I wrote a fair bit last year about Ixion, a deep space city-builder than combined the joys of popping in little structures with some 4X elements like exploration, then wrapped it all up in an engrossing story about the dying days of the human race. I loved the game, but I also hated it.
I loved it for all the reasons I spelled out here, but I also hated it because it was at times pointlessly stressful, and its tightly-wound narrative, which helped the game in so many other ways, was also an enormous pain in the ass when it came to progressing through Ixion’s levels:
In Ixion you’re always in peril, always short of something you need, and it’s hard to get that stuff at the best of times, let alone when you’re dealing with everything from worker strikes to burning factories. A city-builder should at least sometimes be a tranquil experience, because they’re about building and watching things grow; here there were precious few moments I wasn’t feeling incredibly stressed out, and never felt like I got the chance to just enjoy for a day or two the fact that, hey, we were still alive. A sandbox or freeplay mode could have really helped here, but sadly the game doesn’t include either of those things, there’s just the campaign.
I wrote that in December—Ixion just squeaked into my 2022 GOTY list—and now we’re in May 2023. And whaddya know, while the game doesn’t have a “sandbox or freeplay” mode, it now has something maybe even better: difficulty options.
Actually, it’s something even better than that: they’re deeply customisable difficulty options. Look at this!
Any new playthrough will now begin with a choice of three difficulty modes:
This mode is for players who want to enjoy the game’s narrative and is recommended for those unfamiliar with the city-builder genre.
This is the intended IXION experience and is recommended for players familiar with city builders.
An unrelenting fight for survival; this mode is for Administrators who really want to test their skills.
Want a bit more customization so you can play IXION how you envisioned? Then this fourth option is for you. In Custom mode, you can adjust a wide variety of game mechanics to your taste. Tired of the constant hull degradation. Turn it off. Not getting enough workers from cryopods? Change the ratio. Accidents happening too often? Decrease the frequency.
You can also adjust these difficulty parameters via the pause menu mid-playthrough – including in your existing saves!
Perfect. This is perfect. It lets us continue to play the game the way its developers intended, but also lets us—the Royal Us, those of us who weren’t down on some of its difficulty and pacing issues—tailor some of its more annoying aspects to simply make it more fun. And that doesn’t just mean making things easier, you can make them harder if you want!
My initial Ixion recommendation in 2022 came with some pretty strong caveats; these are almost all gone now, so if the idea of a city-building Battlestar Galactica sounds like your thing, you should definitely check it out in 2023.