A long time ago, in a galaxy far away… Okay, about two years ago, an iOS game was announced that caught the attention of the mobile gaming community. A Game Dev Story type game inspired by Sci-Fi shows and tropes featuring retro pixel graphics and a galaxy waiting to be explored.
We waited with bated breath as time went on.
Eventually the devs launched two successful Kickstarter projects and on April 9th of this year, mobile game fans rejoiced at the announcement that Star Command had been submitted to the App Store for release. Weeks passed, and every Thursday people kept checking for Star Command, fingers at the ready to buy…
Finally, it is here.
There is no doubt that Star Command is one of the most ambitious projects to ever be announced for mobile devices. Over the lengthy development cycle, many features were dropped for various reasons. Beaming to planets, various ship classes from the different eras of Star Trek (from ST: TOS all the way to Voyager), and much, much more.
What remains is an experience that is as incredibly exciting as it is frustrating at times.
You begin the game with a small, basic ship, and can immediately start recruiting your crew. Don’t get too attached to them, though – they all might as well be Red Shirts, as often as they tend to die. After a few tutorial mission, you quickly realize that this game’s universe is fraught with peril. What I mean to say is that the game can be very unforgiving at times, and the learning curve considerably steeper than expected.
I was quickly conditioned to not trust any of the NPCs, no matter how noble their stated intentions. It seemed that almost every other ship out there was going to destroy me or beam bombs directly into my crew’s bunks. In short order, this went from an exploratory adventure, to me commanding the Star Command the equivalent of the warship Enterprise from Yesterday’s Enterprise, complete with a blonde security officer whom I named Tasha. Of course, she died quickly as well when a renegade Klingon-like race beamed aboard my ship and took no prisoners.
Eventually I started to get the hang of things, and earned enough tokens to upgrade my ship’s rooms, such as my torpedo launchers, bridge, engineering, and laser cannon. None of the upgrades felt like a significant boost, but they were enough that I noticed a difference in performance in combat. This is something that many Star Trek fans may feel is not true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision. There is far more combat than you, or your doomed crew, would like.
Whether you are being attacked by a rogue Fleet Officer, or being boarded by space zombies, there is very little time to relax. There are some missions in which you will not have to fire a phaser, but it seems that they are all too few and far between.
Those that have followed the game’s saga, from conception to release, may have been expecting a sci-fi version of Game Dev Story (I know I was). Instead, we were given a real-time, RPG/action hybrid. I would have loved the option to encounter the ships of other players, but that seems like something to keep in mind for a sequel (hint, hint). I would also have loved to see some of the more ambitious plans, but that seems more like DLC type additions. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll get the ‘Best of Both Worlds’.
Overall, the game is a deeply engaging experience, even with the steep learning curve and wanting to beam your mobile device into outer space. This is about as close to a Star Trek simulation/RPG as we will likely ever get. The graphics are simply gorgeous and there are enough customization options that you can truly custom tailor your own, unique ship and see the results.
I would have liked to see additional in-depth tutorials, and a more intuitive difficulty curve; these two changes would have made my frustration far more manageable. Thankfully, these issues could be easily corrected with patches if the developers feel the same as I do.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my blood pressure has returned to a normal level, and my lovely wife has convinced me to not bash my iPhone into bits. I will now re-take command of the USS Pinkerton and see why that green alien was hailing me. I am sure they mean my people no harm….
Make It So.