Starsector early access preview: A good space game with endless depth
Starsector (formerly “Starfarer”) is a single-player, top-down 2D, open-world, space rpg where you take the role of a starship captain. Like most other big space games, you start with a meager amount of credits to your name and are turned loose in the galaxy to find your own way. Of course along the way there is a ton to see and do, so sit down, buckle in, and lets prepare for warp speed as we take an early look at StarSector.
Starsector was initially announced on April 26, 2013 and is still currently under development. almost 4 years later we finally have the game in an alpha state. And is available for pre-order. If you pre-order the game you are given access to the current build of the game which is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. There is an active comunity for this game on Steam. Probaly because Starsector directly supports mods and has an active modding community.
There aren’t too many options for character creation. You start off with basics like your name and select a portrait along with some settings for generating the sector for the game. One interesting feature is the games Iron mode. This is a sort of permadeath mode prevents you from loading while in-game and stops you from quitting the game with out saving. Its an interesting take on the whole idea.
Next you are given a choice on your characters profession. Make a good decision here, becuase the choice of profession changes the ship you start with. If you choose scavenger you are given a Wayfarer-class combat freighter. The freighter can defend itself but it isn’t that great in a fight. If you choose bounty hunter you are given a Wolf-class frigate which is a very capable combat ship for the beginning of the game. After choosing a job you choose a second ship for your fleet. Your choices are a Kite-class shuttle with an officer or a Shepherd class drone tender full of heavy machinery for salvaging.
Character creation was basic and the options for the sector age aren’t well explained but this game is still in an alpha state so I am willing to excuse not having much help or description of what all the options mean. Sometimes it is fun to not know what they and try them out.
After creating your character, you are thrown in to the middle of nowhere low on supplies. Fortunately, you start near a debris field and the tutorial instructs you on how to salvage the field and fight off some pirates. unfortunately this is the only instruction you are going to get for the whole game.
After you complete the tutorial you are left to find your own way. The tutorial teaches you the absolute basics of the game. I found the tutorial helpful but it left out key controls I needed to know for combat. I found myself having to refer to the internet and the controls options in-game to figure out how to pilot my ship and command my fleet.
You begin combat by picking which ships from your fleet you wish to deploy. Deploying ships costs supplies and reduces their combat effectiveness rating after the battle so you must balance choosing the best ships for the fight and how much resources it costs you. This RTS like element made the game feel a bit deeper than your standard space game.
Once in combat you can choose to let the AI control your flagship or manually fly your own ship. You can give the ships in your fleet orders but the orders cost command points. Once you run out of commands points you cannot give any more orders until your command points regenerate.
Combat in Starsector is all about managing your flux. Flux is generated when you fire weapons or your shields take damage. Once your ship generates too much Flux your shields will go down and you will be unable to fire your weapons. Resource management in battle is nothing new, but i haven’t seen it very often is space games, so I was eager to give it a try.
If you win the battle there is a small chance that you will be able to recover and use any ships that were destroyed in the battle; however, any ships you recover will have a permanent debuff. Any ships you were not able to recover you can salvage for supplies and other useful items.
I found combat difficult but enjoyable. The first few battles I found that the AI could pilot my ship a lot better than I could. After a few battles, I started to pick up the basics and learned how to manually fly my ship without exploding. That was when the game got really rewarding, flying the ships felt good, and I enjoyed the combat more as I learned more about the game.
Ships and Outfitting
There are an overwhelming number of ship hulls, ship variants, fighters, weapons and ship systems to choose from. If you are a loot freak like me, you will spend hours just building and customizing these ships. Luckily the descriptions of ships spell out what each ship type is best suited for. Also, most ships have several pre-built loadouts, for those who dont want to spend hours customizing.
Factions and money
As you travel around space you will come across different factions that you can interact with. Your interactions with each faction will affect your reputation with them. If you have a high enough reputation with a faction you are given access to special markets and ship stores. If your reputation drops too much you will become hostile with those factions. This system is most similar to EVE online, which I played for years, and very much enjoyed.
I found that I could earn plenty of in-game credits by, running missions, bounty hunting, and trading. Often, I found the best money was missions for bounty-hunting and trading. This made the game feel more like e game, and less like some of the other space games out there, where you just sort of aimlessly wander around.
Starsector is a deep and challenging game that I could spend hundreds of hours playing and still not experience everything it has to offer. Its still in early access so even more is coming later on. The game is a great balance of challenging gameplay and rewards. I was never bored, and didn’t feel bottlenecked at all. If you love space games I would highly recommends giving Starsector a shot.