Nov 6, 2013

[Games] Star Command (Android)

I've been quite the supporter of the various Humble Bundle sales given they're a great way to get a heck of a lot of new games at a great rate - plus you control where the money goes. Thus whether you're feeling especially charitable or you just want to make sure the game developers don't get shafted, then the Humble Bundle model works pretty great.

I picked up the Humble Mobile Bundle 2 specifically for this game - Star Command. The game promised a nicely tactical experience with touches of popular franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. The end result is a most interesting game that has taken up a lot of my free time and has resulted in minor muscle pain due to extended playing on my HTC One. You know how it is when you get into a really good game. It just sucks you in.

Star Command was initially a Kickstarter project that eventually debuted on the iOS platform and finally made it to Android and PC this year. It's pretty much a space exploration and combat game with a heck of a lot more combat that exploration. Plus the game is pretty tactical in nature in various ways. The Android version of the game currently retails for about $2.99 in the Google Play Store.

The game puts you in charge of a ship in the illustrious Star Command. As its captain, you have control over which crew to hire, what rooms to build in your ship and what upgrades to make to these various rooms.

There are three types of crew roles that you will need to balance (in very Star Trek fashion I might add). Tactical (Red) are those than man your weapons and also fight off invaders that manage to board your ship. Engineers (Yellow) repair damage to the ship and handle special equipment like Sentry bots. Science and Medical (Blue) heal injured crew members and run other equipment like shield boosters that augment your ships defenses.

Combat takes place on two levels - the ship-to-ship level and the tactical squad level. Ship to ship is simple enough - you'll duke it out with other vessels using the weapons and defenses that you've added to your ship by purchasing the necessary rooms. Each weapon fires in a different way that draw influence from various mobile games out there. Other ship augments include the dodge generator that allows you completely avoid an enemy attack or the heal ship function that heals all injured crew members regardless of where they're located.

The other challenge comes when enemies manage to board your vessel (typically when your shields go down). Now you need to allocate Tactical crew to fight off the invaders and perhaps a member of your Medical team to heal them during combat. But if you take crew away from your ship's various rooms, overall efficiency goes down thus slowing down weapons reload time or even disabling entire functions if no crew are left to staff a particular room. And all the while you're typically still trying to fight an enemy vessel - destroying the enemy ship is the most common win condition. So there's a lot of juggling that will need to happen as you assign crew to various functions or re-position them to avoid getting slaughtered by enemy forces.

The overall story oddly reminds me of the old Star Control games, but it definitely does not involve you being the last human survivors or something like that. I guess it has more to do with the various alien races that you will meet during your journey as you go through various diplomacy encounters in an adventure game style format. Most of the time your choices won't really matter but every now and then you'll reach one of those interesting junctions that force you to take one path or another.

The art is delightful and it matches the overall humorous tone of the game. The game provides limited variety in terms of rooms and other bonuses but I'll have to admit that its replay value diminishes over time since there's only one story to follow with only the overall difficulty changing. So some of the plot twists that were interesting the first time around definitely become old once you've seen it two or three times.

There is still potential in the game should you decide to experiment with the roles of your crew or perhaps how often you revisit certain worlds in order to repeat encounters and hope to earn more tokens - the currency that you use to purchase crew, rooms and upgrades. But beyond that, I feel like the game could have told a lot more stories or perhaps added in more optional side-quests or something.

Overall, Star Command is a pretty solid game and a great mobile experience. There's bound to be natural comparisons to fellow indie game FTL, but this one sets itself apart by tailoring its level of detail and complexity to the mobile platform, thus it shines rather well. Thus I'm happy enough to give the game a full 5 space zombies out of a possible 5, especially given I'm already on my third play through of the game.
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