Starfarer is most probably already fairly known by the space and sci-fi gaming community. I had an eye on it for quite some time now but was waiting for the best opportunity to do a more meaningful preview.
A week ago Fractal Softworks has released a new major alpha build where, among balancing and tweaks, they finally added campaign elements (the game’s central gameplay mode). So, because of that, I thought this was a good timing to do a Starfarer preview.
Never heard of it, what is Starfarer?
Starfarer is a space game that features elements from many genres. It has almost something for everybody. It has RPG elements (perhaps the most important piece), lots of action, adventure and some strategy elements. The game offers two distinct single-player gameplay modes: scenarios and campaign (there’s no multiplayer!).
Scenarios are space-combat instances with a very strong emphasis on tactical gameplay. You can choose from 11 different scenarios for now (remember that the game is still in alpha) and you can also choose to play a random scenario that generates different battles every time you play it. Tactical scenarios are almost a game in itself, and if there weren’t a campaign mode I wouldn’t be too unsatisfied with the game.
The campaign mode offers an open-world environment. You start humble, with only one light-sized ship, minimum crew and equipment and then you start from there grinding your way through the starmap, fighting pirates, buying new gear, ships and hiring new personnel and so forth. However, at this point, that’s pretty much it in for the campaign mode at alpha 0.51a. So, the RPG / adventure campaign mode is still very much work in progress with some screens yet inaccessible, no in-game help or tutorials (poor accessibility overall still).
Campaign promised features for the gold version include:
- Play your own character who gains experiences and upgrades skills
- Hire officers to give skill bonuses, pilot auxiliary ships, and oversee your operations
- Explore the sector for knowledge and profit
- Trade goods, run mining operations, build industries — and defend your interests
- Become involved in factional politics
Some first look impressions
The first thing you notice while playing is how gorgeous the game looks, and sounds. Ship’s rendering is quite good actually (although bad at full-zoom). Starmap objects rendering like stars and planets is also very good. The game plays smoothly and is quite easy to pickup after you go through the two available tutorials.
I love the game’s tactical aspect. Part of the reason for that is that the game allows you to have a more interventional style or more of an “admiral’s chair” perspective if you want (use tactical screen only if you like, as shown above). What this means is that you can decide to override orders for any type of ship in your fleet and take personal command of everything in the main map or decide to put yourself in the admiral’s shoes and manage the battle’s situation from a higher level perspective. There is a ship automation option to help you through if you decide to go the “admiral” approach.
However, if you decide to take personal command of your ships you must have a certain amount of command points available in order to override your ships’ assignments, command points which can be increased if you capture certain space stations. And this is perhaps the most significant strategic aspect of the game, to decide if it’s better to secure these stations earlier or to engage more aggressively at a tactical level. There seems to be other strategy elements in Starfarer, like deciding if you want to invest more on your ship, your fleet, personnel or if you decide to secure outposts or rich planets, although I didn’t experience these kinds of decisions yet, in fact I don’t know if that’s present in the game or not at this point.
The game’s quality and production value is high. You can see that there are lots of interesting details to experience like finite ammo, weapons auto-firing mechanics, the ability to switch command from one ship to another (and you can even see yourself in a shuttle moving to the new command ship). Weapons diversity is also very interesting. There’s a good mix of weapons types, some better for shields others for hulls and even others specialized against armor. There’s also another interesting feature which makes your ship overload if it takes too much damage while having shields raised. You can decide to lower shields or hit a special “flux venting” option to dissipate this flux. While in flux you can’t fire or raise shields until you recover.
Controls take a while to master but with time you’ll get there and be able to play very fluidly.
Starfarer shows a lot of potential and already provides great gameplay and many fun elements for an alpha build! The game’s tactical aspect is very mature already but the campaign mode feels like much work in progress still (although it looks promising).
The game offers a diversified array of experiences to players. It features a very enjoyable and complex tactical component, a promising RPG campaign system and some adventure and strategy elements also.
Fractal Softworks has its game through an alpha funding scheme. You can pre-order Starfarer for Windows PC, Mac or Linux in the game’s official website for $10 (FS have announced that the final price will be $19.95). If you wish to play the latest build for your OS just head over to this page.Subscribe RSS
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