Valerian: City of Alpha is a game of utter busywork and not much inspiration. Tied into Luc Besson’s latest movie, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the game serves as a prequel of sorts. Mostly though, it’s a kind of strategy management game with a lot of tapping on relevant boxes at key moments. It’s not the worst of games, but it’s also utterly and entirely forgettable. A fleeting moment in App Store history, soon to be forgotten.
The purpose behind Valerian: City of Alpha is to build, manage, and develop Alpha, a space metropolis within the universe of Valerian, and key to the storyline of the film. This requires multiple steps which could have been pretty interesting, but it doesn’t quite work out.
Much of your time is spent looking at a map of the galaxy. You tap on areas you want to explore and co-ordinate a ship and crew to send off to the new area before choosing to partake in some story and side missions. The missions could have simply required a timer and a bit of patience but instead, Valerian: City of Alpha turns briefly into a Choose Your Own Adventure game. You’re given a few choices to make and, in theory, these can affect a lot. But most of the time, it’s hard to tell what difference you’re making. Rarely does it feel like your choices change much further down the line. Usually, you’re simply choosing a type of resource that you wish to gain, or opting to side a little with one particular alien race.
You can work on building better ships and assigning better crew members to each of them too. The lofty idea is all to do with sharing knowledge and working on diplomacy, but Valerian: City of Alpha is a little too shallow to truly capture that spirit fully. You rarely feel that invested in what’s unfolding. It almost feels like it’s trying to be a mini Eve: Online, but has forgotten just what a huge endeavor that would be to aim for.
Elsewhere, there’s fairly typical base-building style fodder. You’re working on building habitats for new races as well as attracting new people to your team. This is poorly explained at times, but also oddly quite simple under the surface. Issues mostly arise through Valerian: City of Alpha’s strange interface that requires too many taps and too many animations to get you anywhere.
Valerian: City of Alpha is keen to be different from the rest, but it’s really pretty similar to other base building games. There are still various energy bars to deal with, premium currencies to handle, and pesky timers. It just presents it in a more stylish if confusing way than typical, earth based games of this ilk.
Ultimately, it’s a weird mishmash of different elements. The base building stuff is all a little too lacklustre and like something you’ve played before. Recruiting new crew members is briefly fun, but you’ll never feel like you get to know them. Similarly, your decision making might feel initially satisfying, but you’ll soon realize that you don’t get to affect as much as you want. All put together, and Valerian: City of Alpha doesn’t quite work. Its main saving grace is that at least it’s not an overly safe film-tie in.