If you are a Science Fiction fan, you have likely lost yourself in the occasional daydream about traveling between the stars and making a name for yourself out in the inky blackness that is space. For some, the fantasy veers into the realm of being a bridge commander of some large fleet, boldly going here and there. For others, it is a little more wild west… if you can figure out where “west” is in space! If you aim to misbehave, this fantasy has you running contraband into and out of various hives of scum and villainy. Today’s review finds us somewhere in between these fantasies and the desire for the spreadsheet juggernaut Excel to star in them. This is our first impressions of Prosperous Universe.
Prosperous Universe is browser-based, real-time business simulation in an MMO wrapper. You will create your own business, explore space, build trade alliances, produce good, and make some sweet, sweet cash in the process. The economy of Prosperous Universe is entirely player driven.
As you begin creating your account, you will choose what type of business you want to be a part of and to choose a faction to belong to. Each faction does coexist within Prosperous Universe, so you will be able to trade across faction lines, but each faction does have its own currency which carries its own value. This will also dictate which planets you have access to. For example, the faction I chose the Castillo-Ito Mercantile for their access to minerals and energy to aid my production company, Extensive Enterprises.
To assist you in managing your business and assets, you will use a customizable interface called APEX. APEX can display details such as a map of the universe and fleet details as well as provide a place to communicate with other players. You can also access tutorial videos (or Transmissions) through APEX along with a written guide as well.
If this sounds like a lot to take in, it is. Prosperous Universe give you over an hour worth of tutorial videos to help you navigate the APEX interface, build bases, trade, manufacture, create corporate conglomerates and so much more. With much of the game taking place in real-time, Prosperous Universe seems to be more about the long-game than instant gratification.
This is where Prosperous Universe can be incredibly punishing. In the early game, if you happen to make the mistake of sending one of your ships to a neighboring star system to get your start only to realize that the travel time in “real-time” is eleven hours, there is not much else to do. This may have happened to me. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an option to turn your fleet around. You can, however, give instructions to your fleet pilots on how much fuel to use during a journey. This will result in faster travel, but higher fuel consumption.
While I waited for my ships’ return, I watched the tutorials… something I should have started with. Being a browser-based game, it was is easy to keep a tab open to check on my enterprises throughout the day and make decisions when in between other real-world tasks. Once I had my ships were back on track, I was able to establish a base and begin building my moisture farming empire. In case you were worried, Prosperous Universe does make sure to think of the workers. You have options to build accommodations and amenities for your workers in order to keep them happy.
Let’s go back to the player-driven economy for a moment. If you wanted to, you could become the sole proprietor of a resource within a star system and drive up the market or completely crush an industry within that planetary system. I observed players strip-mine a market of its carbon, keeping it scarce while selling it at a premium. This is concerning for new players to enter the game where a basic material is kept scarce. This is not a new situation in online games with player-driven markets have taken dives. We have seen the ebb and flow of this in games like EVE Online. It is possible for players to mitigate disaster by performing their civic duty and participating in votes regarding planetary ordinances.
So, what did I think of my business ventures in the ‘verse?
Well, I am honestly torn. I can see the appeal of Prosperous Universe if you enjoy building economies and getting in deep with trading trends. The APEX UI makes you feel like you are using a futuristic financial terminal to manage your business and the tutorials are presented in a way that help add a lay of emersion. Unfortunately, there is not much to look at beyond the UI and simulogics’ concept art. I really wish they had included some of it in the game itself, because the concept art is gorgeous. Even the trailer posted above draws an epic picture which feels just out of reach.
It is also worth noting that Prosperous Universe is a game with less narrative than Fallout 76, but don’t take that as a slam. These two are similar in that you, the player, must fill in the stories with your own detail; you bring the narrative to the game. It is not a bad thing to get creative with you imagination, however this type of unguided gameplay may not sit well in all circles.
While it may not be for everyone, if you like Manager-style games, Prosperous Universe may scratch an itch for you. It gives you complete autonomy and the tools needed to launch a capital-building space business of your dreams. It may be the closest to space any of us really get!
Prosperous Universe is currently within its “First Access” stage and only accessible to paid early adopters. There are various tiers of membership, starting at 10.00 EUR all the way up to 2499.00 EUR. Following launch, a free APEX license will be offered, but with limited perks. Developer simulogics has expressed that these perks are not pay-to-win features, nor will there be micro transactions within the game. These tiers solely exist to provide a variety of perks to players at every interest level. These perks include things like the ability to name planets to dinner with the developers at the higher tier.
For all intense and purposes, Prosperous Universe is a financier’s role-playing game where cash is king. There are no NPCs, but players are encouraged to drive the game forward by the way they establish their business and business partnerships by playing the economy. The APEX system take a fair bit of time to learn in order to master, but provides easy access to information if you know how to navigate it. If you have an economic acumen and want to role-play in a Sci-Fi setting, you might find your niche here.
APEX UI makes the experience feel immersive, even if it is all in a browser window
Player-drive Economy helps sell the roleplaying aspect of the game
Free-to-play option does not appear to be mired by any microtransaction-related handicaps
Prosperous Universe is a slow burn that requires a lot of learning and time to get into
Mistakes are costly – in either time or resources
While the trailer presents gorgeous concept art, none of it is present within the game