Colony Ship – Uncompromising Old-School Roleplaying on a Derelict, Dystopian Generational Spaceship!

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“To boldly go where no one has gone before. Space, the final frontier.” – Jean-Luc Picard

Developer: Iron Tower Studio
Released: 9th November, 2023
Price: €37,99

Platforms: Windows PC
Available on: Steam
Engine: Unreal Engine 4


  • Interesting hard-sci-fi setting, with solid amounts of well-written, coherent lore to expand upon in your travels.
  • Stellar value: each run changes drastically based on your build, choices and companions.
  • Old-school difficulty in its Underdog setting, often puts you against nearly-impossible odds.
  • Excellent pacing; it alternates exploration, combat, roleplay and encounters in a way that feels balanced.
  • Solid roster of unique weapons, equipment, enemies and interactions, many of which hidden behind checks and quests.


  • Some weapon types play out as downgrades of others, ultimately restricting the ‘real’ viable choices.
  • Endings feel unsatisfactory because they don’t fully outline how characters, and events, end up after your choices.
  • Stealth feels unreliable, messy and half-baked. Prepare for a lot of retries.
  • Solo runs without companions are tremendously penalized and frustrating. Really, just don’t.

Bugs & Issues

  • In some cases, companions may get stuck while trying to reach a destination out of combat.
  • Even with top-grade hardware, a few areas suffer from massive FPS drops and slowdowns.

Machine Specs

  • i9 13980HX
  • 64GB RAM DDR5
  • RTX 4090
  • NvME SSD
  • 3840×2160

Content & Replay Value

It took me around 35 hours to complete one playthrough of Colony Ship on Underdog (Hard) difficulty, taking considerable extra time to finish all the side content I could find. Further playthroughs will be much quicker with prior knowledge. With many branching choices, skill-dependent quest lines and excellent build variety, replay value is tremendous.

Is It Worth Buying?

Yes, for full price. The amount of content offered, considering the replay value, is plentiful and of high quality. I recommend CSH to all turn-based RPG fans who don’t shy away from a challenge.


Iron Tower worked its uncompromising, old-school magic again; they managed to deliver a hardcore-oriented sci-fi RPG that might not be very innovative but is definitely well-executed.

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The generational ship is massive, and populated by factions often conflicting with each other. There’s a solid attention to detail in the making of each environment.

Colony Ship – In-Depth Analysis

Writing & Worldbuilding

After Earth became an unlivable, overpopulated war-torn mess, a generational ship was built to reach Proxima Centauri in many, many years; a habitable planet was found – a fresh start for humanity… or rather, another Earth to screw up. Of course, the to-be colonists also screwed up the ship itself with power struggles and misery – just in time for your sorry ass to be born into it. Starting out as a literal nobody in the bowels of the ship, you’ll have to find a way not only to survive but thrive.

The main story of Colony Ship starts off soon with a sort of deus-ex-machina that puts -you- of all people on the right track for something amazing. Despite being a bum living in the gutter. That’s a great stroke of luck, but hardly feels realistic given that people far more skilled could’ve been hired. Even so, the writing is overall competent: companions have depth, although not as much as in other RPGs, quests feel plausible and have a marked action-consequence factor, and the optional lore is interesting to delve into.

Visually, CSH isn’t a spectacle nor needs to be one; top-down RPGs rarely have the need for mind-blowing visuals, especially for a target audience that mostly cares about gameplay and writing above all. Iron Tower knows, but still they did a great job with the fully 3D environment, models and art direction.

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There are a lot of unique or special items to obtain through skill checks or clever usage of things you can find around.

Exploration & Secrets

The ship is divided into several major sections, most of which are locked out until you progress further in the main story in a partial, conditional open-world fashion. You’re free to explore each once you get there, although many locations will be barred behind skill checks, lockpick or computers for instance – to open doors – quests, specific items and even conversations.

Exploration is interesting, but is also highly formulaic: you’ll need to do things in a rather specific ‘order’ to then be able to backtrack and solve those skill checks initially too difficult – if they are still available, since the world doesn’t revolve around you, as it should be. You also will not be able to do everything in a single run – it’s designed that way.

There are a lot of secrets, from unique items unlockable at traders to secret passages discovered only via perception checks, to hidden bosses and more. A lot of such shenanigans are tied to achievements as well, for those interested. You’ll never know when you’ll stumble upon the next secret or interesting interaction.

Combat System & Bosses

Fights in Colony Ship play out in a turn-based fashion, with APs used for both movement and other actions. You’ll be able to position your party beforehand in a small grid so that you can have the best formation – it only matters to an extent, since enemies will be quick to flank and outmaneuver you if given the chance. Death is common and losing fights is easy – most foes will be at your same power level when met and in many cases superior in both numbers and skill.

They can literally do everything you can, if not more. Smart usage of precious, finite consumables, careful build planning and strenuous optimization of load-outs are fundamental to just have -some- chances of winning; and you’ll get your ass kicked half the time anyway. Oh and don’t use pistols, or shotguns, or blunt weapons, because rifles, blade weapons and SMGs are just straight upgrades – yeah, that sucks, but what can you do?

A fairly deep system of weapon-contextual attacks, aimed shots with diverse debuffs, DR ratings and passive perks, cover calculations and opportunity attacks comes into play at every move. It takes a while to get used to it, and frankly in some cases, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It works, but I always felt there are hidden mechanics at play that I haven’t the slightest idea about. Numbers are everything – the crappiest thugs CAN overwhelm the most elite units if they outnumber you 5 to 1. That’s why solo runs are complete ass.

Bosses, especially optional ones, are inhumane ordeals that will often test the limits of your sanity and of your alcohol tolerance. If you don’t drink yet, you’ll start when a 15-meter worm wipes your party for the 35th time in a row, trust me.

Character Progression & Skill Checks

Your character won’t get stat points by normal means; each level you’ll get one perk to specialize your build further – also, no skill points; those are gained by actually doing stuff and getting better at it. You’ll become a master lock picker after you lockpick a hundred of them, pay someone to teach you or find lost technology that does that for free. Same for every other skill. It’s a solid system that promotes specializations, and almost every check has an option to tell a specific companion to do something, so they become the specialist you want, in due time.

Skill checks are almost always repeatable after failure; it’s always “you can” or “you can’t (yet)” – rarely there will be things you can screw up and never have a second chance at. It’s forgiving, almost too much in contrast with the general “punishing” design philosophy of these devs, but it’s good for meaningful backtracking and doesn’t detract from the experience.

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All situations have several ways to be solved. Contextual options based on your previous actions, skill checks, and of course the good old violence.

If you liked this game, you might also enjoy…
Sons of the Forest | Keplerth | Age of Grit

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