In a sentence, I can only describe Modern Wolf’s Kosmokrats as akin to playing a game of Cold War era intergalactic space Legos. This game is everything I never knew I wanted from a puzzler: zero-gravity spaceship assembly; sassy Soviet Russia propaganda; steamy interstellar drama; the smooth sounds of Bill Nighy doing character voices; cannibalism… potatoes…
Potatoes: A Currency of War and Wit
The game’s opening sets the scene for both our interstellar adventure and the satire we will enjoy along the way. We watch cutting-edge drone machinery loaded into a rocket. Hordes of fellow comrades march in celebration of the rocket’s launch. But the glorious pomp and circumstance of inevitable war quickly wane to the reality of your day-to-day life as a Space Force potato peeler. Until a timely temporary reassignment breaks the monotony and makes you the newest, most underqualified drone pilot to serve The Motherland. An even more timely “accident” quickly follows, promoting your position from temporary to permanent. Thus begins your imperative role in The People’s colonization of the galaxy.
At its core, Kosmokrats is a fairly straightforward assembly game. Utilizing a single action button, you drag and push blocks together to build ships, attaching them via colored connectors. The connectors can have up to four different polarities and must be matched to the same color. Modules carry various attachments such as solar panels to power the ship, potato storages to stave off starvation, charging stations for your drone, cannons to fire lasers at asteroids, and even a rare protective shield. Pieces can be destroyed by impact, so assembly with care is highly encouraged. Though “grace” is not your strong suit as a drone pilot given that your collision with pieces – despite being necessary for moving them – almost always results in some kind of equipment destruction.
A deployment phase gives you time to ponder the pieces and formulate your plan of action before launching the drone and setting off the timer. An essential strategy considering most ships will only have one correct way to be assembled. That isn’t to say they can’t be assembled otherwise, though incorrect or incomplete assemblies will result in less than perfect scores.
But perfectionists be warned; you’re about as likely to see the word “perfect” on a mission report in this game as you are to see a green vegetable on the menu. At the start of each mission, you are given a glance at a somewhat obfuscated blueprint of the station you’ll need to assemble. At first, I genuinely didn’t give the blueprints any attention, writing them off as nugatory loading screen graphics. But when resources for your interstellar colonization efforts begin shrinking, sacrifices are demanded of the comrades. You have to choose between various disadvantages, such as skipping out on the deployment phase, or working with unpainted parts (the paint job provides essential assembly clues). As potato supplies dry up, hunger sets in, putting you at another disadvantage by removing your ability to see color during the deployment phase. Puzzles become increasingly more difficult as obstacles such as asteroids and poisonous space goo appear.
You Can’t Spell Space Colonization Without C(h)aos
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t manage to get that elusive “perfect” score again after the first few levels of Kosmokrats. But around the halfway point, I began to realize that wasn’t really the point. The status screen showed a myriad of impediments: potato rationing, hunger, cannibalism, fewer polarities, no paint jobs, war. And I realized I had been playing the game with the intent of “beating” it, when really the game was set up for you to lean into imperfection. This point was only further illustrated by glancing at the achievements wall. There are awards for scraping off 10,000 square meters of paint from ships, failing to stop the sentient A.I., and one particularly unnerving one called “Alternate Meats”, which you are apparently awarded when you find out what happens “when the potatoes run out.”
One of the cooler aspects of the game is the sprawling and divergent narrative. Choices you make both in cutscenes and when solving puzzles inform the storyline. This gives the player a sense of agency over the narrative, the absence of which would have led to a somewhat monotonous game. You even have the option to “revise history” at major plot points if you would like to make a different narrative choice. The fact that I only managed to get two achievements on my first playthrough means there is plenty more story to be uncovered.
Kosmokrats is a fun and witty game with plenty of replay value. The only major issue I ran into was the lack of ability to restart the missions should they progress in an unsavory way. I found a work-around to this by exiting to the main screen and then continuing the story. You’d be put back on the same level, though the puzzle would be completely different. While somewhat frustrating for me, the lack of ability to “perfect” the game seems congruent with its intention. Every failed mission or lost potato storage was just one more interesting turn to take on the narrative journey to interstellar conquest.
A Switch download key was provided to FictionTalk by developers.
A lover of storytelling across all genres. Endlessly searching for the balance between consumption and creation. High hopes that writing on the internet will lessen the amount of time I spend in unrequited discourse with my cat.