[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ome very impressive space RTS games have been showing up recently with some very attractive and in-depth features. Many developers are taking a hybrid approach, combining elements of gameplay from other genres and expertly fusing them to the real time strategy genre. Putting the power of fleet assembly in the player’s hands, Starfall Tactics is an Unreal Engine 4 built RTS with some expansive customization that balances the action with the time-consuming task of creating and organizing a fleet of battleships in space. With the Kickstarter goal making it over the halfway point, we’re taking a look at the pre-alpha demo.
The alpha is an early prototype of the game of course, and those who play will realize off the bat that ship components have no preview images in the mouse-over pop up descriptions. Some parts have a written summary of their performance, however most of them don’t. The best way to judge the functionality is by the power output, rate of fire, and attack range. The player will begin by populating the fleet roster, clicking the empty spaces and choosing a ship class. There’s a decent variety of battleships, cruisers, and frigates available, each with different component layouts. Each class is mapped with particular bays that can hold weapons, shields, armor, thrusters and utilities. Every ship type will have a maximum power capacity, which of course cannot be overloaded. Keeping this in mind, the player must also drag and drop components into the bay grids to fill up the space and equip their ship. Ship capacity isn’t the only factor, as there’s a maximum budget of 10,000 credits available to spend on your fleet. Each ship will accrue a cost depending on the parts attached. If you’re like me and can spend hours customizing characters or ships in a game, all this red tape might tack on an extra 30-60 minutes before you see battle.
Blasters, torpedoes, or particle weaponry? Don’t jump the gun just choosing a tier, because each weapon type comes in variants that have different capacities, costs, rate of fire, range, power, and so on. It’s not as simple as picking the aesthetically pleasing ship hull and tossing on the essential thrusters and then loading it up with some weapons. Different classes mean different hull types. Some ships come equipped with bays for only torpedoes. Some only have blaster bays. Others may have a combination of weapon bays, so choosing the right class that fits your strategy is key. Want some slow, powerful plasma weapons or particle beams? It’s a safe bet to assign a frigate to your flanks that has decent room for plasma blasters for a low costing ship. If you don’t mind sacrificing fleet size for some heavy frigate guardians, other types like the Vanguard are equipped with two 2×4 grid torpedo bays, equipping it to rain missiles on the foe. A particle weapon bay in the front gives it the ability to stack on some forward-facing offensive beams. My first fleet had three Vanguards loaded with torpedo launchers and instead of particle weapons in the forward bay, I hammered in a couple of armor plates. Some bays are compatible with other components, so if your primary or secondary weapon bays are strapped, it’s possible to bolt in some armor or shield generators in the other bay.
There’s a hefty list of weapons in Starfall Tactics, with enough variety to support a couple different battle tactic changes if you start a losing streak. But let’s talk defense, since there’s a fair amount of safeguards available in this prototype. Small, medium, and heavy armors can fill those empty slots in the engineering bay. But maybe you’d rather bulk up the offensive and compensate with a shield generator or anti-missile system. Torpedo deterrents are a great choice, but if you go up against an opponent armed to the teeth with particle beams, you’re going to end up in tears. Shield generators and shield cells will boost the vitality of your ship, and it’s a beautiful thing when your flagship is all that’s left, less than 100 armor points in the health meter, the enemy’s battleship is laying down the pain with two support fighters and your shields are MAXED. You hold up against the onslaught, taking those hits, the armor plating is safe and all weapon systems are cutting lose, laying waste to the opposition (this is based on a true story while testing this alpha). Needless to say, there’s room for many strategy types and play styles in Starfall Tactics.
The focus of the Starfall Tactics alpha is actually not the battle, but the ship assembly. Most of the work put into the prototype is actually in the ship editor, so savor your time with this component of the demo. To much dismay, the battle system in the current build is lackluster, but rewarding nonetheless. Clicking battle on the main menu automatically pits the player against a copy of another player’s fleet, and the fight begins right away. There’s no room for commands, so it’s basically a theatrical mode where you watch your fleet do battle in autopilot. Ships can be clicked and monitored for statistics, but there’s not much intervention to be done by the player. The leaderboard makes it all worth it however, and my winning streak was upset, forcing me to go back and change up that fleet. Successfully Greenlit on Steam and in it’s final few days on Kickstarter, Starfall Tactics has what it takes to be an addicting RTS; if it can get the funding. If you’re all about it, you can grab that prototype, or if time is short, the trailer can be found here.