This is a game that spent a very long time in development, much to the annoyance of some of the impatient backers of the project who had to wait almost two years for its initial iOS release. I had to wait even longer for the Android conversion to be released so I could have a chance to play. Was it worth it?
Star Command was a very successful kickstarter project that was delayed for a considerable amount of time. First announced back in 2011 by the developer WarBaloon, it was described as a crossover between Star Trek and Game Dev Story, another micro management simulation where you must micromanage a software company that creates computer games.
The kick-starter project in October of 2011 asked for $20,000 and over a thousand people contributed and raised an impressive $43,000. The game was originally slated to be released in December of that year but the release date kept on slipping back again and again.
Unfortunately due to the games complexity, it was taking longer than originally planned to complete and finances dried up. Warbaloon set-up another kick-starter fund to appeal for more money which was also successful. The game was finally released on iOS in May of 2013 with the Android release following in September.
The premise of the game is simple. You must take command of a starship and its crew and explore the galaxy engaging in ship to ship battles with all manner of different species. As you play, a story will start to emerge which will lead to a final, tense, explosive battle.
But back to the beginning. First you must select a ship which takes your fancy, with the larger ships representing a higher game difficulty. Then you can start to build the internals. The easiest setting means your basic ship will contain just six empty rooms.
Using assigned tokens, which you can spend in different denominations, you can turn these empty rooms into dodge control, shield control and weapons rooms for example. The ships control room or bridge is already built by default along with the engineering section.
As you replay the game on harder difficulty levels, you’ll find more empty rooms to use with a larger selection of room types to construct. But with the beginning of any new game, you’ll only have enough tokens to build a few basic rooms to see you through the first handful of battles. As you progress you’ll earn more tokens to buy further rooms or to upgrade old ones.
The bridge is where the captain of the ship will reside with a complement of tactical officers in red shirts. These guys can also perform in gun battles with anyone who decides to board your ship.
The weapons rooms will are your ships primary level of defence and are manned by a maximum of two red shirts.
Engineering holds the ships engine, obviously, with engineers in mustard coloured shirts. They can also be assigned to run around the ship to perform repairs on the ship when you are under attack.
Another location is the shield control room which is complemented by crew in light blue shirts. Crew members in blue can also heal others when they stand in close enough proximity.
Finally another option is the dodge control room. This sounds strange but really comes into play during the ship to ship battles. When this option is at full charge, it allows your ship to dodge the next round of enemy incoming fire just as long as you use it at the right time.
Depending on the size of your ship, every room has its maximum number of occupants. The ship will operate at maximum efficiency when it has the full complement of crew on board at their stations. I explain why this is an important in a moment.
Star Command is primarily about ship to ship battle which is controlled through the use of mini games. When your desired weapon is ready to be fired, touching the relevant icon will bring up a mini game. Each type of weapon on board your vessel has a distinct mini game attributed to it. Successfully completing a mini game will fire a barrage of shots from your ship. If you under-perform, so will your weapon.
As an example, one of these games places a small targeting circle on-screen and you must tap the screen when a horizontal targeting line is aligned with it. The process is then repeated with a vertical targeting line. This sequence will then be repeated a further three times on the same screen. For each successful target circle you complete, your ship will fire the corresponding number of shots at the enemy.
As your crew fight and become more proficient with their weapons, they will increase their personal statistics. But ship battles aren’t always fought at a distance.
When the enemy knock out your shields, they may decide to teleport to your ship and fight the crew on hand to hand basis. This is when the micro management element really comes into play.
As previously mentioned, the red shirts who patrol the bridge and man your weapons can leave their posts and engage in phaser battles with intruders, if you want the captain can also join the fray.
Now the game starts to become more tactical. For example, when a red shirt leaves his weapon post, the ship is running at a reduced capacity. That particular weapon will take longer to reload before it can fire again. If both crew members leave that weapon, it will be classed non-operational and cannot be used unless one red shirt returns.
So during a massive frantic battle, you’re trying to fight another ship, whilst running around the corridors killing off the invading aliens which means trying to find that balance to win both battles.
That’s how the game plays, but how does it look. In my opinion the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The game is primarily drawn using pixel art which looks great both at a distance and just as funky when zoomed up close with the simple use of a pinch zoom. This applies to the various ships and aliens you will encounter in the game.
Sometimes it is necessary to get this close to manage your crew efficiently as you really have to tell them everything they need to do. That is why it’s called micro management.
The background art behind the ships is equally brilliant. There is beautiful high-resolution artwork ranging from the inside of star ships, planetary views and space stations.
The sound effects nicely complement the game and there is an excellent selection of original music that matches the current game-play situation.
If you’re a serious gamer, it probably won’t take long to get through the game and once complete you can either just roam the galaxy looking for random encounters or travel to the ship yards and select a larger ship and play the game again with a higher difficulty.
The only downside is that when talking to other people, your often given a choice of responses. Whilst these range of responses provide the game with its good sense of humour, they don’t have any real effect on the game-play mechanics.
There is no demo or lite version but once you buy the game there are no further in-game purchases. The original kick-starter brief detailed many situations and game play elements that didn’t make it into the final product such as teleporting to the surface of planets for away missions. These and other elements will be coming in later updates.
I’m currently on my third play through and I enjoy it immensely each time. It comes highly recommended.
PC and Apple Macintosh versions are still in development.