Forget About Saving the Galaxy, Save Yourself in Space-Bound Life Sim Redshirt
When it comes to going on an away mission, there's really just one person you don't want to be: The Redshirt. The Redshirt is generally young, low-ranking and, to be entirely blunt about it, no one's ever heard of them before. Maybe they drew the short straw to end up as the one nobody in a team of somebodies, but it's science-fact that if anyone's going to die on that mission, it'll be the Redshirt.
It seems like between Hate Plus and upcoming game Redshirt I just can't get my fill of horrible tragedies in space this week. Redshirt has been a pet project for developer Mitu Khandaker for some time now, and it offers a pretty cute twist on that classic trope: You know exactly what's coming, and you have to do everything in your power to become a somebody if you want to make it out alive.
Redshirt is being published by Positech Games, a name which might ring a bell if you're into life sims. In Kudos 2, one of Positech's past releases, you create a character and have a year to improve their lot in life. Every day you have a set number of actions you can perform; you work, you take classes, and you go out with friends. It's all in the hopes of strengthening the social and professional aspects of your character, and hopefully end up ahead of where you started. Kudos 2 looks simple on its surface, but gameplay is surprisingly deep, right down to carefully choosing what to order on a restaurant menu.
Having played Kudos 2 fairly recently, there were a lot of aspects I recognized in Redshirt. The key difference is that this game is not just about improving your life, but keeping it.
There is an initially unclear threat presented to the player: In 180 days, something is going to happen... And it's probably not going to be a trip to the nearest pleasure planet. Sounds like a good time for a little shore leave, right? Too bad the higher-ups aren't having it. Curiously, only officers will be allowed to take any conveniently timed vacations, which means that if you want to save your skin you have 6 months to climb from the absolute bottom of the ladder to the top. Even the smallest interactions work towards this purpose. Much like Kudos you can take friends out, focus on education and advancement, or just putt around your quarters all night if you want. Maintaining old relationships and creating new ones is crucial, but so is developing your skills so you'll be suitable for a promotion. Schmoozing and sucking up to your superiors on Spacebook (yes, Spacebook) can only get you so far without the know-how to back it all up.
Redshirt's social media system is probably one of its most appealing mechanics, and it's very well executed. You can like posts for a quick relationship boost, send more drawn-out private messages, post to friends' walls, and even update your status with inspirational quotes and lyrics... All cleverly adapted to the setting, of course. Redshirt is quite packed with silly puns and clever jokes that keep the experience lighthearted, even when you're taking your friends out to a mourning dinner at Make it Pho after losing someone close to you on one of those ever-risky Away missions.
If you're a bit more health conscious, you could always grab a bite at Wrap Core Breach instead. Hah.
Charming geek jokes aside, every activity has certain interests attached to it, and in addition to making those activities more or less appealing to your friends, your own character's interests will change based on the kinds of things you have them doing in their off time. I found myself overly fond of being in an audience after a particularly disastrous Away mission put my character into a depression that I tried to relieve with stand-up comedy. Of course there was a point when all of my friends were sick of accompanying me to comedy shows and would ditch me instead, which made things even worse. Moods affect work performance, and no one's going to want to promote someone who spends their days staring off into space and crying just because they lost a half dozen friends in a barren alien wasteland a few days ago, right?
In the end I bought a robot cat, which gave me a wonderful happiness boost that put me back on track and gave my (surviving) friends a bit of a break from my comedy obsession.
Friends will also have varying opinions of each other, and juggling them can be a challenge. Eventually I found myself mercilessly unfriending lower-level shipmates as I climbed the social ladder to avoid being looked down on by my superiors for the company I was keeping. If being a horrible person and using people like footholds was what it would take to avoid dying in space, I was prepared to be an absolute monster.
So how'd that turn out? Let's just say it never pays to burn your bridges.
You can preorder Redshirt here, which will provide you with beta access for Windows (though the game will eventually be on multiple platforms) and a Steam code in the future. You can also buy a copy for a friend with a whopping 50% discount, which would be a pretty sweet thing to do for one of the other redshirts in your life.
(Redshirt was played using a pre-beta build provided by Positech Games on request.)
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.