KickStarter Preview: Starfall TacticsFiled inside: Games
The space RTS genre is long due for a new Killer App—and perhaps we’ll find it in the customization-heavy Starfall Tactics.
Currently in development by Siberian studio Snowforged Entertainment, the game takes a genre that’s often rife with micromanagement and macroeconomics and pumps it with some casual 4X elements and a heavy dose of ship customization.
In adding a simple, but vast customization system, Starfall hopes to create combat that is powerfully reminiscent of one of my favorite recent experiences, Dreadnought. You can take a ship and outfit it with different weapon types, each occupying different hardpoints that allow for different angles of attack. One weapon might have a narrow angle of attack on the front of the ship, with wide assault batteries on its sides, making positioning relative to your enemies an important characteristic of your fleet.
To make combat even more diverse and hectic, you can outfit your ships with special modules that allow for unique abilities—short-range jumps or cloaking devices can allow usually slow-moving battleships to quickly point their most powerful weapons to an enemy’s weak flank, or execute surgical strikes with fast moving ships that disappear once their target is reduced to scrap. Add to this a callback to the glory days of Freespace in the form of area-specific damage to ship systems. You can have a light striker disable the engine systems on a powerful enemy carrier in order to stem its damage. You can even outfit ships with high-grade engines and a powerful self-destruct module for fleets of kamikaze ships.
One of the aspects of the game I’m most excited about is the method by which you access the apparently vast number of hulls, weapons, and modules for these ships. The game is going to be a free-to-play experience, once that functions similarly to games like Hearthstone—you can accrue an in-game currency and purchase a form of booster packs, each of which will contain a randomized series of unlocks for your fleet.
I’m not alone in my preference of this form of progression in games such as these: the model has been proven again and again in TCGs, and has been adapted in a variety of ways into other popular multiplayer spaces like Mass Effect 3‘s reinforcement packs. Essentially, there are no limits on play like many of the F2P modern mobile games. The feeling you get when opening a new pack of upgrades and getting something rare or powerful is rarely matched.
We can be certain that players will have the ability to unlock packs through play, but also with their wallets. It looks like Starfall might also feature a subscription system that will provide some unique cosmetic benefits and a regular supply of packs delivered to keep you well stocked with powerful objects.
Starfall Tactics is being built in Unreal Engine 4, offering a heavy dose of visual fidelity combined with solid physics. The game takes ballistics to another level, taking a page out of Supreme Commander‘s book, modeling projectiles in real time instead of determining hits via die roll. Clever positioning and pathing can allow for some impressive dodges by steering around asteroids, or even other ships to intercept rockets in flight.
You can enjoy the game in a more traditional fashion, via standard matched or ranked games that clock in at a lower game-time than most RTS’s these days. The real meat comes from the Galaxy Conquest, a pseudo-4X galactic map that is persistent and occupied by thousands of players, each vying for their own goals and forming their own groups. Controlling various objects in space provides an income that can be used to bolster your production and soup up your ships. EVE Online has a similar enough mentality, with various corporations vying for territory.
Obviously, this is much less intense and political (probably), but it features safe zones for the newer and less bold, but venturing out into the darker reaches of space can access more difficult raids and missions, as well. There are tangible benefits to branching out in Galaxy Conquest.
You’ll occupy the space as a member of one of three factions (or a fourth alien faction, if enough money is made), each of which sports their own aesthetic, though it’s not yet known if your faction limits some of your other modules or unlocks.
The team behind the game is a dedicated batch of wargamers—fans of tabletop games like Warhammer 40k and the like. and that inspiration shows in the game’s design, from the tactical combat heavily based on positioning and the fleet customization mechanics. It also introduces a few qualms, however.
Early footage from the game appears notoriously flat. No only is there a lack of z-axis gameplay, but most actions in the game don’t feel like they have any impact. All the pretty explosions in the world don’t feel visceral in the least without a little camera shake here and there. Still, the game is far enough from finished that the gripes are few and far between.
The devs are asking for $45,000 to finish up. They’re shy of a quarter of the way there after three days, but more support will be necessary to see this one through. It’s got strong potential, it would be a shame not to see it through. Check out the KickStarter here.