Published on October 23rd, 2013 | by Kristian Ivanov0
Star Command Review
Have you ever wondered what would it be like to play FTL: Faster Than Light on a mobile device…and take the customization elements even further? The answer is Star Command. A Kickstarter funded game which began its development in October 6th 2011. This was a pretty ambitious project to say the least, it aimed to bring the player into the role of a star ship commander, manage it’s crew and resources. So now that its released, let’s take a look at it and see if it was worth the wait.
As I mentioned before, the gameplay resembles the PC game FTL: Faster Than Light, where you’re traveling along the galaxies, having encounters with other races and weird beings, while managing your ship and its crew. You start off with a choice of ship (note: small and medium ships only, no large type available). Each type has a certain number of rooms, whose function you can customize to your liking. The rooms (and crew) are split into three categories:
- Red – weapons/security. They provide both your internal defenses and external firepower.
- Blue – science/medical. They maintain your ship’s shields and make sure your crew gets any needed healing.
- Yellow – engines/repair. They make sure your ship’s hull is fully intact by putting out fires and performing repairs…and also help with dodging enemy ship fire using a dodge generator.
While performing its duties, your crew will also level-up in its specific area, gaining skills in the process, such as extended range, faster movement etc. though it’s worth mentioning that this leveling up is fairly slow and will take a lot of work, so keep your crew safe while at it. At this point it might seem like having a big ship with a lot of rooms is the best choice since that also means more crew, but as you go along in the game, you’ll find that bigger ships also means more locations to defend from enemy boarding, which (unless you have experienced crew) could lead into some pretty hectic ship/crew defense.
The ideal situation is to have the maximum number of people per room, which leads to the room performing its functions much faster as opposed to having a single person in it. For example, having no people in the command room and engines means your shields will not regenerate, while having a total of 8 people between the two rooms means they’ll generate at the fastest rate possible. Same goes to weapon rooms, having a single person allows you to use the weapon, while having two people boosts the reload speed so you get to take an enemy out even faster. However, you also can’t go around placing every available room type in every ship. With every ship you’ll have to pick which room types you actually want to have, so some strategic thinking is required – do you need a healing room and a med-bay more than a healing room and an armory?
But wait, resource management goes even further! Each room you place can also be upgraded up to three times to increase your ship/crew’s capabilities. These upgrades include: faster shield recharge, 25% stronger ship hull, faster crew-type movement, increased crew damage etc. So you’ll have to keep that in mind since building a room, hiring crew and upgrading a room all require the same resource (tokens).
The game took the best possible example for its pixel graphics – Kairosoft’s games…and went crazy with it. The game just looks outstanding. Every character and object is just a pleasure to look at…obviously a lot of work and imagination was put into this game. I absolutely loved the ship designs…even when you upgrade a room in the interior the room gets some new science’y object in it instead of remaining static (like a huge monitor in the command room, control-consoles in the weapon room and other strange but neat things). The aliens are also pretty well designed, though personally I find it a bit lacking that the variety is not that high. Many people including myself are pretty tired of game developers using “retro-resembling” graphics, but in some cases, they greatly benefit the feel of the game…Star Command is one of these cases. I just can’t imagine the game with a different graphics style.
Another thing I specifically want to point out is the soundtrack…it’s amazing. Marious Masalar deserves praise for the outstanding job he did. While playing all you hear is these epic tracks that give you a feeling of a true space adventure. It’s pretty hard to play it without getting totally immersed in the gameplay. Even the sound effects are spot on….well done guys!
The last thing I should comment here is that the game is advertised as “optimized for tablets” and many people suggest it should be played on one. I personally went through the game from start to finish multiple times and I’m happy to say that the game is fully playable on my Samsung Galaxy S2 (4.3” screen) with no difficulty or any problem selection things or moving my crew. But even if you’re a person with larder fingers, don’t worry, you have pinch-in/out zoom that can assist you, and when you do select a crew member the game is in pause mode until you give him orders. So screen size shouldn’t be an issue. Though one thing I should point out is that there is no “select all” option for rapid selection of all security-crew or all repair-crew.
Here lies probably the only weakness of the game. While the story itself is nothing special, which is to be expected, at least for now it only takes two hours to beat it on normal difficulty. There is a promise of “more to come” but there is no info if it will be a free continuation or paid “DLC” (or at least I didn’t find any).
Still, for what it’s worth, it was ok. Offered the standard space-nonsense humor, which I found pretty entertaining, along with an occasional reference to other popular games. The idea is that you’re a Star Command…well, commander, and you fly around in your ship saving the galaxy. Along the way you’ll sometimes be offered dialog choices which have a minor influence on the event currently going on, though not nearly as much as they did in FTL for example. There are betrayals, alliances, promises for revenge, you name it.
I can personally say the foundation for some pretty epic adventures is already there, the question is how will the developers take advantage of it.
Concluding on this title is pretty hard. What I see I absolutely loved, but I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s so much more that can be done with it. The graphics and sound are the best I’ve seen when it comes to pixel-art games, and they’re also backed up with solid gameplay, but the overall shortness of the game might be a deal-breaker for some people.
While there is a “new game+” mode (start from the beginning while keeping your crew stats), I believe the game could benefit much more from an infinite/survival mode with randomly generated encounters.
It is however clear that the developers are not done with this title…and seeing what they did so far, I’ll personally trust them to deliver some really cool stuff, so I can go ahead and give my full recommendation to Star Command for being one of the best games I’ve played this year.
Summary: Star Command is an outstanding space exploration SIM game, featuring top-quality music and pixel graphics, backed up by addicting gameplay, with the only downside being its relatively short story.