I was contemplating waiting for the Steam release to give this max exposure, but I might as well get you "Only Steam"-fellows interested and to upvote their Greenlight endeavours here:
| Info Box |
Genre: Top down Space Shooter
Price: € 8,99
Website + Humble Store: http://cheerfulghost.com/game/25575/starship-rubicon
If you want to test the combat mechanics, there is an earlier build here without the campaign and the ship building:
| Impressions (initially posted in the Indie Games thread) |
I just played Starship Rubicon for 4-5 hours now and it pushes all the right buttons. Its easily topping my January voting list in the Indie thread now (which is over here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=964561) This game is honestly great. There are many of those top down space combat games out there and most of them I find "interesting", but they rarely hook me enough to keep returning to them. The focussed FTL-style mission design helps a lot in that regard, but I'll give some more detailed impressions further down.
In short, it has the FTL mission structure with Asteroids gameplay on... steroids. (With that I win the worst-pun-of-the-day-award)
I'll get the downsides out of the way first:
- In 2 hours of playing, I already found 2 or 3 of the same pieces of equipment, so I am not sure how much different items the game has. However, the same structure didnt keep FTL from being awesome, so I dont think its a huge decisive factor here either.
- The controls take some getting used to because you'll need to do precision moving/turning/jumping and shooting, and sometimes my fingers got mixed up in the action, give the game more than 5 minutes.
Onto the good stuff!
| Ship Building |
You can find and buy ship parts to improve the stats and capabilities of your ship. I always love it when make you deal with inventory in a puzzle style way (like this or Resident Evil 4) and the different parts completely change the way your ship feels, by adding more weapons, turbo boosts, shields, adjusting the effects of other ship parts and what not. Any part that you are adding immediately shows its pay off, and its quite rewarding to try different play styles, for example buffing up a ship with almost only more armor and just slicing through enemies instead of carefully dancing and pinpointing attacks.
| Challenge |
The game is quite hard, and basically the best kind of hard. You are punished for being not careful enough, not knowing enemy trajectories/abilities and mastering the controls. Once I got into how this game needs to be played, I had a blast. I cant remember any game lately that made me feel as tense when dancing around enemies in Starship Rubicon. You just know that a false step could lead to your ship being annihilated, and unlike FTLs basically turn based combat, fighting a swarm of enemies with only a bit of health left can be quite nerve-wracking. I'll probably get used to that eventually, but its just a very fun level of challenge.
To allow for progress, even if it is too challenging in the beginning, you have a permanent unlock system, with which you can unlock some new ship parts, starting ships and colors. Works very well as a carrot to replay the game multiple times.
Another thing they did nicely was how to integrate more interesting environmental hazards other than just the basic asteroids. Mines, Enemy Shields you shouldnt pass, special asteroids that reflect your shots, there is a lot going on here that requires you to pay attention.
| Risk / Reward |
They absolutely nailed this part. The devs understand exactly what "player choice" can mean outside of choosing a path and mere dialogue trees. Every aspect of the game has the potential to be rewarding to you, while also either taking some safety away from you or generally making your endeavours more dangerous. A few examples:
- You get to choose which enemies to attack -> more enemies = more gold and more danger of being killed
- You will find bigger and better equip for your ship, but integrating those into your ship will be harder to do symmetrically, which means you will lose your "If you die once, you can retry for 500 gold"- ability
- If you take allies with you to fight, they can help , but you wont be able to use them afterwards for a few encounters AND you run the risk of losing them if you let them die.
- A particular ally gives you a lot of money if you take him with you... and he survives
- If you use the "500 gold to retry option", you can retry, but will you be able to make another 500 gold before you die the next time or will you have lost money that you could have spent on permanent unlocks?
- Some ship parts have strong effects... with similary strong side effects
| Small touches |
The game does some small things pretty nice as well, the biggest one being the visualisation of the galaxy map:
Every possible encounter shows you at one glance what you can expect from it. The rewards are hovering next to it, same with the expected enemy types, amount and traps. Its a small thing, but as you progress it really makes you feel like stepping into enemy territory once your whole screen is starting to get filled with enemy symbols.
Oh and: My god does it feel rewarding to upgrade your ship. That +100% health upgrade you saved up for? Makes you feel like a tank (and apparently stupid since I felt too tough and died by warping into enemies). All the upgrades feel meaningful and the game really does a great job of emphasizing that.
| Final Words |
While the basic gameplay doesnt look like much (Just flying around in space, killing enemies), the way HOW they structured this game and how the movement/navigation feels makes all the difference. The game is perfectly tuned for that "just one more round"-attitude since no stage takes more than 3-5 minutes, which also alleviates my biggest issue with open world games that use similar combat schemes. They are just too unfocussed, making individual encounters less interesting and rewarding. Here, every encounter is a fight for life and spoils, incredibly rewarding and equally tense.
So yeah, recommended for you guys to check out. It might not be the best game you played this year, but I am enjoying it too much not to make a thread for it. Extra GIF just cruising around: