The sequel to Fishlabs original space epic, GOF2 catapults its hero, Keith T Maxwell, 30 years into the future, swapping the Vossk for an equally evil civilisation with a name beginning with V as its main threat – the Void. The galaxy is now a changed place and with it new opportunities for both peacekeepers and pirates alike are in abundance. And it’s your choice to mold Keith into one or the other.
Choice in video games is common these days. With RPGs and god games giving the gamer free rein to decide if they want to be good or bad. I remember in the late 80s a space simulator called Elite, released on the trusty BBC micro computer, where you could do just that: Lead an honest life doing your bit against the Thargoid invasion; or live life on the run from the police as a pirate, taking out innocent traders and steeling their goods.
For me GOF2 most closely resembles that classic game… and with an official release of Elite on iPhone nothing but a pipe-dream (it was announced but then canned), then GOF2 is a welcome replacement.
Part trading game and part action adventure with RPG elements, GOF2 offers something for everyone. Similar to the classic Metroid tradition, you are stripped back to basics after your first experience with the game (in this case a pirate attack). Initially you only have one system to explore containing just a handful of planets. But once you are up and running with an upgraded ship and money under your belt, then the galaxy is well and truly your oyster.
There is a storyline to follow, which is enjoyable but your standard B-movie fare. This lasts a good 5 hours-or-so on normal setting, and is a good way for you to take in the sights and sounds of what the galaxy has to offer. Post-story though you can play the game in a sandbox style and at your own pace.
Whether you are participating in the story, taking on freelance missions or space trading, you’ll need to get from point A to B. And this is where your ship comes in.
Everything evolves around the space stations orbiting each planet (those hoping to visit planets will be disappointed). And your ship is perfectly suited for navigating these areas, be it docking, fighting, or mining ore from nearby asteroids. Your default ship is pretty basic though, particularly in the speed area, but eventually you’ll get enough cash through any one of the activities outlined above, to pimp it out or buy a higher specced ship.
In the world of GOF2 warp drives are common place, and so system-to-system travel is a breeze, even for basic ships. From within each space station you can call up a map which shows the entire galaxy. Tapping on a system expands it to show the planets you can visit. And traveling from planet to planet within the same system is as simple as exiting said station and flying towards the chosen planet.
Once you get a lock on the planet then you can jump in a flash, and you will find yourself orbiting it with the space station nearby. To jump to another system though you will have to travel to a planet with a jumpgate. This can all be done thought the game map, or you can point yourself towards a planet that shows a jumpgate symbol on your HUD. There is only one jumpgate per system, so at times there will be some planet hopping to get to where you want to go, but once you are there you can hop in the jumpgate and select any neighbouring system (you can’t jump to any system… well not until later)
From within any station you can do a multitude of tasks. Each station exhibits different characteristics dictated by the race or faction of the orbiting planet, and is rated by both class (example tech levels 1-10) or threat level (secure-dangerous). The threat level simply gauges your likely hood of being attacked when you enter the system, so you might want to ensure you are pack’n before you visit. The class rating however is the most important, and dictates what you can and can’t get in terms of goods and equipment. Higher tech levels tend to trade in high-tech goods and rich minerals, whereas the lower classes trade in the less valuable commodities or out of date electronics.
Speaking of commodities, you can buy and sell at any station. Choosing where and when to sell is the skill here, and only lots of travelling will teach you where to get the best bargains.
One place where you can easily pick up bargains is at the stations Space lounge. Here, generally unruly folk meet to do dodgy deals. You can also accept freelance missions as muscle for hire, where you will be paid handsomely. Occasionally, someone will sell you a blueprint to a new technology. From here an interesting treasure hunt unfolds as you must find the menu of parts (both metal and mineral) around the different systems before you can assemble it. once you do though you’ll have a rare piece which you can sell at a high profit, or use to improve your ships capability.
If all the buying and selling is not hands-on enough for you then you can always go out into space and make money the hard way. One option is to simply become a pirate and take out large ships and steal their cargo to sell later. Or, if action isn’t your thing then you can do a spot of honest mining.
You experience this early in the game, and it involves fitting a mining laser to your ship. From here you must lock your ship’s crosshairs – a mix between a targeting reticule and a scanner – onto a nearby and asteroid and set a course. Upon arriving your ship enters mining mode, where a small mini game pops up requiring your to keep a constantly moving puck within the radio us of the layers of the asteroid. Keep the puck within the boundaries and eventually you will succeed in harvesting the rock’s spoils.
On the other end of the spectrum is the action part of the game. Don’t expect intense battles of the likes of Gameloft’s Space battalion. But what combat you do encounter requires more skill and is ultimately far more rewarding. Utilising your ship’s HUD you can easily pin point other ships (red for enemies) to engage them. Depending on how you outfitted your ship and at what stage of the game you are at, you an fire off both primary (lasers and canons, etc) and secondary weapons (missiles, nukes and EMP blasts). Turrets also become available and depending on your ships capacity you can hold, and fire, multiple primary weapons.
Whichever activity you choose to engage in it is all done through a great use of intuitive touch menu interfaces and it is where GOF2 really excels. Not only that but the game features tight in-game controls in both tilt or touch flavours, offering flight-sim style precision and manoeuvrability, particularly in combat situations.
Visually Fishlabs have done a great job. Never has space looked so beautiful, especially on the retina display. All to often space is simply depicted with a scattering of stars on black background. But here we have giant planets and detailed orbiting space stations, surrounded by bright and colourful nebulas. But visually, nothing comes close to when destroying a ship, where it’s warp core explodes into a supernova style spherical eruption.
Fishlabs know they have created a pretty game, and to make the most of it they have implemented a Project Gotham Racing style photo mode. Allowing you to pause the action at any time, manipulate the camera angle and take a snapshot. (these accompanying pics are all taken during my playtime with GOF2)
Combining these visuals with a great musical score, and better than average voice work ensures that, as a whole, GOF2 offers the best space adventure on iDevices so far. It’s both bigger and better than the first game, and includes something for everyone.
However there is one gripe I have that stops this from being perfect, and thats the pacing. You see the vastness of space can be viewed as both a help and a hinderance for GOF2. On the one hand you really do feel that you are playing in a full galaxy of systems and planets… but then on the other hand that vastness can be a lonely place way too often, with not much to do during long journey’s and missions. Later in the game you’ll be able to outfit your ship with boosters, and even build a trans-warp drive that lets you jump to any system without traversing warp gates (energy credits permitting), but early play-time will seem very slow to many players.
Galaxy On Fire 2 is one of those games that rewards gamers the further they progress. It’s a trend that has faded in recent years, and I fear that too many gamers may get bored before they experience the best that GOF2 has to offer.
Galaxy on fire 2 is out now for iPhone (iPad later) for $6.99. Get it on the