Jumplight Odyssey is a promising space colony sim with a lot of depth so far for an early access release. It is challenging game that will take some learning but will be rewarding once you get the hang of managing all tasks. Not being able to individually assign crew to tasks held back my enjoyment a little as I couldn’t prioritise what I wanted the crew to do. However, the general aesthetic is great and there’s a lot of potential for the game to get even better over the early access period.
This review utilised a key provided by Stride PR and Jumplight Odyssey will launch on Steam early access on August 21, 2023.