Vostok Inc. is a perfect example of a truly brilliant game that’s almost completely ruined by a relatively tiny game design decision. For me, the game went from something I could easily recommend, to something that I’d tell others to steer clear from in a single moment, and hopefully it’s a (very long) moment that can be patched out.
Simply put, Vostok Inc is a clicker game combined with an open-world version of Asteroids. You fly a sprightly little 2D shop around the solar system, shooting asteroids and various aliens. Once you have some money gained from doing that, you can go land on planets to build various buildings in a more typical clicker-type interface. Each building costs an increasing amount for each copy, and produces a certain amount of money. You can also buy upgrades for those buildings and for your ship. Eventually you earn enough money to fight the boss of the solar system, then that opens up the next solar system for you to work through, with increasing financial targets.
First of all, the good. The art style and writing in this game is quirky and brilliant. Some of it’s genuinely funny and the annoying voice interruptions can now be turned off at will (or will be soon at the time of writing). Flying around space is a joy where there’s always things to do. Do you upgrade to the giant laser and sweep through asteroid fields? Do you take on the enemies and their challenge rooms (occasionally if you don’t kill some enemies quickly enough you get locked into a challenge room with a moderate reward if you survive)? Do you simply fly from planet to planet upgrading things? The choice of what to upgrade is always difficult. Say a school costs 100 dollars. The second one will cost another 120, but will obviously double your output. Now there might be an upgrade that costs 120,000 but only increases the productivity of those schools by 1.2. At what point is the upgrade worth buying over another school? You’re constantly faced with questions like that and when you discover the games many breaking points, parts where it feels like you’ve broken the system and can suddenly rake in huge amounts more money, are incredible.
Unfortunately, that’s also where the game’s biggest problem lies. Remember those financial targets? Well for the second to last planet, you’re looking at getting quadrillions of dollars. That’s 1000 trillion. Up until then you could always increase the amount of money you were getting fairly easily and keep up with the targets without breaking pace – this one is different. There’s no good building or upgrade choice that will let you move from trillions to quadrillions. Mining asteroids and killing enemies only brings in a paltry amount of money, the next set of buildings are far too expensive, and the last ones don’t make you enough, even with all the upgrades. You now have over twenty planets to manage (upgrades don’t transfer between planets) by flying to them individually, and everything takes a long time. To try and complete the game for this review I left the PS4 running overnight twice, and it still wasn’t enough to buy a decent amount of upgrades to make the target more reasonable. Basically I hit a brick wall.
Any time a game requires you to grind for hours it has clearly failed, and that’s exactly what happened to Vostok Inc. If they release a patch to boost the earnings of a few buildings exponentially, they could fix the game within minutes. If they don’t, it’s going to be remembered for that soul-crushing grind, rather than all the fun and whimsy that fills the rest of the game.