The redshirts are coming
Redshirt is one of the most original and innovative games we’ve played in a long while. Taking control of a user-created redshirt on a space station, you live through 180 days of their life attempting to climb a career ladder, make friends and even start and maintain (and end) romances. The twist is that you do all of this via social networking. Your main UI in the game is essentially Facebook, you can organise events to go to and invite people, add friends, remove them, leave messages on their wall, use private messages and also use a shop to buy items while training up in certain skills to try and advance your career.
With a certain amount of actions available to you on any given day, and the amount of money you have decided by your current job, it can be difficult to manage your life. Do you take your neglected friends out for dinner or do you study to try and get that next promotion? Do you abandon a long-term friend because your new boss doesn’t like them? Do you go for as many friends as possible or a closely knit group? It’s really up to you although there are certain objectives given to you that you can choose to follow such as starting a romance with a certain character or having four people ‘like’ your posts.
Occasionally random events will take place like you’ll be sent on an away mission where you’ll often see more than a few of your friends vaporised in front of you. It can be harrowing to spend ages trying to impress a co-worker only to see them disintegrate completely out of your control. The graphics for all of these events are incredibly basic, with a cute art style but entirely static sprites being used to represent everything. This is a menu-based game so don’t come looking for eye-candy.
While the game can be perceived as something akin to the Sims or a simple turn-based RPG where you find ways to maximise the efficiency of your actions to climb the career ladder, there’s much more to it than that. There’s a story with sinister overtones that takes place in the background and may force you to reconsider your decisions. There’s also a cynical and depressing bit of social commentary as you climb the career ladder and find yourself needing to lose friends, your health and your principles in the pursuit of more money. Higher level jobs take a bigger hit on your happiness or health, so you find yourself supplementing your happiness by buying material goods that are as ridiculous as they are disheartening. When your health goes down you might need to start resting more, which affects your charisma. As you get higher and higher in society you want to take risks to impress people you don’t know very well, and can end up sitting in a restaurant when everyone has rejected your invites, eating along and spiralling into depression. Once you’re ‘sad’ in the game everything is more difficult as you only get 75% of the benefits of any activity, people you spend time with don’t like it and start to go off you. I’m surprised there isn’t a drug use feature to fully represent the downfall of career-driven capitalists.
As with all of Positech’s titles, Redshirt is about the decisions rather than the spectacle. At the moment Redshirt is still in beta and there are a few rough edges that affect that decision making. You can’t see your cash balance from the main screen, UI elements overlap, characters say the same things over and over again ruining the immersion somewhat. Balancing tweaks are being carried out regularly so I’m confident a lot of these faults will be corrected, but be aware the game is clearly unfinished.
If you’re after something unique and original, Redshirt is a curious little game and can be extremely entertaining. It would work really well as a tablet game, I was playing it on the flight back from Gamescom on my Surface Pro and it’s a perfect game to dip in and out of as the 180 days pass quite slowly, with plenty of time to achieve what you want to (or fail miserably).