February 28, 2019 at 7:53 PM #682
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
3D Arcade Action Space Shooter Rogue-Like
If the title doesn’t have you going "This game sounds amazing!" this might not be your game. Rogue-likes are certainly not for everyone, nor are arcadey style action games. If you like either, however, this game marries the two together beautifully.
The graphics in this game are VERY good. The ships look good, the explosions look great, the weapon fire all looks and feels good, and the background scenery is absolutely stunning. I spend a fair bit of time (a bit too much… sometimes…) just enjoying the view while I explore. Some of the "hazards" the game throws at your are very visually pleasing as well. There are many moments in the game that have me going "Whoa… that’s cool" just from an aesthetic perspective. It supports VR, but I’ve not had a chance to try it. I’ve heard they had to make some concessions to make it releasable to the consoles, but that just boggles my mind, because the game looks stunning enough as is. There is a little bit of slowdown occasionally, but it’s not bad and it’s VERY rare.
The sound effects are solid, no complaints, but nothing really stands out either. The music is excellent. Very fitting and atmospheric, and there are a few tracks I’d even listen to on their own. I thoroughly enjoy it.
The story is… surprisingly good, actually. It starts out fairly "meh", but builds up very well, and actually makes sense in the context of a rogue-like. I started out just enjoying my action game, as I often do, but found myself really getting interested in the story as it unfolded.
Now we get to the crux of it. The gameplay. As mentioned, it’s an arcadey (not like a flight sim nor does it do much with newtonian physics) 3d shooter rogue-like. I tend to play in 3rd person view, but there is a cockpit camera option as well. You start out with one ship (maybe two, if you got the DLC), with two more unlockable. They’re well balanced for the most part, all play fairly differently, and are all capable of clearing the game on hard (as well as clearing hardcore mode).
When you first start the game, you’re thrown into the Colonial Interceptor (a good all-round ship) as well as a tutorial. It’s short, succinct, and covers everything you need to know to get started. This game also has some rogue-lite elements, as after the first time you die, you’re allowed to use the credits you collected to unlock some minor perks for either you (the pilot) or the ship you’re using. As you play through, you can also collect some glyphs and subsystems that will affect how a run plays in various ways, and also collect blueprints which will let you craft those items granted you have the available materials. The perks are all fairly minor in the grand scheme of things, and while they definitely help, it is also entirely possible to clear the game on your first run (though unlikely unless you’re fairly familiar with the game).
Along with the action there’s also a fair bit of exploration to do: containers to loot, natural resources to mine, ship wreckage to explore, hazards to brave, friendlies you can go pirate on if you so choose, and even ancient alien structures. This game also sports a "hardcore" mode which is less rogue-lite and more rogue-like. You start with a base of pilot and ship perks already unlocked (it’s not much) as well as all blueprints unlocked, and just dive in. You’re allowed to spend your credits after each sector (rather than the end of each run), and are also required to take a handicap for each sector after the first (don’t worry, they only last for a single sector). It’s locked into the hardest difficulty, and progress is not saved at all. You just dive in and attempt to clear it. Very fun mode, and adds even more replay value to the game once you’ve unlocked everything and can clear the game with relative ease. It’s a very simple game, with some decent complexity and strategy involved when it comes to crafting and combat. Good use of devices and consumables can really make or break a run.
This game is also good to play in small chunks. A full run will take about 2-4 hours, depending, and each planet actually can’t take more than about 5 minutes, or you might find yourself in trouble. You can save a run after any jump (and progress you make before jumping will be reset if you save and reload). If you’re a veteran starting a new game save, it takes about 4-6 full clears to see all the story. Most people, and of course this varies hugely, but most people clear the game for the first time after about 20 or so attempts. It’s not punishingly, hair pulling difficult, but it’s not super easy, either.
There are a couple… Though at least one is going to be patched out soon. For those familiar with the rogue-like genre, this isn’t a downside so much as how the genre works, but I feel people should at least be aware that luck DOES play a fairly significant factor in your success. It’s MUCH more gentle in this game than in many rogue-likes, but you can still find yourself with damaged life-support (or worse, weapons or shields) and short on the necessary materials to make repairs. Or short on fuel and while you can still jump, you might die (although I’ve never had to make a low-fuel jump. I’ve been close a few times, but always lucked out and found some to make the next jump). Or worse, you might encounter a Corvette with a jump suppressor at the very start of Sector 2. Good luck!
The downside that will be patched soon, is actually the aiming help. The aim help is a GREAT boon in most circumstances, especially with the imprecision of twin-stick controls, but every so often the auto-aim makes some very strange decisions, and can make certain things more difficult than they should be. I’ve been told it will be patched soon, so here’s to hoping.
Another minor complaint, is that some of the HUD item indicators tend to get lost on some stages. Ice fields in particular are so close in color to the item blips, that trying to track down where the mineable gas is hiding can be a real pain. I have heard that seeing enemies on close star maps is a pain too, but I have actually yet to encounter a close star, for better or for worse.
Overall it’s a VERY fun and well-designed game. I’ve already dumped around 80 hours into it with no signs of slowing down or getting bored with it. This is one I can see myself coming back to for a quick run from time to time for years to come.
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