Vincere Totus Astrum, or To Conquer All Stars (from Latin), is a 4X turn-based space strategy game developed for the iOS family of devices (the App is designed for the iPad and iPhone).
VTA was developed by Chris Carson from Gamesare Studios. Chris has developed other games but VTA was his first iOS title. I don’t own an iOS device so I thought I would not be able to try VTA out. Fortunately Gamesare Studios provides a pretty good demo in their website so I gave it a spin (afterwards Chris was kind enough to provide me with a custom PC build so I could have a look into the unlocked features of the game).
The demo does not allow you to play with all races. It also only allows you to play Quick Battle mode. In the unlocked version VTA allows you to play all 4 different game modes. These are Conquest, Quick Battle, All Against One and Rag Tag Fleet (this last one is flying around the stars looking for home).
VTA allows you to choose from 5 races to play with. Each has its own bonuses and negative traits. You can see the trait modifiers for the Dev’orn race below. Some races specialize in offense (like the Dev’orn), others in defense, diplomacy or research.
Race variety is good, they really offer a good mix. From Humans, to a Female Society, to a Hive Collective of Scarabs to Giant Warriors and Clones. The only negative aspect to note is that in-game they all feel a bit alike. Ok, so ship designs are different (this is good) however their specific personalities are not fully explored. For instance, game text is the same for all races, from research suggestions, to mission summary (from what I could tell).
When you start your game you’re presented with a 2D starmap. Navigation is smooth. Owned planets glow with the color of each race. Unexplored planets don’t glow. Game looks great. Music is also nice by the way.
So, what can you do in the game. You can build ships (colony, fighters, frigates or capital classes) or decide to improve your fleet strength. With respect to planet options you can explore planets to find sources of cash, derelicts, research bonuses or you can decide to improve your gates to increase planet range.
You can also do research, although you can only choose from options presented to you. You can move your fleets around, attack your opponents or engage in diplomacy. Diplomacy options range from making peace, declaring war and proposing an alliance. Basic but present.
All these decisions, and game actions, are really one-planet-one-click actions so you can only instruct one order for each planet each turn. When you’re through with all of your planets possible actions you hit Next (for next turn) or if you don’t want to micromanage so much you’re also offered a convenient Auto option to let the computer decide what to do with the remaining planets.
VTA spaceship combat feels like a mini game inside the game. There are many tactical aspects to choose from, which is great. First you choose your fleet formation, then the fleet’s movement and finally the firing directions (you are allowed to see your opponent’s tactical decisions upfront).
The tactical decisions variety has sufficient depth and really forces you to think since there’s not much you can do after the battle begins. In this sense VTA puts you in the fleet commander’s seat, figuratively speaking you choose your battles tactics, the battle itself is left to your pilots.
You can’t control your fleet during the battle however you can still make some more decisions during battle. You can decide to bring your heavy cavalry: frigates or capital ships or plant mines.
A less positive aspect of VTA battles however is that they can become a bit repetitive, since you can’t skip them (you always have to fight them to finish). There is no skip or automatic resolve button, so, this can be a bit annoying in larger games.
Vincere Totus Astrum was a nice surprise. I confess that I never thought that playing a casual iOS 4x space strategy game could be so engaging and be able to suck you in so successfully as VTA manages to do (although this is my first true iOS space strategy game experience for what it’s worth).
VTA is quite intuitive and easy to play. It’s clear what you can do from the start. A nice tutorial is also offered to clear any remaining doubts you may have. So, in this sense VTA achieves the objective of being a casual game for casual gamers perfectly, but at the same time it keeps true to the genre which makes it the perfect vehicle to attract more fans to the genre.
Remember that I didn’t play the iOS version (I don’t have an iOS device). I only played mostly through the website VTA demo and a bit more using the PC build Chris was kind enough to provide me with (this build helped me further on understanding what the locked features were). So, I don’t know how stable the game really is or if it has bugs or quirks, or other iOS types of problems, so proceed on your own risk.
Anyway, and overall, Vincere Totus Astrum is a great experience. The 4 different playing modes, the variety of races, starmaps, the battles mini-game and the amount of stuff you can do should be enough to keep you entertained for some time. The App is cheap so while this article is not actually a review I guess I can recommend VTA to all space strategy fans that own an iOS device. I hope casual fans will like it, since in my opinion, as I’ve already said VTA is a great introduction to the genre.
You can buy Vincere Totus Astrum at iTunes App Store here.
Chris told SpaceSector that he’s planning for a VTA update. He plans to include the following features in chunks or chapters as he calls it:
- Ground combat (building carriers to transport tanks for battle).
- Each race gets new race specific techs to research, which will assist each race in various ways
- New planet management overscreen to quickly scroll through planets and check stats
- Introducing Antik Artifacts, once found can be turned off/on in options during game and affect gameplay various ways
- New Playable race (Caretakers)
- New Enemy AI (Ve’Dikeen), not playable
- New Purification and Destruction terraforming technology available to counter Ve’Dikeen threat
- New Enemy AI (Antik) not playable
Chris mentioned that these updates are being planned (if not already in the works) but he said that the extent of what he’s able to do will depend on sales. So, in conclusion I don’t know when/if they will become a reality in the near future. They are nice improvements though.
Chris has also a deal on the way to port VTA to PC to be sold via Impulse. He also mentioned that a possible android version could be on the way.
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