Author: Jay-Rey (@jay_rey)
Game: Star Conflict
System: PC (Steam)
Players: Single, multiplayer (online mode only)
Price: Free-to-play (paid DLC is available)
Rating: 8/10 warp drives. Would participate in the Kessel Run
On Sunday, Kotaku reported about a massive battle that happened between two of the biggest faction in EVE Online. Now, I have never played EVE, but the general consensus is that the game is much more fun to read about than to play. What makes me interested is the idea of large scale spaceship warfare. We all got a hint of that while playing Rogue Squadron on N64, and Star Wars continued the trend in Battlefront 2. So while the reviews for EVE haven’t encouraged me to take the plunge and buy the game, it did motivate me to find an alternative: Star Conflict.
As with a lot of games on steam that I play, there are a whole bunch of nuances I will be missing by the end of this review. I am new to the PC Master Race of gaming, and am very much a consul loving gamer. I don’t see why we can’t get along, but we can’t.
Star Conflict is a Free-to-Play multiplayer game. First, you choose a faction. Each has there own story driven political agenda, as well as in game benefits (speed, attack strength, defensive abilities, etc). Each faction starts you off with one ship. As you continue to play you open up a tree of ships you can unlock as you progress. You can still pilot other faction ships, But as with any game, separating your points along multiple skill trees (or in this case ship ranks), it will take you longer to unlock the next level. Plus, you actually have to play with a particular factions ship enough to progress in that tree. So if you’re playing all over the place, you’ll be stuck for a while.
Free-to-play games often have two methods of in-game payment: 1 you earn just by playing, and the other you get for paying. The play credits are worth less, so it costs a lot more to buy something. The paid credits, however, while costing real world money, will get you upgrades much quicker. You can modify your main weapons, as well as auxiliary missiles and special items. Some of these special items include warp drives, cloaking devices, defensive flares, extra shield, etc. There are a lot of options. As you would guess, ships that are faster and more agile are weaker in dog fights, while heaving hitting ships have minimal evasive maneuverability.
Alright, that’s all the boring stuff. Lets get into it. The gameplay mechanics are simple. AWSD are for your general movement and pitch, Space and Alt are your yaw, Q and R function as your roll options, with shift being a temporary boost you get for increased maneuverability. Left clicking shoots your main gun, right clicking fires your missile. F, 1, and 2 operate your special items. Some just need to be recharged, some deplete before the round is over.
The battlefields are large areas of space with stuff in the middle. Some levels have asteroids, some have space debris, and others have actual space stations. All gameplay takes place within your ship, and as you’d expect, up and down is all relative, and very much the point. Attacking an enemy from below them changes the way they can avoid you. I recall playing War Thunder at the same time as this. Removing gravity created a large difference. War Thunder (a WWII combat flight game) has a lot of things to worry about when playing, which is arguably more challenging and enjoyable. But the freedom of space flight allows for some really fun battle scenarios.
There are several game modes in Star Conflict. A VIP-type mode makes you kill the captain of the enemy team, and they no longer get re-spawns. Beacon Hunt has 1 of three check points activated for a set amount of time. Battle over the air space to capture and move on as the next one appears. Another mode has all three beacons activated, and you fight to control them for the longest time. You get the point.
Now for my thoughts. Its fun. Changing your ship totally changes your methodology when playing. My lighter, faster ship has a cloak on it. I just jump across the map and hunt down VIPs before they even spot me. My actual fighter ship can be right in the thick of a beacon fight, flying in a flurry of spirals and twists. You get some pretty Star Wars-esque moments as you fly close to asteroids to avoid missile fire and ditch an enemy on your tail. There are even some co-op game types where you fight waves of enemy to protect a point, or infiltrate an enemies base to plant bombs. Flying the ships reminds me of Battle Star Galactica Raptors. Stopping on a dime, quick U-turns, and no clunky-ness (for the most part).
Now, game lobbies are slow. I have waited in a queue for 5 to six minutes before a game starts. And after each game, you’re thrown back out to your hanger. You’ll have to re-queue up to play again. Being free-to-play offers issues that plague most of these games. You hit a point that causes ship improvements to become super slow. You don’t get to enjoy the benefits of customizing your spacecrafts without putting some money in, so no fun decals if you’re cheap. And because I play so sporadically, there is some game play mechanics I am sure I am missing out on.
But for a free game? I totally recommend it. If you play it for a week, its worth it. Games are easy to jump into and the most fun when you take advantage of the free movement afforded to you in space. The graphics are pretty smooth and for the most part gameplay works how it is intended. I did get some lag, with my ship jumping from one spot to another, or a brief duration where my gun isn’t firing only to follow some insane hyper firing mode to catch up. But I’ll blame my own internet connect (I am 2 floors below my router).
These free-to-play games are just to pass the time. I don’t really know the story, and skipped a lot of it. This is not something I’d do on a game I paid for. But I am sure the story is pretty interesting too… annnyyyywaaayyyyssss… The long and the short is that its a fun game. Download it and enjoy.
Have you played Star Conflict? What’d you think? Any thoughts on the free-to-play model? Any better games for the space combat genre? Let us know in the comments below!