Travel to Alien planets, meet new species of life, and destroy them!
Finally, after what seemed like light years of waiting, Star Command has arrived in our hands! I’ve personally been excited about this game since hearing about it becoming one of the early Kickstarter successes. It’s not often you find a simulation title on the appstore these days that isn’t riddled with in-app purchases or a real-time 24 hour wait to build a room or train a character. This alone shows commendable monetizing restraint by the guys at Warballoon!
We’re finally getting the space exploration simulator we want then? Well, not quite. As much as Star Command is commendable, there are still holes that dampen the experience of what would otherwise be a triple A gaming experience.
You begin by creating your captain followed by kitting out the interior of your ship with rooms and crew, all this is done through a tutorial dialogue that teaches you the basics. Rooms and crew are split into 3 different color categories. Red is for your weapons and offensive team, blue is your medics and shields, then finally yellow are your maintenance rooms and engineering crew. The simplistic color coordination in the heat of space battle makes identifying crewmembers and organising strategies much easier to keep track of.
The designated slots on your first ship are the bare minimum, one for each category, but as you progress through battles you’re awarded tokens which act as currency. Your tokens can be spent to upgrade the rooms, swap them out or hire more crewmembers.
When you employ new space cadets you’ll name them and level them up as you complete tasks and missions, but if they die in battle they are lost forever into the deep dark depths of spaaaaaaaaacccee! Losing a crewmember far into the game can be quite the upsetting experience too. After I spent hours playing I found I had grown quite attached to my crew, especially little Billy the medic, I almost wanted to crack out some bagpipes and reenact Spock’s funeral scene from The Wrath of Khan when he died during an Antorian attack. Billy’s replacement had zero skill and I had to level him up once more, I didn’t even bother giving him a name, no-one could replace Billy… It taught me the hard way that I need to make sure I am fully prepped for missions by regenerating crew health, make ship repairs and generating ammo tokens before setting off on a new mission. Going forward as the space cowboy I’d long desired to be was no longer an option.
Before each battle you’ll have communications with the opposing ship’s captain and depending on your dialogue choices your battle scenario will start out differently, but the differences are minor. The intergalactic chat you have with the enemy before getting down to business is however the comic relief and it’s clever and witty writing does leave you smiling at the screen. Ship battle is surprisingly fun as well as strategic, once your cannon or beams have charged and ready to fire there’s a small mini game to play. These sequences involve tapping at the right moment to get more hits on the enemy. It’s a small feature but it helps make you feel more involved with the combat.
Once you’re out of the tutorial and first few missions the difficulty does jump up and soon you’ll be micro managing repairs, onboard weapons, medical assistance and interior combat all at the same time so be sure to prepare beforehand and save your game as the death of your captain or certain crew members will result in a Game Over.
The art design is, as you would have seen from the screenshots an isometric pixel-art theme, which is my personal favorite for simulation/strategy games, it just gives you a better view of everything happening and being a lover of pixel-art too this suit me just fine. All the different alien race ships you encounter consist of original designs and are heavily detailed, my personal favorite being the Avarian Preying Bird. As far as the overall atmosphere goes Warballoon’s Kickstarter breakdown states that they spent $6000 on the games music alone, over 16% of the total amount raised and it goes to show that investing a bit more into something that might seem trivial to other indie developers really pays off in the long run. The music is captivating and sets the scene whether it’s a dramatic battle or flicking through the menu and building your ship, most definitely best played with your headphones in.
You don’t have to be a space fanatic either to enjoy the game, it’s gameplay, wit and ability to be picked it up in minutes heavily outweigh its space setting for the non-believers out there. Although Star Command hasn’t yet broken any galactic barriers in bringing a fully fleshed out simulation title to iOS it still stands on the shoulders of most other titles out there attempting the same, albiet in a more stripped manner then originally expected. It’s already a must have app, and with more updates to come over time I have hope that Star Command will put itself firmly in the top spot for iOS games of this genre.
Star Command is available as a Universal download for $2.99