Jumplight Odyssey – Early Access Preview

Since its announcement last year, many have been anticipating the moment Jumplight Odyssey would finally enter our orbit and give us a chance at sitting in the captain’s seat. This colony management sim is finally entering Early Access, giving players the chance to jump in on the game’s development journey from the early days and help to chart their course. For those particularly keen on this love letter to 1970’s anime adventures, the game in its current state will give you a good taste of what’s to come. But it’s clear that there is still a lot left to come – so be prepared to wait for the full experience. 


The core of the game is in place – you play as a space captain trying to navigate their crew through their journey towards the Forever Star, where they will be able to escape the clutches of the attacking Zutopans and reach a safe haven. As it currently stands, the only captain available is colony leader Princess Euphora, but her story is compelling enough as an introduction – and the studio have promised more captains and ships are on the way. The captain has advisors, who you can choose to complete tasks for to bring you closer to your goal (and which act as something of an extra tutorial for some of the game’s mechanics), along with a ship full of crew members helping to keep everything moving.

Of course, moving is always the goal. To edge closer to the Forever Star, your crew will need to jump between systems, using resources gained from completing missions and using the onboard generators. If you don’t make the jump quickly enough you’ll find yourself faced with the direct threat of the Zutopans, forcing you to up the alert level on your ship and redirect the attention of your crew from resource production to emergency protocols. It’s a delicate balance, and it can be tricky to keep everything running smoothly, particularly when your ship’s population are prone to becoming injured or stressed and, if you’re not careful, dying. 


It’s clear that League of Geeks wants to make your crew feel alive, with each crew member having Sims-style needs bars, as well as a list of connections to other crewmates. Whether they work in combat, science, engineering, or supply, they’ll autonomously complete the tasks relevant to their job while also, if you’re lucky, attending to their own needs throughout the day. This, for me, is where things start to fall apart. I love the idea of crew members having relationships, and absolutely took those relationships into account when planning for things like missions, making sure not to put two rivals together on a ship (mostly for my own headcanon). But, despite the game’s claims that “you are responsible for taking care of the human needs of everyone on your ship”, you can only ever do that in very indirect ways. You can change the priorities of, say, ‘engineering’ as a discipline, but you can’t direct a particular engineer, even when they’re in some kind of crisis. It’s more than a little frustrating to see that a person is upset because of a lack of social interaction, but not be able to direct them to fix that – and the AI isn’t quite smart enough yet to do that for you. 

While the bones are there, it’s hard to comment on the game as it is. It’s a resource management game that clearly has the makings of something great, but is yet to find its feet. The tutorial isn’t quite comprehensive enough to give you the confidence to master the game’s systems once you’re through it, and many of the menus don’t quite offer the options you expect them to. The game seems to insist that you can take certain actions to fix the overall health and morale of your crew, but at the moment it’s hard to know exactly what those actions are without the extra hand-holding of the tutorial prompts. Building new facilities on the ship is a little finicky, and it’s often hard to know whether or not you’ve actually been successful in doing the action you’re trying to do – have you actually cleaned up that pile of rubble and salvaged what you need from it, or is there an extra step of confirmation needed? It’s often unclear. 

But these are teething problems of a game clearly still in its early stages. The game’s aesthetic, which is strongly established and is clearly its most charming feature, is enough to keep you pushing past some of the frustrations. The promise of a big space adventure feels easy to buy into, because you can see from the start what the studio is trying to achieve – and the openness with which they’re documenting the development process and seemingly asking for genuine feedback goes a long way towards building faith that they will achieve it. The vibes – helped largely by that nostalgic 70’s anime aesthetic – are all there. The gameplay just doesn’t quite match it yet. There’s fun to be had with the game in its current state, as long as you go into it with the understanding that it’s almost a prototype, or large-scale proof of concept. Frustrations aside, I’m excited to see where this game ends up.

Jumplight Odyssey was previewed by Player 2 using a code kindly provided by the publisher.

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