EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Llewelyn Griffiths
previewed on PC
CHOOSE YOUR OWN SPACE ADVENTURE
As video games evolve, many genres have been amalgamated to create new experiences. RPG tropes have been combined with first person shooters and platformers have been combined with strategy and so on. Star Story is a combination of choose your own adventure and turn based combat, with a bit of crafting thrown in for good measure. The danger of combining genres becomes most prominent when developers bite off more than they can chew. In its current state Star Story: The Horizon Escape certainly feels guilty of this shortcoming, but itís nothing that canít be fixed and hopefully youíll have a few laughs on the way too.
You are an archaeologist investigating the far reaches of the universe with your AI companion Verdana. The bright cartoony visuals, comparable to the likes of Wildstar provide the backdrop for your adventure on the planet of Horizon. You will encounter a number of different alien races along the way, as you travel through deserts, jungles, caves and dreamscapes. It has a clean but colorful visual style that many independent games lack.
The biggest draw is a unique twist of storytelling and character upgrades. Certain conversation options increase three attributes Goodwill, Insight and Resolve. Goodwill is focused around upgrading your support and healing items. Insight gives you more choice of gadgets, such as shields and armour. While Resolve gives you more options for direct methods of attack. Itís a fascinating system, considering most games keep dialogue and character upgrades separate. However there is a reason these two things are often kept apart; choosing to exclusively level-up a single attribute will greatly damage your overall effectiveness. This often forces you to make decisions that donít match-up with your in-game ďmoralsĒ.
Events unfold as you move through various locations throughout the game. Each event gives you a flavor for planet Horizon with a sprinkling of humour. None of the writing is laugh out loud funny, but itís sure to put a smile on your face. Youíll be introduced to a number of characters along the way as well; some friendly, and others not so much. Annoyingly some generic events are repeated multiple times towards the end, this wouldnít be a problem if the game was longer, but it barely took me two and half hours to complete.
Many combat situations can be outright avoided if you desire, and considering there arenít experience points to collect, refreshingly, this is a viable option. Combat takes place as a one versus one duel, with all the weapons in the game inflicting 3 types of damage; fire, corrosion or shock. The sheer simplification of the combat means decision making takes very little thought, and as I result I only died once in my first play-through. You never run out of inventory space either, eliminating any interesting decisions that could be centered on choosing a loadout.
In some situations you have the option to tackle the problem with an ďAction PlannerĒ mini-game. This involves solving a series of problems by picking one of two items. Unfortunately most problems can be solved using basic common sense, making the mini-game feel somewhat redundant. However with a bit more variety this mini-game would be much more enjoyable.
At any point in your travels you can return to your base, this is arguably the most enjoyable part of the game. In order to use your base youíll need to power it up with batteries, allowing you to upgrade your character and craft a number of items. Your battery power is limited too, adding an interesting urgency to traditional menu navigation. Itís also plain to see this part of the game isnít fully fleshed out yet, as some parts of the base are rarely used, it will be interesting to see how this is expanded in the future.
WATCH THIS SPACE
As it stands Star Story: The Horizon Escape is a rather enjoyable experience when it wants to be, bugs are few and far between, the interface is slick and the crafting is fun, but it greatly suffers from a lack of consistent pacing. The ability to return to your base at any moment, greatly reduces the challenge and also diminishes any build-up to big boss fights.
While I could not recommend it in its current state, Star Story: The Horizon Escape is definitely one to watch. The underlying structure of a fun game is here, itís just lacking the content and therefore the complexity to hold itself up. Just when I started to get into it, the game ended, hopefully a sign the developers have more up their sleeves. With new areas, upgrades and weapons promised before the planned release in early July, it certainly looks like they do.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.