• Starfleet Armada review by Rick Moscatello

    An awesome $10 game

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    Usually I ignore cheap games ($10 or less), unless they’re old classics I never got around to playing back when they had a $40 price tag. Games that come out at this price point are usually pretty shallow games, easily showing me all they have to offer in an afternoon or so.

    Despite the low price, Starfleet Armada is deep, with an actual learning curve; 40 hours of playtime in, I reckon I’ve seen most of what it has, though there’s still a few bits left…it’s a heck of a deal for $10.

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    That's an amazing 2D universe!

    Starfleet Armada is a mostly turn-based strategy game. You start out with a small basic fleet, and your goal is to fight/explore your way across the universe, to defeat your enemy at the end.

    An extensive tutorial walks your way through the game, which is good, as there’s a learning curve here that’ll take a couple of games before you really understand what everything is for.

    You start by picking your race, which basically means ship artwork and “standard” weapons, as well as two tiny special abilities; there are dozens of races, but you have to earn your way to being able to use the better races (I can’t exactly imagine someone playing the 40+ games it would take to get access to all of them, as each game takes 6 hours or so…but I could be wrong).

    Then you pick an enemy race; you need to destroy them utterly. That’s the game’s premise and entirety of the storyline. It’s good enough.

    Your most important decision before starting is your initial artifacts. There are dozens of artifacts available, though most aren’t available until you’ve beaten enough races. The artifacts basically give you a meta-bonus ability, for example slowing down all enemy ships, or faster weapons recharge for your ships, among many, many, other possibilities. You can find these artifacts during play, but having some of these right from the start can help immensely.

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    One of many unique systems to explore.

    Then you’re set forth in the universe, a universe packed with stuff to do. While the game is mostly turn based, there are mini-games that require a bit of arcade skill. There are half a dozen such games, mostly looking and playing like 80s arcade games. They’re cute little games, you only play for 15 seconds or so, and are so random that they’re fun despite their simplicity.

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    One of many distinct planets to explore.

    The most important mini-game is planet exploration. Your major source of funds is resources gathered from planets. So, down you go in a planetary explorer, onto planets packed with random earthquakes, random lightning bolts, and random fire walls, among other hazards. These wear away at your armor, and eventually crew---if all the lander’s crew dies, well, you’ll just have to send down another lander. In addition to resources, you can (and will) capture alien creatures, many of which are hostile (I’ve lost plenty of crew and a few landers to Spastic Klumaxers…and even died to a space penguin once). There are other things to find on planets as well as dozens of different resources (from tin to silver to polonium to argon)…the immense variety and randomness keeps this large part of the game from getting dull.

    There’s an extensive research system. It’s primarily a speed bump to keep you from crossing the galaxy too quickly, but as you improve your technology, you get bonuses that you’ll appreciate.

    Getting back to space, there are 5 types of ships, broken into 4 sizes. Your battle cruisers are the main warships, while the fighter carriers give support. Transporter ships can beam troops around (useful for capturing ships, and for exploring distressed ships—I have to skip over a few things because there’s much in this game); they can also beam enemy crew members into space. Cargo ships are pretty obvious, though they can also perform mid-combat repairs. Science ships can similarly steal research points from enemy ships. Ships can also be modified with modules (enhancing armor, damage, accuracy, or a host of other effects) and bays. For non-combat ships, the bays just reinforce the ship’s purpose. Carrier bays hold fighters (not particularly useful right now, but the game is still mostly a work in progress). Battle cruiser bays hold “dirty bombs,” really powerful weaponsto turn the tide of battle; these vary from poisons which can annihilate a ship’s crew, to massive armor-destroying bombs, among other combat effects.

    There’s also space combat, with pirates, alien races (or rebels), and your enemy. While there are rules for flank or rear shots, most of the time combat is a brutal slaughter of the enemy, and a well-equipped player fleet can annihilate even a strong enemy fleet in a few salvos. The point of the game is to win as quickly as possible (for the best final score), so the slightly weak combat isn’t too great an issue, but this does lead to the only real problem with the game.

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    Totally customizable fleets.

    While there is a great deal of fun to be had here, the game does have a weakness: the final act. The first part of the game Is fun and challenging, as you try to make your way through the universe with few resources and low technology. The mid-game is fun, too, as you know where the best trade centers are, can exploit wormholes, and fight your way out of most situations while scooping up ever more resources in preparation for the endgame.

    The final act, unfortunately, is a slog. To win, you have to destroy not only the enemy starbase, but every enemy fleet in the universe. This means you’ll have to battle through a dozen or so battles where the end is never in doubt. It’s simple, but tedious, and detracts a bit from the fun. Despite this issue (which may well improve as the game is something of a work in progress), the game is still a good investment of a mere ten gaming dollars.

    Overall score: 89/100
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Starfleet Armada review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post