by Derk Bil
reviewed on PC
Filling the gap
Few strategy games have caught my attention in recent years, and with good reason: the genre is all but extinct. How bad things have gotten was illustrated when BAFTA nominated Football Manager 2012, Dark Souls and Deus Ex: Human Revolution in the Strategy category. What were they thinking when they submitted any of these? Clearly, the genre is in dire need of some TLC and it’s not likely to come from the big publishers anytime soon. Seeing the gap, independent game developers are looking to conquer the field entirely. Eager to do just that, Cryptstone Games recently pushed forward their contender; Star Prospector.
In the distant future, mankind turns to the stars for its resources. There is nothing left on Earth to keep humanity supplied so humanity sets out to ‘rape and pillage’ other planets instead. The universe is a lively place filled with alien planets that are inhabited by scary indigenous species that will defend their habitats at all costs. And then there is a faction called the Scavengers who are reminiscent of both Star Trek’s Borg and Firefly’s Reavers, with the exception that they’re a little mechanic and not as bat-shit crazy. The Scavengers have laid claim to many a planet and it is risky to send a colonial fleet out into the great unknown. Enter the Star Prospectors.
Star Prospectors are mechanized mining and construction rigs and built to operate within the harshest of environments. As an added bonus, they can be customized so that they are armed to the teeth as well. Further adding to the RPG aspect, properties such as firing range and movement speed can be increased as well.
Space is a lonely place
The game starts with a view of a galaxy with one cluster of planets marked with an exclamation mark drawing your immediate attention. Each of these clusters will have only a limited number of planets that are of real interest, though you can undertake missions on any planet you like to gain experience and lootables.
Your mining and construction unit is relatively frail early on in the campaign and your starting cash is low. Your first order of business is creating something that resembles an economy. Like a futuristic Gepetto you build up a robot-army, starting with workers that dig up ore which in turn leads to fuel. Once you have that, you can start thinking about creating some more aggressive cousins to your worker robots.
Star Prospector has a fair number of different mission goals, ranging from ‘mine X amount of ore’ to ‘kill all enemies’ and ‘data retrieval’. No matter what the goal, however, each mission plays out in the same way. You first build an ore processor and bot fabricator so you can start building bots to mine with. After that, you expand your base by building power generators, fully-automated fuel-collectors and unit control buildings that allow you to expand your robot army to sufficient size to wipe your enemies from the map.
Once the mission goals are met, you can evaluate the mission statistics and rewards given for your victory. You can also access a shop where you can buy upgrades for your rig, bot-production-facility and other buildings that make your operation more efficient. You will build an insane amount of power generators in your earlier missions - they are barely enough to get a vacuum cleaner started – and buying an upgrade to more powerful generators is an infinitely useful purchase.
A small violin
Audio and visuals are lacking. The graphics are decent but ultimately simple, though you could describe it as ‘retro’ if you want to give it a positive spin. This brings me to midi-style soundtrack which initially sparked fond memories of 8-bit games but as the nostalgia wore off, I found my personal playlist to be far more enjoyable and turned it off.
In the same vein, mission briefings could also be called retro element as they are minimalistic to the point of being primitive. All missions are preceded by a small blurb of text about how everyone relies on you to provide resources or eliminate whatever threat lives on the planet you are about to set foot on.
A major drawback to playing the vanilla version of Star Prospector is the game speed which is so slow that it brings the fun experienced in the early missions to a grinding halt later on. Patch 1.01 gives the player control over the game speed and saves it from being barely more fun than watching paint dry. Kudos to Cryptstone for identifying and fixing what I felt was the games’ major weakness.
Star Prospector is a decent game, offering the familiar but fun gameplay that is so sorely missed in strategy games today. The game does suffer from looking a little too retro to my taste though honesty demands me to mention that some of that did fade away a few hours into the game. Star Prospector’s potential to be a real time-sink and indie price-tag make it a low-risk purchase for any strategy enthusiast.
Fun familiar gameplay, cheap