Friday, February 24, 2012

Starfarer 0.5a Impressions

Starfarer is a little tough to lump into a single category, it has a strategy and tactics side to it, but it also gives you direct control of ships in the midst of epic space battles. You have to manage your shields, weapons and energy yet you also must try to direct your fleet. You don't have direct control of the ships under your command, merely you tell them where to assault, where to gather and when to run. This a darker space strategy full of floating husks of old battleships, a universe full of pirates and factions that are always looking for engagements and terrible mistakes that will cost you everything. My mistake came in the form of a earlier battle, when all I had was my ship and one other.

I engaged a few pirates and thought the battle would be challenging, but do-able and rewarding. All were dead, retreated or floating among space and all that was left was one enemy cruiser and my fire-support class flag ship. The enemy ship didn't have enough firepower to crack my shields easily, nor could I do to him, instead we engaged in a game of cat and mouse were we each struck stayed barely within range and tested our weapons against each others shields. Each ship was still at full strength, but my ship still had a full volley of missiles, deadly missiles that could decimate his ship if only his shields would drop for a mere five seconds. I threw myself headfirst at him, full shields up, full energy reserves and took every laser and projectile that he unleashed upon at full range. My energy reserves were almost gone, but his were at capacity and I unleashed everything I had, but I made a mistake. My missiles flew at his shieldless husk of a ship and his turrets shot my missiles down and then unleashed another heavy load of weaponry against my almost defenseless ship. My shields buckled under his strength and my reserves of energy were lost, my ship lost all defenses and capabilities for ten seconds while it violently unleashed vented it's flux. Those ten seconds were enough, I was gone, I tried to retreat, I tried to run, but I had nothing left, all I could take was a few more hits from the weakest of his weapons and that was all it took. I lost that game, I lost everything. It was time to learn from it and start over.

That's what kind of game Starfarer is, at least it's current stage, the kind of game where you must gauge your capabilities carefully against the enemy and if you fail you are likely to come back with nothing, often finding your way back into the galaxy with a far inferior ship to what you originally started with. By the time I started my third campaign I had some solid tactics down and I managed to get some experienced crew, yeah your crew gain experience from battles and will operate your ships more effectively, and I had captured, or purchased, enough ships to actually be considered a small fleet. This was when I engaged in my first real tactical battle that had capture-able areas and a larger breath of strategic options than I had before when it was just my flagship and one or two others. Watch my video from that encounter and also take a look at how trade works and the whole system for crew, cargo, fuel and your fleet. What I didn't get any video of was capturing enemy ships, but when you defeat an enemy fleet if you purposely don't 100% destroy the enemy ships you may be able to board them with marines and capture the ship for your fleet. 

Watch in HD!

There isn't a lot to do in the game right now, merely build up your fleet, hunt down pirates and attack whoever you have the balls to attack, but it's still quite a lot and far better than the previous builds of Starfarer. Before there was a bunch of battles you can fight in and you could certain see some truly huge space battles, but there was no sense of continuity or persistence. I can't wait to see what comes next. The game is currently at it's 0.5 alpha build and if you pre-order it for $10 you get full access to all builds and you can talk with the developers on the forums over at Fractal Softworks. I know there are many space games out there for PC, but few are like this, with it's deep strategy and challenging intricate combat. It absolutely has plenty that still needs to be created, fixed and balanced, but it's looking good for this indie game. Thanks for reading and I will certainly do some further impressions as the development progresses along. 
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-Written by Sean Cargle


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