Oct 17, 2017 Last Updated 12:43 PM, Oct 17, 2017
Published in Editorial
Read 746 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Tagged under

Starsector is leading me down a path towards psychopathy, disingenuousness, and a general disregard for law and life

Thirty bright and promising lives, cut short in a hail of autocannon fire and spite. Well, “bright and promising” might be an overstatement: after all, they took a gig on my rust bucket). Still, while I never actually met any of them — having made a point of never leaving my command cabin unless absolutely necessary — I’m confident at least some of them were, you know, not complete garbage fires of humanity… maybe.

Hey, don’t look at me like that! Just because my only contact with them was as numbers on a screen doesn’t mean I didn’t care about their well-being. Sure, I only opened up the roster because I needed so many crewmen and the station had warm bodies to spare, but I cared about those numbers, damn it! I mean, my ships don’t run if they’re too low, so...

So I think I’ll blame Fractal Softworks. Yeah, it’s Starsector that’s ultimately leading me down a path towards psychopathy, disingenuousness, and a general disregard for law and life. Also drugs. Just, selling so many drugs that, like, I can’t drive home hard enough how unconscionable is the sheer volume of drugs I have. In fact, I sold so many drugs that I may have kind-of-sort-of reduced the stability of the local government. I’m sure it won’t be an issue. My slide into degeneracy does showcase one of the more interesting features of commerce in Starsector, though. Essentially, there are two options when you go to market on a planet: trade within the confines of the legal, regulated free markets, or ever-so-casually click over to the “Black Market” tab and maybe pick up an unconscionable amount of drugs and other goods, free of those pesky tariffs.

You know, just maybe.

THE STYGIAN, CEREBRAL CALL OF SCI-FI MERCANTILE EXPLOITS

But that “maybe” affects the overall stability of the worlds in which you trade, which makes trading — a process which can easily devolve into something as stimulating as watching paint dry — both an effort in managing suspicion and appealing to the more mischievous side of the psyche. Now, many titles do have some sort of ‘black market’ mechanic, true, but, in my experience, they rarely ever deal with the impact that black market trading has on a population, so seeing that addressed in a mechanically impactful way is very welcome. In other words: for those who are drawn like lemmings to the Stygian, cerebral call of sci-fi mercantile exploits, there’s some new depth to consider.

There’s also intricacy to the combat, although I wouldn’t call it new. Fast, punchy, lethal; maybe, but not new, with the exception of one system. You have multiple weapon-groups composed of varying weapon types that perform in a kind of rock-paper-scissors against shields, hull, and armor and must be maneuvered into their firing arcs. Heard it before, loved it, still love it, and — on its own — it’s simple, but it’s combined with a kind of ‘overheating’ system, whereby most combat actions accrue an energy remnant called ‘flux.’

The tutorial does a good job of explaining flux, but if you jumped right in expecting this to be another top-down space shooter, you could be forgiven for thinking at first that the flux seemed superfluous. Flux actually dissipates fairly quickly when just firing, and engaging your shields doesn’t add to your flux level at all, but the illusion is short-lived. As soon as you try to fire while your shields are up, or start getting shot yourself, you begin to understand the economy of flux: bringing your shields up and absorbing any damage with them or firing any of your weapons while they’re up stops the flux from dissipating. This forces you to choose selectively when to engage shields and when to take the hit, as leaving your shields on while you fight and get hit quickly overloads your flux capacitor, instantly dropping your shields and stalling your guns, and while you can still move, you’re rarely fast enough to not be a sitting duck (to say nothing of homing missiles). It can all be a bit much to juggle, really, and you quickly learn that no one ship is suitably equipped to be a one-ship-navy.

And so enters fleet management, the grander aspect of the game, and the meat of a campaign playthrough. The tutorial gives you the basics, but to give you a rundown, Starsector’s fleet management executes like an RTS with highly customizable units, so outfitting your ships out of combat to fit certain roles is critical. Once you actually do get into the thick of things, you can give all the basic commands you would expect of an RTS, along with a few specialized ones. This allows a certain level of fine control, but you won’t exactly be bringing out your Starcraft APM, and you can’t directly control more than your flagship outside the fleet command map — though you can change your flagship on the fly (complete with a neat sequence depicting a little shuttle departing one ship and going to another in real time).

A DEEP, BUT NARROW APPROACH

There can be some benefit to jumping into another ship mid-combat too, since your avatar can be leveled up into a flagship combat specialist, with passives that grant strong bonuses to whatever vessel you’re piloting; though that’s merely one of a few options. In fact, upon level up, you can spend skill points in one of a few skills that focus on improving your own combat effectiveness, your fleet capability, your economic potential, or your survivability, among other miscellaneous stats. Starsector takes a deep but narrow approach, offering a select number of high impact passives. For me, this gave leveling-up an instant meaningfulness that is otherwise lacking when the bonuses are too small or obscure. What’s more, these perks don’t detract from the skill requirement, but still offer some pretty significant tailoring options for your ship and your fleet, allowing you to maximize your effectiveness based on your preferred style of combat or trade.

Mechanically, Starsector is a solid release; visually, it’s no slouch either. While the title foregoes a more demanding 3D implementation in favor of the cheaper, more GPU-friendly 2D option, it doesn’t do so at the expense of aesthetic attention. Using drawn assets instead of retro sprite work, you get crisp, easy-on-the-eyes visuals that show off some nice effect work and solid ship designs. My only two complaints with the visuals are that, at times, lingering hull damage effects can make your ship look like a muddy space blob, and weapon effects, while good looking, are not always the easiest to differentiate at a glance, making it occasionally difficult to tell what gun you’re firing or being hit by in the heat of combat, if you’ve somehow lost track. (It’s fairly easy to do, at first.)

