Star Battalion – review

I guess I’ll go bulls-eye some womp rats in my T-16 back home!

Yes, thats right, there aren’t many game genres Gameloft have not had a crack at, and now it’s the turn of the space shooter. Mixing the likes of Star Wars Rogue Squadron and Starfox 64, Star Battalion throws space cliche after space cliche at you. When it’s good it’s very good, but it’s not consistent, falling short in many respects.

Putting you in the shoes of a Luke Skywalker-esque resistance fighter, you must put an end to the iron grip that the Royalists have over your galaxy. Sound familiar? Hmm!

star_battalion_iphone_screen_shot_1Played in a linear fashion, you unlock new systems and their 2-3 missions, thwarting the royalists at every turn. Missions generally consist of search and destroying enemy outposts, technology, drones and fighters, and contain both primary and secondary objectives. The primary ones being all you need to move on to the next mission and the secondary adding to your score and the difference between gold, silver or bronze awards and achievements.

Looking at early details of the game, I was expecting something along the lines of Galaxy on fire, but unfortunately it isn’t as deep in terms of gameplay. While there are multiple ships to choose from, don’t expect to be buying and selling between bouts of action like GOF. Instead this is very much an arena style action game in space.

Graphically it hits the mark, particularly on the retina display. Each world or area has its own look and style which keeps things varied and interesting. And the ships and technology have a good sense of scale and weight to them. Out of the gameplay itself it’s also a looker. I particularly like the direction of the cutscenes, featuring Battle Star Galactica style camera pans and zooms on the action. And even the level selection menu is slick, with a cool wormhole transition from world to world.

star_battalion_iphone_screen_shot_3Voice work, despite the usual B-Movie acting, actually fits the game well here. After-all the Star Wars prequels were not exactly Oscar material! Here it falls somewhere between Flash Gordon and Power Rangers, so expect your usual cheesy one liners and story lines of hero’s and their villainous fathers!

Much like StarFox, your wingmen, and wing-women, constantly chatter to you. It is more distracting than entertaining though, and becomes very repetitive, with only advances in the story being of help. Being told to “Do a barrel roll” every ten seconds can be annoying, for example.

Controls are pretty good for the most part. The tilt controls are the best option, especially for any flight sim veterans out there. However, the button placement can be a little fiddly, where you occasionally fire off missiles instead of just your laser, annoying when you only have a limited supply of missiles. The V-stick is functional but too sensitive for dog fighting in my opinion.

With any flight game you will always come across invisible boundaries (Rogue Squadron and StarFox Assault for example). I like it when these boundaries become seamlessly introduced into the game world via devices such as minefields or cloud, but here you are simply ordered to turn back or die. For that reason the levels in confined spaces, such as underground facilities and space stations work best, followed by open space, where you don’t feel like you are playing in a small sand box.

star_battalion_iphone_screen_shot_4The game suffers from the usual Gameloft problem of being on the easy side. Unlimited lives weaken the challenge, especially when you load a checkpoint and it puts you back into the game where you died, but this time with a full stash of missiles. In fact in later levels it’s easier to simply crash and get a free set of missiles than try and shoot the enemy down manually for the ammo power up.

A neat addition is the co-op mode. Here you can jump online or locally with a friend and play through the levels. Thankfully this isn’t separate from the single player, and so if you unlock a level in co-op you can happily continue on in campaign mode with out re-playing. Co-op online is available over Gameloft Live or Gamecenter, but for me I prefer Gameloft’s own system. It was more stable at finding games for me, and visually is more consistent with the look and feel of the game.

While co-op is a nice addition, I find strange that head-to-head multiplayer was not included. Playing dogfights in some of these sandbox/arena style levels would be perfect, giving a portable WarHawk like experience. A missed opportunity in my book!

Despite some standout set pieces, the game is unbalanced in the fun department, offset by too many drab moments of drone hunting. Gameloft once again prove that they are kings of production values with slick graphics, interfaces and sound, but their Achilles heel is once again originality (Barrel rolls et al). It borrows too heavily from films and similar games of the genre resulting in a hodgepodge of a storyline. Another ‘attack of the clones’ if you will!


Star Battalion is out now for $6.99. get it on the Star

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    That’s really too bad the storyline wasn’t very engaging. From the many developer diaries they put up on the Gameloft blog it seemed they were trying very hard to be creative.

    Dogfighting should definitely be added in an update. I wonder about the abrupt release. Maybe they accidentally released it too soon? Dogfighting seems like an obvious feature to have and adding it later really squanders the launch momentum. I guess they wanted to get it out ahead of Galaxy on Fire 2.

  • Nigel Wood

    Yes, unfortunately despite having talent. Gameloft are more focused on their bottom line, and they always strive to beat the competition to release, even if that means the game suffers as a result.

  • Xstra

    Dang. I was looking forward to this game

  • Austin

    Wow, the graphics and textures look amazing though!

  • Nigel Wood, UK

    Well, you might like it Xstra! There is plenty to like, but as a whole it’s flawed. Maybe wait for the lite version first.

  • xstra

    Yeah. It sounds good but u cant tell those flaws from screenshots and the descriptions. Usually ur guys reviews r exactly wat i think. Well done.

  • Axid

    bought it the day it got out. disappointed. :\

  • Torbjorn Kamblad, Sweden

    Rushed to finish it just to be able to delete it off my phone. Not a good game at all. Poor dogfighting, heck X-wing from back in the day was so much better.