STAFF REVIEW of Vostok Inc (Xbox One)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Vostok Inc Box art I’ll be honest; I would have never looked at Vostok Inc if it hadn’t appeared in my lap to review, but I am sure glad that it did. All I knew going in was that it was a money-making game where you’re trying to amass a fortune... in space. I honestly expected my playtime to be very quickly done, but here I am, hours later, letting the game run in the background as my bank account skyrockets while I do chores and write this. Your goal is to make obscene amounts of moolah, yet the game is presented in an odd mashup of Geometry Wars and Clicker Heroes of sorts; not what I expected, but the result was entertaining none the less.

You’re the CEO of Vostok Inc and your primary goal is to earn as much cash as you can. This simple goal will have you traveling to other solar systems to take over and colonize every planet you can find to set up different types of refineries and watching your bank account bloat. Aliens don’t take kindly to you trespassing in their corner of space from planet to planet to take over their homes, which serves as a very loose storyline of sorts.

To begin you’ll need to raise some capital, done so by destroying asteroids with your tiny ship in space. Yes, this capitalist game takes place in space and plays like a twin-stick shooter for many parts of it. Destroying asteroids will net you small amounts of money, but collect enough and you’ll be on your way to starting to mine planets. You’ll also have Jimmy, whom will annoy you at every chance he can get with tips and tricks of what to do next, or offer repeated and useless advice.

Be prepared to hear from Jimmy on a constant basis, as he’ll constantly be spouting gibberish (with subtitles), attempting to be helpful, but becoming more and more annoying as your journey extends. You just destroyed an asteroid? Jimmy will tell you the benefits of doing so. Had your shields depleted from enemy aliens firing at you? Jimmy will remind you that they replenish over time. Want some random one liners and quips? Jimmy’s got you covered there too. It was only until a handful of hours in that I found the setting to disable Jimmy’s annoying antics from popping up (save for storyline segments), so make sure you do so as soon as possible.

You’ll be taught the basics in the beginning, but I wish there was some more help with the menus and getting started when you colonize planets. The game is simple enough, and after some time you’ll become very quick with the controls, but some more explanation in the beginning would have been quite helpful to understanding the metagame quicker. I didn’t realize that you could buy ship and weapon upgrades, along with general perks to make quality of life much better for the gameplay. Even combining weapons was trial and error as it wasn’t explained. The first while I was simply focusing on combat and asteroid destroying as my source of main income, something that was a huge mistake until I learned better.

Given that a large part of the gameplay is a twin-stick shooter, you’ll feel right at home with the controls. Movement of your ship is controlled with the Left Stick and you fire in any direction with the Right. Fans of Geometry Wars and the sorts will have no problem digging right into the space battles.

Enemies will randomly appear on screen as you travel around in top-down 2D space. Most enemies will be simple with low hitpoints, but as you level up and travel to new solar systems, you’ll encounter more challenging enemies, occasionally to the point of being overwhelmed. Every so often you’ll have a couple of very elusive enemies around you, and if you’re unable to defeat them you’ll be locked into a battle against waves of enemies. Beating these encounters earns you some decent money rewards, so it’s worth doing in the beginning, but that’s before you realize how ludicrous farming for money on planets becomes.

There are even boss battles that need to be defeated before moving onto the next galaxy, though they won’t appear until you’ve earned an obscene amount of money (for that solar system) to even attempt. These are fun little distractions if you enjoy the shooting part of the game, and while not a huge challenge once you’ve learned how to upgrade your ship and weapons, they’re a welcome change of pace.

Speaking of upgrades, once you earn enough spare cash, you’re able to improve your ship and weapons in many ways to suit your playstyle. Improving shields and regeneration can become quite overpowered once you realize that your regenerating shields have to be depleted before you lose hitpoints in battles. Weapon upgrades too cost an obscene amount, but you can eventually unlock 3 different weapons in 3 different slots. Combining different slots makes for some very interesting and unique weapons. Having a pulse laser on its own is no big deal, but have another laser in the second slot and you fire a beam that ricochets and bounces off everything. There’s some interesting combinations that promote experimentation, though some are simply much better than others. You can even hotkey weapon combinations to the D-pad for quick swapping which is a nice touch.

Once you have enough cash you’ll then want to invest in the perk to find managers and executives floating in space. This will put a small blip on your radar, indicating that there’s a person that needs to be rescued before their oxygen runs out. Collect them in time and you’ll recruit them to your empire. These managers will add bonuses to your earnings and can make quite a drastic difference. Executives on the other hand are the ones that will permanently give you awesome bonuses as well. To get these bonuses you need to make sure they’re happy which requires destroying asteroids and enemies to collect items. Give these items to the execs and their perks will make you earn money even quicker. You could focus solely on keeping them happy, but then you’d be missing out on the most rewarding part of the game; earning stacks of cash.

When you land on a planet, you’re able to spend money to place specific buildings, which earn you money over time, only limited to your cash flow and which buildings you’ve unlocked so far. Power Stations are what you’ll begin with, as they are cheap and don’t earn much in return. Eventually you’ll unlock farms, malls, and a handful of other buildings, each costing and earning more than the last. Each building unlock as specific requirements, so just as you think you’re earning a lot of money you’ll unlock a new building that earns more than double than the last. Each building also has a handful of upgrades that can be purchased as well, increasing the income or efficiency of each building.

Keep in mind this is planet to planet, and you’ll need to do the same for each one. You can even save up a lot of money and install an A.T.M., which means you will constantly earn the money, even when not on that planet, or else you need to go to each planet every time to pocket the earnings. Once you learn these mechanics, this is how you really start to rake in the huge dollar amounts. I used to think thousands a second was a lot, then millions, then billons, but your empire grows exponentially, even across solar systems as you progress. Once you realize that the more you spend on your enterprise, the more you’ll earn in return; it just takes time.

This is where a little of the grind comes in, as numerous times I’ve sat the controller down to do other things as my money keeps rolling in, even a half hour at a time. Coming back to a huge bank account is awesome, as is spending all of it quickly on upgrades and more buildings. Earning millions per second is awesome, which eventually becomes billions, trillions and more. Everything eventually costs more, so the earnings are scaled to your progression for the most part, though there are a ton of upgrades I’ve still yet to buy because of the exorbitant prices.

This is where the cycle begins, as you need to spend money to earn money and vice versa. The shooting mechanics are fun, though at times it can feel like two completely different games. I chose to focus on the money earning aspect more, but you will need to do a bit of everything to progress.

Vostok Inc can be funny at times and it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The humor makes its silly premise work and the core gameplay can become quite addictive when you want to build just a few more buildings to make your earnings replenish quicker. Vostok Inc is a grind but a fun one, and with its $14.99 (CAD) price tag, I recommend it if any of the above has sounded entertaining and you want to amass an obscene fortune across the galaxy with some addictive gameplay.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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