It isn’t easy to create a solid 2D space-shooter, especially one that stands out in what seems to become more and more a saturated market, but that’s exactly what Fractal Softworks has done. While longtime space-shooter fans will find much that rings familiar, Starsector’s unique and polished take on sci-fi space-shooter economics, combined with frantic battles, strong fleet command options, and an effective character progression, set this title apart. For gamers seeking an experience that’s just a little more amid the starry sea of space shooters, Starsector is worth a look.

 

Image Gallery

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://www.opnoobs.com/opinions/starsector#sigProIdc871da2560
Colt Kortekaas

Colt has always been a PC gamer first and foremost. His grandfather worked as a supervisor for the city mechanic's shop, and he would always bring home new computers and bits from his friend in the tech department. Where most of Colt's friends cut their teeth in the gaming world in the arms of Nintendo or Sony, he got his first taste with Commander Keen, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, and even Doom (when he could sneak it in). So it continued until he got a computer of his own, and with it a shiny new copy of Age of Empires. Ever since, his love of real time and turn based strategy has never waned. These days, that love shares a place in his heart with a wide swath of different games across almost every conceivable genre, from first person shooter to MMORPG, but he always return to my strategy roots. When he's not burying his head in games and gaming content he like to work on art and teach himself to program.

Related items

  • Road Redemption Review

    The updated graphics and physics engine are sure to bring enjoyment and laughs. Road Redemption builds on a relatively simple concept that has worked in the past, repackages it, and allows the unpredictability of other players a large selection of tracks, bikes, and riders in online death races to round out a uniquely enjoyable experience.

  • Project Nimbus Review

    Project Nimbus has a somewhat anticlimactic ending, but that’s only because the climax revealed in Early Access set the bar so high, both in terms of gameplay and story. Those awaiting this title’s full release after playing the Early Access might feel a little ripped off, but they might also realize just how great this experience is a second time through. Impressive mech combat that never grows old and interesting story elements equate to an impressive win for this small indie developer.

  • Echo Review

    Echo proves that innovation can truly be limitless as long as there are people willing to push boundaries and explore new ideas. With a stunningly flawless trifecta of gameplay, storyline, and visuals, Ultra Ultra has knocked it out of the park with their first foray into indie gaming. Regardless of your tastes, styles, or interests, this adventure is sure to satisfy nearly all of your cravings. The only craving that you will be left with is for more and more game to play.

  • Gappo's Legacy VR Early Access Review

    I wanted to enjoy Gappo's Legacy; there's potential here and evidence of time and care being put into some areas of its development. The fact, though, is that too many problems abound. For every one thing it gets right, there are two more design choices that are clunky and underdeveloped. Additionally, it's one of the worst performing VR titles that I've played. It is an Early Access joint, so anything could change, but if this is representative of what's to come, don’t expect a legacy.

  • The Descenders: Test Sessions Announced

    Publishing label No More Robots and developer RageSquid today revealed the Descenders: Test Sessions, allowing players to check out upcoming mountain biking game Descenders for themselves for the first time before the full public release.

  • Project CARS 2 Review

    Project CARS 2 sets the benchmark for what a true racing sim release should be. With exquisite graphics, exceptional realism, and palpable thrill, the gauntlets have been thrown down, and it’s up to every other dev to try and get close to this masterpiece of its genre. Now for a fresh dose of caffeine… it’s time to shave some time off my split!

  • Mantis Burn Racing: 'Battle Cars' DLC Interview

    The OPN interview showcasing the release of VooFoo Studios' 'Battle cars' DLC for the fast-paced, competitive, top-down racer, 'Mantis Burn Racing.' A conversation with Creative Director Shaun Read and Marketing and PR Manager Sean Walsh. Interviewed by our Editor-in-Chief, Rey Urias, and our Director of Business Development, Enzo Scavone.

  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen Review

    War of the Chosen adds so favorably to the original XCOM 2 experience that fans should consider it near-perfect as well as essential. Although some features in XCOM 2: War of the Chosen,such as soldier bonds and propaganda, are inadequately manifested, most new features blend seamlessly with the base title and solve predictability and stagnation issues that once plagued early game. The titular Chosen adversaries enrich your gameplay with increased risk and challenge, even as resistance faction allies offer diversity in how you may combat them.

More in this category: Hecho en México »

Latest Indie Reviews

The Indie Scene, Under Review.

Latest on Twitch

Watch it live on twitch.tv/opnoobsonline.

Latest Shows

Children of the …

The OPN interview with Jason Kim, Cardboard Utopia. Children of Zodiarcs is a story-driven, tactical RPG set in the fantasy realm of Lumus; a world divided by affluence and poverty...

Crumple Intervie…

The OPN Dev Talk with Gabriel Gutierrez from Nascent Games, on their title newly release title "Crumple." A great conversation about what it takes to get a studio on the run, and o...

Out Soon

PC Gaming Incoming

Darkestville Cas…

Even those who don’t normally play point-and-clicks can enjoy Darkestville Castle, but only the die-hard devotees of the genre will be able to persevere past the inevitable and fre...

Raiders of the B…

Raiders of the Broken Planet just isn’t there yet. While an alpha build of the title showed promise, the title has much development ground to cover yet. Raiders of the Broken Plane...

Battle Chasers: …

Battle Chasers: Nightwar combines the classic turn-based RPG with action-RPG elements. This fun twist to the traditional RPG divisions enhances gameplay, strategy, and character cu...

Asura Vengeance …

While there are some pitfalls, the Asura: Vengeance expansion packs enough content to satisfy returning players and entice new ones. New game mode adds an addictive alternative to ...