by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
In screenshots, Next Jump: Shmup Tactics certainly looks like a shoot-em-up, or shmup for short. The extra “tactics” in the title is not as obvious but starts to make sense when you actually start playing. This isn’t a twitchy bullet hell shooter, but instead a turn-based combat game. It’s got its fair share of problems for sure, but its low price makes it worth a quick jaunt through space.
The game starts with an incredibly lengthy opening spiel describing the game’s story. It’s not particularly deep, it just takes a very long time to get through. There are four planets, one for each of the four races: humans, elves, dwarves, and orks. A mysterious “elixir” brought them together in peace but then the “dragons” came. They became addicted to the elixir and made off with most of the supply. It’s up to you and the “Bastards Federation,” to get it back.
Dragons are cool, I guess
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, the story is nonsensical. It’s as if the writer took random words from popular fantasy and sci-fi and hoped they’d fit together. In addition, the entire game is filled with translation errors. I was never held back by the bad spelling and grammar, but it was always jarring. Either way, your ships can travel faster than the dragons because of your ability to “JUMP.” Of course, this movement ability has a nonsensical acronym: Juxtaposition Ultra Movement Positioning. Basically, you can move through space quickly. You’ve got to chase down the dragons’ mothership, however during each JUMP you’ll be fighting off their drones.
This is the main crux of Next Jump: Shmup Tactics is going into jump points and fighting to gain scrap. Scrap is used as a currency to upgrade your ship. Combat always lasts three turns, and you have a number of action points per turn to move and fight. Action is grid based, and enemy ships and their projectiles take up a number of squares each. After you’ve performed your allotted actions, everything on screen happens at once. Enemies move, they fire their bullets, and the bullets they’ve already fired move a number of tiles in a straight line. If they hit you, or if you move into their tile on your turn, you’ll take a bit of damage. Take too much damage and your ship will explode, forcing you to start the entire game again. If you’re in a sticky situation, you can eject, which means you can continue the game, although you’ll start with a fresh ship with no upgrades.
A lot of the jump locations will have a space shop there, for some reason, despite being empty space where you can buy stuff. Upgrading your energy, i.e. the number of actions you get per turn is essential, and you’ll also want to be upgrading how far you can move, how much damage your weapon does, and how strong your hull is. You can get equipment, which will either have a passive effect like sucking up scrap from afar, or an active effect, like ending a jump encounter early.
At the start of each game, you are 33 parsecs away from the dragon mothership. Each jump will bring a parsec closer, but there are perils along the way. You’ll always be fighting enemy drones, but you might also be fighting against the environment. Every jump, you get three options, because that’s how space travel works. In empty space, you’ll just be fighting. However some areas will have meteors you’ll have to avoid, a nebula blocking your sightlines, or storms striking your ship with lightning if you get too close.
The limits of space
Actually getting to the enemy mothership is easy. With each jump only lasting three turns, it’s a simple matter to avoid enemy shots, and you’ll often be able to get a lot of shooting done too. Actually reaching the mothership sees a huge jump in difficulty though, so your best bet is to grind through encounters gaining as much scrap for upgrades as you can. You can extend fights by picking up energy left behind by destroyed enemies, but battles always end quickly, meaning you never get to enact a long term strategic plan. Actual combat abilities are limited too. Selecting your ship will give you a certain type of weapon you’ll have for the whole game, and your tactics will never change much. Mines and missiles switch things up a bit, but if you haven’t bought any, you’re out of luck.
In reality, there’s nothing new to be found in Next Jump: Shmup Tactics. It has very basic turn based combat, and a space traversal system that lacks the options and variety of FTL: Faster Than Light’s five year old method. It’s cheap though, so it could be worth a couple of hours of your time if you’re looking for a quick blast of action.
Challenging in the later stages, inexpensive
No originality, bad translations, meaningless story