Star Conflict Review – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Star Conflict Review




In my last article (BOMB), I stated that there were very few flying games that focused on the WW2 era of fighting. While this remains true, I also think that there are few that cast their sights into the far future, either. Oh sure, plenty have tried to throw their hats into the ring, before getting overshadowed by the behemoth that is EVE Online. Well, now I think we’ve found a potential David for this Goliath – Star Conflict.

Now, I wasn’t too sure what I’d be getting when I started this up. I saw some screenshots previously, but I try not to look at a game or its reviews before I play it, so my judgement isn’t swayed either way. What I didn’t expect was to be greeted with a UI the same way muggers greet businessmen in a dark alley. To say the first screen is overwhelming is an understatement. You’re bombarded with information, about your ship, your fleet, levels, load-outs, factions, the list goes on. Once my head stopped spinning, I found the tutorial. Yes, found the tutorial. While I’m grateful for the lack of hand-holding, a game like this could do with slowing down for a second and explaining just what the heck is going on.

So you’re given a flight tutorial, a combat tutorial and a practice match (all of which you can replay at any time) in the help section. Nothing about what’s going on in what I assume is the garage, but I figured it out after a while. You click “Play” and you can choose between “Skirmish” (PvP) “Sector Conquest” (Faction fighting) and “Attacked Sectors” (PvE). Within the PvE area, you can choose to “Undock” which allows you to fly around the space stations and such, providing a little free-roaming element which I like. However, this uses up fuel, and you do not want to get stranded with no fuel in the cold vastness of space. Before doing any of this, you should (obviously) play and pay attention to the tutorial, since there are a fair few elements to be aware of while flying. Once you’re done with that, click on the fat guy on the right hand side of the screen. This is a sort of further tutorial, taking place in the “Undocking” area, allowing you to use warp gates and other high tech things to explore around different sectors. It works well enough.

Now, the gameplay is where Star Conflict shines, hands down. This has got to be the smoothest space combat game I’ve ever played. There are several ways to go about controlling your ship, all of which are always active, but never get in the way of each other. For example, since you’re in space you can strafe with your ship. Up and down are space and left shift, while A and D are left and right. You can also turn your ship in each direction using the mouse, and all of the elements merge together seamlessly, allowing for complete control over your ship. One thing that really stood out to me was the complete lack of any sense of which way is “the right way up”. Since you can “do a barrel roll” with Q and E, if you do ending up spinning your ship upside down, there’s literally no need to spin it back since everything controls the same either way. This gives the player a certain sense of freedom. But being in space can also have its disadvantages. You have boosters on all sides of your ship, which allow you to move in pretty much any direction. This is good. However, the booster at the back (the one moving you forward) also happens to be the biggest, with two extra thrusters to make you go even faster if you press shift. This, coupled with the low friction/drag of space, means that if you’re doing some nifty flying in and out of space debris only to come face to face with an asteroid, the chances are you’re going straight into that, and taking some hefty hull damage as a result.

The weapons are also fun to use. You have lasers, bullets, guided missiles, unguided missiles and so on. This gives a huge amount of variety of dispatching the enemy. Lasers and bullets are “primary” weapons, which need less maintenance and do damage overtime, but overheat. Missiles are “secondary” weapons and need to be bought as ammo before combat, but do a lot of damage and are great at finishing damaged ships. There are also many different types of ship, from fast little scouts, to larger, slower gunships. When engaging, the enemy ship is displayed at the top left of the screen, including its type and stats. This lets the player make a fight or flight decision.

Teamwork is absolutely vital in PvP (and even in PvE) battles. When you start out, you’ll probably do what everyone does- circle around each other firing everything you have, until one of you explodes. But once you start learning the intricacies of the game, you’ll know that some ships are lightly armoured but incredibly fast and nimble. My favourite trick was always to use a “Tackler”(usually the Fox) scout ahead, get the attention of a gunship and weave in and out of shipwrecks and asteroids, letting them damage themselves. If they tracked me well enough, they’d fall straight into the trap of my teammates, who were ready and waiting to tear them to shreds. If they damaged me too much, I’d go invisible and slip away. Foolproof.

And finally, the music. While its’ very generic and cliché, the “epic” space combat music works undeniably well. It amps you up for a fight, it inspires you and fits in even better while you’re fighting. Think of all the best final boss music and all the final confrontation music from the flashiest and best action games and films. You know, with the orchestrated crescendo’s and the choir singing in high pitched Latin. You don’t understand a word but it sounds awesome. All that good stuff.

As a final thought, Star Conflict is a brilliant game. It’s the best handling space combat game I’ve played so far, with intuitive combat, decent physics and “so corny it’s good” music.