Vostok Inc Review (Switch)
Fantastic weapon configurator
Great sense of humour
Easy to learn
Retro mini games
You can fire unicorns
Keeping Executives happy becomes frustrating
Shield and hull upgrades could do with balancing
Could of made use of Switches unique features
Saying Vostok Inc is just a twin-stick shooter is like saying a picture is just a canvas with a bit of paint on it. There is way more to this game than the shooter elements. The twin-stick shooting part is really well made and I will get more into that in a bit, but it is not the whole picture, not all the paint on the canvas. Just blasting enemies is fun but to succeed you also need to get a steady flow of Moolah (Vostok Inc’s currency). To allow you to buy bigger better things and upgrade your ship. To achieve this, you visit the planets in the system and fill them full of capitalist goodness. Mines to extract the rich resources of the planet. Farms to raise animals for your fast food buildings. Homes to house your income making units, err I mean citizens.
This colonising mechanic in Vostok Inc is where the game gets VERY addictive. Each building you place adds to that planets income, some add a little some add a lot. however, all buildings have upgrades which increase the efficiency and thus its Moolah generating capability. These upgrades can rely on other buildings, for example: The Fast Food Restaurant has an upgrade called “Secret Ingredient” which adds 1.04x efficiency for each Chemical Plant you have. This inter connectivity not only ensures that low level buildings are still worth getting late game but also makes you think a little more about where you want to put your Moolah. I have during my play testing become quite addicted to raising my passive income as high as possible. At the start of the game many of the buildings are locked, the requirements to unlock them are clearly shown though as is progress on that unlock.
Outside of the colonising portion is the exploration and twin-stick side. Vostok Inc has multiple solar systems each with their own enemies, theme and boss. Each system has financial criteria to reach before the boss unlocks, to be honest I enjoyed building up my passive Moolah generation so much that by the time i moved to a new system I already hit the goal. Thankfully you choose when to attack the boss by flying to its location. The boss fights are so far not too difficult (at the time of this review I have slain 3 bosses). As you traverse space you are attacked by that solar systems enemies, this starts off fairly even but as you level up they get harder. If like me your level ups are coming more from the passive Moolah generation side of the game, then your ship will be ill prepared for some enemies. Pro tip upgrade your ship.
Space is not all about shooting bad guys for loot. You can also find and rescue staff. This has to be the first game ever where I have hoped the guy I am about to rescue is an investment banker! Investment bankers double your current funds when rescued. you can also find others that increase your passive income by 777% for a short time, executives and middle managers. Middle managers each increase your income by 3% but if your ship is blown up they die, only executives can afford space on your escape pod. Executives are one of the most frustrating elements in Vostok Inc. Executives are like Tamagotchis you need to keep their needs up (food, drink, bribes) or they stop giving you a boost. Each one has a minigame, these little retro games are a fun addition but very hard. Executives boost your passive income by between 0-14% depending on their need levels. There are two ways to get the items needed for your executives, random drops when you destroy enemies or asteroids and random drops in the executives mini games. If like me, you are no good at the retro games then you may as well face the fact that your executives will never be happy.
You have a “Motherbase” in every solar system. Dock with this and you get access to the upgrades and weapon configuration. The upgrade system is fairly standard. You can add radar attachments to show more stuff on the minimap. You can also make your hull or shields a tiny bit better for ever increasing Moolah costs. On the shield and hull side of the upgrade system I do think the game needs some balancing. Remember enemies scale from your level but you level up from building passive Moolah generating buildings as well as upgrading your ship. This can cause enemies to become a lot more of a challenge than the tiny increases in shield and hull allow for. There is also upgrades to get more Moolah from destroying asteroids and enemies. I found that in the early game destroying asteroids was incredibly profitable once upgraded a little. Where the upgrade system really shines is in the weapon upgrading.
Vostok Inc has one of the most interesting weapon configuration and upgrade systems I have seen. You get three slots to build your gun and in each slot you can choose one of three types, ballistic, laser, missile (names I have given them as they are represented as symbols in game). Each type has to be bought and upgraded separately for each slot, So a machine gun type can be brought in slot one and two but have different levels in each. The fun part is when you combine them. For the longest time I used slot one ballistic, slot two laser and slot three empty, this allowed me to fire a continuous beam weapon that would bounce once off the side of the screen or off the enemy you were hitting. Recently I changed slot three to ballistic and with a lock on upgrade I now fire heat seeking electric bolts of death. There are loads of combinations from mines to unicorn firing, yes you can fire unicorns. Once you have a favorite weapon, you can save it to one of the four d-pad hot slots. This allowing you to create 4 different weapons and switch between them on the fly, you never know when a situation may call for unicorns!
Unicorns for weapons is not the only bizarre occurrence in Vostok Inc, I recently tweeted this “#NobodyCanStopMeFrom playing a bit more @Vostok after work. There is a raccoon that needs to stop sending rhinos at me and my ship. I am so gonna blow up his/her elephant!” Believe it or not but in the context of the game that made perfect sense. I highly value humour in games and Vostok Inc really does not disappoint. Jimmy, your faithful employee and head of communications, often calls you up to tell you game related jokes. For Example “The right investment in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world” now I challenge you to read that and not hear it in your head as the Gman! But then I am a really old gamer, I am not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of myself for getting all the references I have heard thus far. Each solar system has a representative that speaks to Jimmy at times and some dialog made me chuckle (specially the raccoon). I should point out that these are done as text and are not voice acted, this works well with the game in my opinion. Most things have funny descriptions too, I love the ones for the building upgrades for example. If you look at your ship and check out the monitors on the middle managers, even those have the occasional humorous text. Vostok Inc has genuinely made me smile and laugh a fair few times and that is a huge plus for the game.
The portability of the Switch has meant that a few nights this week I have taken the game from my TV to my bedroom to play for half an hour before I sleep. Usually I am just a few trillion short of a goal and half hour will see me there. Each time I have spent an hour or two playing instead. Vostok Inc is very fun and a little addictive. It really benefits from the portability of the Switch but that is the only Switch feature it uses. No Amiibo support, which is a shame as it could have fitted in well with the passive generation. Scan an Amiibo and have the Shopping Mall sell those for x efficiency based on the Amiibo’s rareness for example could have been good. The touch screen is also not supported, this could have worked well for buying buildings etc which is where I often instinctively tapped the screen. Also most bizarrely, the video capture built into the Switch is disabled for Vostok inc. These are more opportunities missed/minor annoyances rather than major issues.
Vostok Inc is proof we do not need amazing 3d models or special effects that make Michael Bay weep, to have a good game. The retro style graphics suit the game perfectly while still looking good when displayed on my 55 inch TV. This is a well made, highly addictive game I feel is a must have for any Switch owner.
Audio version of the review: