So I've decided to see what the hub-bub's about. Initial impressions:
1: The UI's too spread out. I don't know if it's that I've been spoiled by Freespace 2, but the power bars aren't easily seen at a quick glance. Funny since they're pretty prominent on the top of the screen, but I spend my time following the reticle and target triangles. The sepia/desaturation of the screen doesn't do much either to tell me I'm almost dead.
2: They don't really describe what these "upgrades" do at all. Yay, power upgrade! Erm... how's it an upgrade? Numbers? Comparison bars? Nothing.
3: I'll admit the difficulty curve kinda kicks you in the teeth quickly. Though I'm kinda tempered by my Freelancer experience, it took awhile to get the hang of mouse combat. As well as the mode switching. Once I rebound my keys to a mostly mouse-centric layout, I started to better plow through baddies.
4: As much as the objective bars try to tell you what you need to do, at times the targeting/voice overs don't really clue you into the immediate threat to the objective. Protect the bombers, gotcha, but do I shoot down endless waves of fighters as they torp-bomb the cruiser, or do I rofl-stomp the cruiser alone before the bombers dies? It's frustrating at certain moments.
Despite these things, I'm finding myself drawn into the game pretty deep. I don't know if that's rising to the challenge or genuine interest in the story/gameplay (which I'll add, the story pretty good compared to more recent sci-fi space shooty games, not Shakespeare but also not Dan Brown). It's... not bad.
But no, you have to nail the fighters pretty hard, making sure to use just enough missiles to take them down while subsequently getting enough Flux back from them to do it again.
The REAL tough part comes in when you get down in bomber numbers and they're barely doing any damage to the cruiser. You could easily hit the cruiser with a few runs of missiles from Strike mode, but you have to keep the bombers alive. :/
I ended up taking a break.
Though to be fair, I was cursing at mission 4 a bit the first time since you have to be really speedy to take out the beam turrets and still leave the Arcadia with some integrity left. The first time I did it, the Arcadia just barely survived and I was swearing a bit at the fact that the mission still had a bit left. Needless to say, the Arcadia went down almost instantly during the next segment.
The sad part, though, is that it would have been a piece of cake outside of the nebula, where you could have just used missiles.
That's part of the game's biggest problem I gather from the reviews johnki - the friendly AI of the things you're supposed to escort are too stupid to live.
Virtual Pilot 3Dô NEVER NOT SCAM!
I can't really speak of the rest of them. The Arcadia is a capital ship so it doesn't move most of the time. The friendly fighters usually start dying off the moment they and the enemy fighters get entwined though there are also usually a few left, the only time I haven't seen at least 3 of them at any one time being the time I took the freighters down in Mission 3 which I can only assume was due to the fact that I took so long in taking them down. I think the only reason there WAS one left was because it was the chick who is in charge of your group.
Still, bombers did have to practice a bit of evasive maneuvering - and they usually had a whole squadron of very mobile aircraft escorting them.
I'm not at all against a challenge. But when it seems more like the game is designed to spite you instead of challenge you that's where I have draw the line for myself for the sake of my blood pressure.
Virtual Pilot 3Dô NEVER NOT SCAM!
However, as a player of those games I mentioned earlier (did I mention them here? If not, basically Star Fox and the N64 Star Wars space flight games), I don't really feel that the game has ever so much spited me as demanded that I do things on its time, which is frustrating in its own way.
When it comes down to it, though, you figure out how to do it in time and you do it. Just takes a bit of refining your strategy.
I do have mixed feelings about knowing that the capital ships are almost always stationary, though.
That said, checkpoints are often used as a lazy way to stretch a game out - I've not played SS0 so I've no idea whether it falls into that trap but asking to save ANYWHERE is often a tricky thing to deliver...
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Well I finished it this evening and by gosh it was fun.
The difficulty ramps up quite sufficiently in later missions (kill count was reaching triple figures) and honestly I needed a lie down afterwards.
What has struck me most out of the game was the quite muted story which turned out to be quite interesting.
I don't think I got the best ending ultimately so I will be heading back to hit some missions for a few upgrades I missed.
Finished the game last night, all platinum medals and all unlocks.
Honestly, it's a fun little game. A little bit of twitch and a little bit of tactical thinking. The story is a decent space opera, very serviceable considering the recent peers like SOL: Exodus. The gundam suit thing tends to be very useful, but the space fighters you can fly are also functional and don't feel like an afterthought. It's not a sim, of course. It's closer to a combat-focused Freelancer game.
If you get bored this spring/summer during the game drought, I'd suggest taking it out for a spin, full price or sale.
[spolier]I will say the one thing that kinda irked me in the story was in the last mission, where the AI lays out the exposition, citing she chose you because "you know when not to follow orders". This references the little computer record snippet before the first mission starts. The thing is, in the game, I didn't disobey any orders, I did exactly what the game/commanders told me to do, and everything turned out fine. Now, had I played a mission where I was told to do one thing, but I made a choice to do something else, I could empathize with that statement more. But as it stands, the ending hinged on that "because you're different, you'll make the good choice". No lady, I just blow up Colonials and chew bubblegum.[/spolier]