In Star Command, players take on the role of a ship’s commander, voyaging across the galaxy and fulfilling the duties of the fleet, meeting new species, and engaging in both ship-to-ship and in-person combat amongst the stars.
After nearly two years on the Kickstarter circuit, War Balloon Games was finally able to release their fan-funded game on the iOS App Market, with plans for Android and PC versions to follow within the year as per funding goal arrangements.
Star Command is one of those rare marketplace gems which actually deserves to be called a video game, as opposed to the majority of simplistic and dumbed-down mobile titles which clog most of the app market today. Priced at $2.99, Star Command is a pixelized and entertaining marvel which is well worth the price, providing hours of solid gaming entertainment to those who purchase it.
Taking inspiration primarily from Star Trek, Star Command allows gamers to recruit a crew of science, engineering and combat technicians which happen to be color-coded as blue, yellow and red shirted crew members, respectively. Whilst science-based crew members are vital for healing squadmates and manning the shield boosters, engineers put out fires and fix hull breeches as the fabled red-shirts maintain the weapons and, if need be, bring out their phasers for the defense of the ship within its own hull.
Yes, enemies can – and will – warp onto your ship deck after disabling your shields, creating a combat scenario that can only be described as madness as gamers struggle to reload and fire their ship-to-ship weapons while simultaneously micromanaging their soldiers for the battle within the ship. In this regard, the game is akin to Faster Than Light, a fellow rogue-like space game, but gamers should be aware that this where the similarities between the two end.
The developers describe Star Command as a ‘chaos management’ simulator, and it proves an apt description for the user experience. With no ability to properly pause mid-combat and plan actions, players will find themselves doing their best to make split-second decisions as lasers burst the hulls, ant-men warp in to fight red shirts, and the plasma cannons run out of ammo. It’s chaos at its best, and proves to be one of the most entertaining aspects of the game. As players progress, they’ll be able to get a do-over with larger and different ships, allowing for different rooms and weapons to be brought into battle – of course, this spurs the requirement for even more micro-management.
While this back-and-forth, quick-thinking gameplay works for the most part, gamers playing from smaller screens like iPhones or iPod Touches may occasionally struggle to get their pointer to click where they want, and simple mistakes like a missed click can lead to the annoying and unnecessary death of key crew members. Likewise, a few game-crashing bugs have crept into the initial release. Thankfully, War Balloon already has a bug-fixing patch pending in the marketplace to address most of the issues and complaints.
There is a pleasing amount of new species to encounter as the game progresses, ranging from aggressive ant-men and Prothean-like creatures to Angry Birds imitators, all of which seem to inevitably lead to combat. While the occasional friendly vessel will be found, it’s safe to say that Star Command is primarily about fighting aliens.
Soldiers of various species can be recruited and optionally named after friends, though much like X-Com: Enemy Unknown, this inevitably leads to tragedy as crew members put themselves routinely into danger. Selecting the information tab on any crew member will reveal a ‘Contraband’ menu, which only points to a ‘Coming Soon’ post. While the entire contraband feature is shrouded in mystery (War Balloon simply stated that “it’ll be fun”), we can’t help but feel that the devs rushed the title out to appease an evidently impatient Kickstarter audience. Despite any potential rushing through the development stage, the first version of the title proves to be a tantalizing and stylized experience on its own.
In essence, Star Command is a game which delivers compelling strategy experience on a level which most mobile gamers aren’t accustomed to – and that’s a great thing. While it feels like it launched without all of the content gamers were promised, the plans of upcoming patches and the near-perfect delivery of mobile gameplay make this one game that space and strategy fans can’t afford to miss.
Star Command is currently available on the iOS, and will release later this year for Android and PC.
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