CyberHive from Russian developer Blazing Planet Studio certainly makes an interesting first impression. It’s a starship management game where your crew is primarily made up of provocatively dressed humanoid bee women. However, if you look past the character designs, which would not be out of place in a bug-themed harem anime, you’ll find a fun and engaging survival strategy RPG.
In CyberHive, players command the Melistar or “Star Bee,” a bee-shaped starship in a galaxy inhabited by humanoid insects. I’ll admit that I didn’t come into the game with the highest of expectations. While I don’t want to overgeneralize, mobile games have a habit of using pretty girls to distract from lazy game design. (Check out our ancient review of The Grand Mafia for a specific example.) However, I was pleased to discover that’s not the case with CyberHive. Don’t get me wrong, the game has plenty of half-naked bee ladies, but it’s much more than just a pin-up party.
The core of CyberHive is starship management, and it is deceptively challenging in the early-to-mid game. The four primary resources are Parts, Crystals, Biomaterial and Energy Gel. The latter is serves as currency, fuel and food for your bees. Your Queen also needs a steady supply to create new bees. Running out is an instant game over, so you’re going to want to prioritize Gel production early on. Biomaterial is the other resource necessary for creating new bees and can also be spent researching upgrades. Crystals are the raw material that gets processed into Gel, while you use Parts to upgrade and repair the Melistar’s facilities.
CyberHive features a campaign with a branching narrative. It’s a major selling point and tells a short but surprisingly engaging story. The plot is a stock scavenger hunt as you collect artifacts from a precursor civilization. It’s nothing groundbreaking. the characters are also pretty generic and one-dimensional. However, there were many memorable moments. The addition of random encounters leads to plenty of delightful emergent storytelling. I also really liked the characterization of the different bug races. I looked forward to encountering each new species and was never disappointed with that aspect of the writing. However, I was a little put off by the ending, which is more of a sequel hook than a proper conclusion. Also, I won’t spoil it, but the final big reveal will be obvious to anyone paying attention.
Additionally, Blazing Planet Studio clearly had some trouble with the translation from Russian to English. Characters will phrase things in odd ways and swap pronouns seemly at random. Sometimes they’ll even contradict themselves in the same paragraph. It also impacts the gameplay by creating ambiguity in some parts of the interface. For example, the game repeatedly uses the word “wasted” to mean “used” or “consumed.” These problems don’t subtract much from the overall experience, but a few stand out enough to be jarring.
CyberHive also offers a survival mode along with the campaign. It’s fundamentally the same experience but there are a few differences. The goal is to survive for 130 turns and there’s no saving your game. There’s no story either, but CyberHive makes up for it with more frequent random events and extra combat encounters. It’s an enjoyable enough game mode, although I’d argue it’s the weaker of the two.
Keeping the Hive Alive
The player begins with five bees, but the Queen is constantly producing more. This can be both a blessing and a curse as the hive’s needs continuously grow along with its capabilities. The player can assign bees to the Control Cabin, Honeycomb, Barracks, Power Compartment, Laboratory and Medical Compartment. You’ll always want at least one bee in the first two, as they are responsible for finding basic resources and producing Energy Gel, respectively. The Barracks and Power compartments boost weapons and shields, and the rest are self-explanatory. You’ll also need to spare enough bees to collect the resources control bees locate. It’s enjoyable enough for the most part but can get tedious at times. That’s especially true late in the game when you can strip-mine whole planets in one turn. After that, any sense of danger evaporates.
Combat is just a reskin of the arcade game Missile Command. The player has a limited number of missiles with which to shoot down enemy projectiles. Bees assigned to the Barracks contribute extra missiles and shield strength, while bees in the Power Compartment boost shield regeneration. The game does not do a great job conveying this, but you need to directly target the enemy missile’s warhead to bring it down. It is nothing remarkable but still a decently enjoyable mini-game.
Altogether, I found CyberHive to be a solid but not always spectacular game. The story and gameplay don’t do much that you haven’t seen before. Still, it’s well put together. It’s also a lot of fun if you are into survival strategy games. I don’t think I can give it five stars, but CyberHive is definitely worth a recommendation. Although, some of the character designs might make you a little embarrassed to tell people about it.
Is it Hardcore?
CyberHive doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, but what the game does, it does well. The survival gameplay is just challenging enough to be engaging rather than unfair, and the world-building and branching narrative give strong incentives to keep playing.