by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
When it comes right down to it, any game that isn't multiplayer is a Solitaire game. After all, the only person playing the game is _you_, all by your solitary self. Yet, if it doesn't involve a deck of cards, most gamers have a hard time recognizing this aspect. Still, as gamers, we have come to expect a great deal of our single-player games, such that we do NOT term them as "just another Solitaire game." The question then becomes, "where is the line between Solitaire and something more than that?"
Space Exploration: Serpens Sector is being touted as a space exploration RPG by the developers, Metal Beetle. They recently released the version 8 demo for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This version adds the tactical space combat mode, expands the number of encounters, fixes some bugs, and a few other odds and ends. Supposedly, "[w]ith this release, the engine of the game is nearing completion, baring minor features and more optimisation."
I find that last claim to be somewhat scary, having played the version 8 demo. Having played the demo for a couple hours, I'm wondering, "Where's the RPG? Where's the game balance? Where's the NON-ship combat system?" In short, where's the "more" from "more than just Solitaire"? Theoretically, this release of the demo is to solicit feedback from which they can create fix-its for the few remaining bugs, as well as suggestions to follow in order to boost demand for the game. That being the case, I sincerely hope they get a LOT of feedback.
At some undisclosed future date, Earth will be reaching out to reclaim its lost space empire. It seems that 200 years before that date, a galactic event called the Disconnect cut Earth and its colonies off from each other. Only recently has Earth been able to freely travel the stars again. Given the 200 year hiatus, things have drastically changed. You are given the exploration ship Muon with its single laser turret popgun and a small crew. After being sent through the Serpens Wormhole, you are tasked to explore the sector at the other end of that wormhole. You are given 1000 units of fuel, and a curfew in 200 days. So, now sail forth and map the territory! (Preferably without getting you and all your crew killed.)
So, there's the little squiggle on the star map next to the icon for the Serpens wormhole; that's you mighty (tiny) starship. Left-click on any of the randomly placed star icons nearby and a tentative course will be plotted. It will show you how much fuel and time that leg of the trip will cost you. Click again and off you go. Upon arrival, there will be a random encounter/event. Hmm. Let me stress that "random". As in, no pattern, no rhyme or reason, no logic. Whether the encounter/event is favorable or unfavorable is purely a function of the mix between Good Things and Bad Things put into the program. It's like if you shuffled a deck of cards and started pulling them out, one at a time. Pulling a Club or Spade would be a Bad Thing while pulling a Heart or Diamond would be a Good Thing. Lots of brainsweat and strategy involved there in order to play the game well, don't cha know?