by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Space…the final frontier
Star Wolves 3 gets off to a bang with a decent introduction cut-scene which immediately raises expectations of this, the third installment of the obscure Star Wolves franchise. The voice acting work of the intro video is fairly good quality, the visuals are OK and the story is set for some huge battle that you hope to be thrust into as soon as the loading screen dissipates. But unfortunately, the introduction video isn’t an indication of the overall product and unfortunately it’s all down hill from that point on.
Following the initial video, you begin the game with a slow moving undefendable tug mothership. No problem there, most games start small and require you to gain experience before moving on to bigger and better things. But the main issue I had is that when starting out, there was no real indication on where I was supposed to go, or what I was supposed to do. The intro video, although entertaining, gives no indication as to what I was doing in the galaxy apart from piloting this great hulk of spaceship. You are given an initial quest, which is quite straightforward, but after that, you can either follow along the dull linear quest path or can go in search of some side quests.
Massive game universe
The game world is massive - there are literally hundreds of star systems to explore, each with quests which can be accepted or declined. You can wander around each of these star systems as you please, going about your business. Unfortunately, as the game world is so huge and daunting, so can feel like the only flea in a dog pound. Sure, there’s plenty to do, but where do you start.
Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately, the gameplay is rather linear. Many of the main quest lines require you to go to point A, meet with Person B and then head back to the initial location to collect your reward. There are indeed, a number of opportunities to divert your way off the main mission path. But as mentioned, this is both a blessing and a hindrance as moving away from the main quest locations means that you could wander aimlessly through space – something you really wouldn’t want to do at the standard game speed. Luckily, there is the option to increase the game speed, and this will be used frequently.
Time to get out that telescope
The spectacular background visuals of planets, star formations, moons and rising suns can only increase the monotony of hurtling (or should I say chugging) through space for so long. Indeed, the background visuals are picturesque and are the high point of an otherwise disappointing game. The spacecraft themselves are decently drawn as are the characters, but could have been from a five-year old game.
Audio is somewhat disappointing. After the initial intro video, I was expecting some handy voice over work as I traveled through the various systems and met with important NPCs. Alas, this was not the case. The conversation trees require a heap of reading. That in itself would not be an issue, but for the fact that the conversations are as interesting as a lecture about how to watch paint dry. On most occasions, the dialogue is limited to one response choice – giving the impression that the developers are pushing you in a particular direction to progress the story further. Having said that, there is not much of a story at all. You begin as the pilot of a slow hulking tug, with no idea how you’ve gotten to this point, and no real reason to pursue the prescribed missions other than to increase your in-game wealth
And on more than one occasion, early on in the game, I gave, what ended up being, one bad answer in the dialogue tree. The result…being attacked and subsequently killed. This would be fine if you’d had time to purchase some decent defensive capabilities or some offensive firepower, but when you’re piloting a slow freighter early on in the game, it becomes disheartening, given that you’re a sitting duck.
The game interface isn’t too bad. Most actions can be made from the main screen. The movement controls take some getting used to (the tutorial can be lacking at times), but once you get the hang of it, works well. The main issue with the controls was with the destination controls. The game has 3-dimensional movement, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where you want to move.
Elite…it certainly ain’t
Space trading games have been around for many years, and despite the RPG elements (where you gain points to use towards special talents), Star Wolves 3 is just another in the genre. Sure, there are other features to the game which may suggest otherwise, but the game comes down to making money and improving your spaceship and standing by roving the galaxy. Fans of the classic Elite, may certainly enjoy this game in a nostalgic way, but all others should probably steer clear – unless you are looking for a cure for insomnia.
Background visuals are picturesque, open game universe
Audio is lacking, story is non-existent