sun 07/06/2020

Star Command | reviews, news & interviews

Star Command

Star Command

An ambitous space adventure that suffers from lowered expectations

There is something very familiar about Star Command. It's not just that this Kickstarter-funded game has been in development since 2011, nor that the setting superficially resembles Star Trek. It's more that there are several other games that do what Star Command sets out to do and, unfortunately, do it better.

In Star Command, you are the captain of a small spaceship that you must outfit with both crew and basic functions, represented in-game as "rooms" that can be built on available plots scattered around the deck. Weapons rooms, shield generator rooms, medical bays and other more specialised prefabs must be purchased with tokens in one of three flavours. You also need tokens to hire crew members that you can assign to rooms, granting them a specialism (plus an appropriately coloured uniform) and activating that room's function.

Star Command - aliens in distressWith your ship outfitted you are deployed on missions that almost always involve getting into a fight. Despite the rich feature set of diplomacy and trading outlined in Star Command's Kickstarter pitch, devlopment constraints have mean that these have been shelved for the moment in favour of a combat-orientated game.

This focus on combat is a problem because for the most part Star Command's combat system is unbearably tedious. Ship-to-ship battles rely on your weapons laboriously powering up and generating the necessary ammo before you can fire, resetting the counters and having to build up from scratch again. The same mechanic is used to generate "dodge" tokens (with your dodge room, of course) that give you the power to nullify attacks if you hit the Dodge button at the right moment.

Enemy craft must do the same, so for the most part combat means watching a series of progress bars creep towards completion followed by tricky mini-rhythm games to simulate the difficulty of actually hitting anything. Even an easy battle takes absolutely ages and feels more like an endurance test than a tactical challenge. Your ship can never be destroyed so if you sustain heavy damage things just get more drawn out.

Should you be boarded the action switches to a top-down real time strategy affair, where your red-shirted personnel can engage intruders with blaster fire and the others can get out of the way and heal or try to keep the plates spinning in their designated rooms. These sections are more playable and enjoyable, although dimwitted AI makes even this more tedious than it need be.

Two recent games in particular cast a very unfavourable light on Star Command. The minimalist strategy game Rymdkapsel manages to take a similar idea and streamline it to wonderful effect, while the PC game FTL again has almost the exact same basic framework (crew members you can move like an RTS, weapons, shield and engine rooms, etc) but manages to keep things moving swiftly, always ensuring there is something for you to do.

With perseverence, a plot is revealed and the game gets both more challenging and slightly deeper as new rooms and enemy types open up some tactical options, but getting there is a slog that feels like a wasted opportunity. Regular updates are promised with new features. With luck, it won't be too long before they release the update containing the missing fun.

For the most part, combat means watching a series of progress bars creep towards completion.


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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