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How upcoming city builder Ixion captures Frostpunk’s sense of pressure in space

"It's the pressure. That constant feeling of not having all the time in the world to build this aesthetic settlement"

City-building game Ixion's gameplay

In Ixion, the world is heading towards a destination that appears all too familiar. Years of global warming, resource farming, and ruin have turned humanity’s gaze to the stars, searching for a fresh start. It sets the stage for the Dolos Corporation to launch a futuristic space ark called the Tycoon Station with plans of finding a new home. True to type, humanity blows up the moon when testing the station’s Vohle engine.

Your job here is to manage that space station and find humanity a new home – lord knows we’re not returning to our old one. This involves managing the station’s infrastructure, exploring the solar system, and mining valuable resources to trade with others also looking to survive. You’re going to have to research new technologies, unlock new areas within the station, and keep the power flowing if you want to keep the people of your colony alive.

Ixion invites plenty of comparisons to Frostpunk. From weighing up if your hull’s integrity will hold up during a jump through space to deciding if the hospital has enough power to sustain itself while you build something else, you’re faced with plenty of tricky decisions to mull over.

As Ixion is pitched as Frostpunk in space to us, we ask product manager Christian Woolford what it is about 11 Bit Studios’ chilly city builder that inspired the team at Bulwark Studios.

“It’s the pressure,” he tells us. “That constant feeling of not having all the time in the world to build this aesthetic, pleasing-to-the-eye settlement. You constantly have to respond to this driving pressure – whether it’s the hull integrity, scrambling to make sure that the crew doesn’t revolt on you, or making sure that you have enough power to keep your station flying.

“It all ties into that pressure that Frostpunk brings where you have to consider if you have enough coal to power the generator or whether your settlement is warm enough before people start passing away.”

While the team has plenty of adoration for Frostpunk, Woolford shares that you’ll find plenty in the game’s story and setting that makes it unique. One of the team’s significant inspirations comes from a Stanford University study back in the 1960s that NASA commissioned. Woolford sends across a few of the images involved in the study, which present sketches of stations built upon giant halos and space habitats.

“Frostpunk has that overworld map, whereas here, we’re taking the station through different solar systems and through different narrative events rather than having pop-ups on an overworld map. It’s very much integrated into how you play the game,” he says.

While there’s no shortage of city builders on PC, Woolford is confident that Ixion has plenty to make it a standout option for genre fans. While city builders give you a slice of land to call home, here, you’ll constantly be on the go.

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“You are coming up against a narrative that is pushing you onwards through different solar systems,” he says. “Often with city builders, you’re on a set sort of map, you’re building up in one area. Whereas with Ixion, you’re constantly moving around, and there will constantly be external factors that will affect your city.”

For Woolford, the story that drives your need to move is another highlight that helps Ixion stand out from the rest of the city builders you can play. “It’s got an incredibly deep and rich story with multiple endings and branching choices that will take you through it, depending on how the player responds,” he says. “Ultimately, what decision you make is best for humanity at the end of the story.”

Ixion is currently set for release in 2022. If you’re looking for something to keep you busy until then, we’ve wrangled up a list of the best city-building games on PC, because we’re just nice and helpful like that.