by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Yet Another Last Hope for Humanity
If popular media is anything to go by, planet Earth needs to give up on its efforts to voyage into the final frontier. Whether it’s greedy corporations, predatory aliens or just good old fashioned hubris, we seem incapable of peacefully leaving the confines of our little blue sphere. Infinium Strike, a ship defense game by developer Codex Worlds, further cements this notion as humanity is barely holding on to life with one last ditch effort to stave off extinction. See, in the far future, the men and women of 2170 have successfully colonized far reaches of space, but in doing so came into contact with the organic Wrog (why do evil aliens always have mean sounding names?), who decided quickly and for no apparent good reason that they need to wipe humanity off the map. Now, in a last desperate effort, humanity has built its biggest capital ship ever, the Freedom Strike, to make a last stand.
Defence against Hordes of Enemies
As you will soon find out, the Freedom Strike isn’t the most mobile combatant. Instead of flying around engaging in dogfights, you will plop yourself down, jack up some nasty defenses, and let the enemy come to you. Being the hulking behemoth that it is, the Freedom Strike has a lot of real estate to defend, which brings forth the central concept of the game. Think tower defense, but instead of a set path or direction from which antagonists flow, you will have to ward off enemies coming from each of four “quadrants”. Beyond that, ships portal in at one of three distances, basically making 12 different areas to keep your eye on and defend. It’s hectic, but you get used to being able to easily snap between directional facings, zooming in and out and rotating the camera and keeping track of everything (even if it gets pretty difficult as the short campaign progresses). Also, kudos for the decision to also include a 2D topographical view. There really isn’t a great way to distinguish between distance quadrants sometimes, so the top-down view, while not useful for building your defenses, is vital for analyzing enemy position.
Luckily humanity’s last hope comes well equipped to deal with such threats. While your tactical options seem limited at first - all you have to work with are a few different turret types, some deployable drone ships and a couple special abilities - they play together fairly nicely to add a bit of depth. It’s all a big game of rock-paper-scissors, really. Most turrets can only hit ships at a certain range, you only get a certain number of turret docks in each ship quadrant and turrets get bonuses from being next to turrets of the same type. You can also upgrade your ship level to unlock new weapon options for the level and upgrade your drones to be more effective. Killing enemy ships gives you resources to build more and in certain missions you’re also fighting the clock.
Leaves something to be Desired
For the most part, Infinium Strike holds a good balance between hectic action and reasonable difficulty. I was certainly overwhelmed plenty of times, but for the most part it felt fair and doable. There’s nothing here that’s going to really be new, or “wow” anyone who’s played other games in the genre, but it does what it does competently and delivers a good amount of fun. My gripe would be that the specialization of each of your weapons means it seems like there’s only one or two ways to win each encounter. You NEED a certain turret to defeat each enemy ship type. There’s not much room for creative thinking and application. Spent too much money upgrading your hull and a ship shows up out of your range? Too bad. Put out too many drones in a quadrant and you don’t have resources to build in another when the enemy swarms? No way out.
While the gameplay is solid, if never particularly inventive, it’s dragged down some by the game’s presentation. Space battles, especially ones between a giant capital ship and swarms of organic alien ships, should be epic and visually engaging. Instead, Infinium Strike is about as cold and tonally deaf as it can be. I will give credit to the music, which was standard but enjoyable sci-fi fare, but other visuals and audio elements leave a lot to be desired. The ships themselves look more like something from 2004 than 2016 and their mostly-dark silhouettes blend into the low-resolutions backdrops. Ships explode in small quick puffs and weapons hit with muted sound. Turrets and ships show no visual signs of upgrading and there’s no visual indication when the Freedom Strike is getting hit. It would make the game so incredibly much more engaging if a bit more time was put into these areas. Give me some highly detailed ships. Throw some pretty nebulae or planetoids in the background. Let my ship rock or show blast marks when it gets hit. In short, help me feel like this is a real battle instead of a cold simulation. After all, this is supposed to be the great last hope of humanity.
Infinium Strike doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it has got solid enough gameplay to remain entertaining. It’s not going to keep you busy for weeks and it leaves a fair amount to be desired in the presentation department, but the short 10 mission campaign and a serviceable arcade mode make for a fun way to burn a few evenings or a long weekend.
Solid strategic options, nice music.
Not much room for creative play, presentation drags down the experience.