Fair Of Face, Filled With Space: Starfarer

Whimper, whimper, BANG

I’d been meaning to try Starfarer since Jim first wrote about it and when I noticed that an update had added the beginnings of the campaign, it seemed only polite to indulge in some tactical ship-bothering. I was hoping for something that mixed my favourite parts of Space Rangers 2, Space Pirates and Zombies, Gratuitous Space Battles and Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. Basically, all my favourite top-down space games. The current version, which is available to anyone willing to part with a $10 preorder, is shaping up to be rather splendid, but can it really be the best bits of the best things? Observe.

That’s how a mission plays out. With a lot more action than I was expecting and a lot more direct control. In fact, despite the slow pace, Starfarer can be an incredibly frantic and tense game, as shields begin to fail and ruddy great cruisers with turning circles of orbital proportions come into missile range. The trouser-troubling nature of such fraught faring is enhanced by the meaty sound of the exploding interstellar coffins that were once a proud fleet and the visually detailed destruction.

In short, while it isn’t quite the perfect hybrid of all the games listed above, Starfarer is already top notch stuff. Among the exciting things that are planned, more meaningful character types interest me greatly. You only have control of your flagship, with other members of your fleet hearing your orders but not necessarily obeying them. Hire gung-ho captains and they’ll blaze into battle willingly but might not blaze back out again when you tell them to, that sort of thing. The mod-friendly nature of the game is also commendable, particularly as it may allow me to realise my dream of constructing an interstellar cathedral-ship bristling with the cleansing tools of the void.

I do not know how much value $10 has to you but I have consulted with my own bowler-hatted bank manager and he assures me that I have made a wise decision to put the cash forward, despite the game not being complete yet. He doesn’t even know that the price of the game will increase as development continues, he just thought it seemed like a good deal because I was smiling contentedly as I told him about being on fire in the dreadful, achingly lonely gaps between the planets.


  1. caddyB says:

    This game is so good. It really captures the feeling of being a huge starship.

    • Hanban says:

      I’ve gotten my 10 bucks worth several times over. Given what the devs are trying to do I imagine I’ll sink as much time into it as I have with Mount & Blade. Also known as the black hole of time consuming.

    • rhizo says:

      It is sort of like Mount&Blade isn’t it. I’ve been toying with the newly released “Campaign mode” and it’s great fun. Managed to gather a fleet that can blow up everything but the corporate Paragon battleship fleets. Hope to see more content available soon.

      Helpful hint to beginners, get the Medusa -class destroyer. In that thing you can out-flux cruisers with proper control of the weapon groups. Also, use auto fire, especially for PD turrets.

    • Phantoon says:

      I actually paid for this like over half a year ago, and forgot completely about it now.

      Seems to have shaped up quite well since then.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Caddy, are you now or were you once a huge starship? :O

    • caddyB says:

      I was going to say that “being the captain of a huge ship” but then it really doesn’t, because you don’t give orders to people or sort of drama in the crew like proper captains. so I was like, well it’s more about being a sentient battleship then.

      Yes, I overthink things in a stupid way.

      Also, I used to be a huge starship then..

    • Dominic White says:

      Word from the developer is that there should be captain’y type drama in the full game, as you get to assign a named captain to each ship in your fleet and they’ve got their own personalities and issues and the like.

      Maybe it’s more like being an admiral than a captain. I don’t know. I’m not in the space-navy.

  2. equatorian says:

    I saw the tiny ships shooting red solid lasers and my mind went ‘Chmmr Avatar!’

    That wound still hurts.

    That said. This. I want this. Let me go pay for it in a moment, because this appears lovely. The future feature list is a beautiful thing.

    • Dominic White says:

      “I saw the tiny ships shooting red solid lasers and my mind went ‘Chmmr Avatar!’”

      Would you believe that there’s already a Star Control 2 mod in the works? A few standalone battles featuring a good range of SC2 ships already.

    • equatorian says:

      I just googled it up and I have to say that I love you so much right now for mentioning it. They’re adding a planet, too, omigod THIS IS MARVELOUS.

      I just cannot wait for the Vux Eluder to be available. I’m oddly fond of that ship.

    • taione says:

      Starcon sperg on: VUX Intruder. Spathi Eluder.

  3. Inigo says:

    I see this is set back in Sinistar’s college years, when he still had the beard and sideburns.

  4. DeathRow says:

    Ever since I was lucky enough to stumble upon Space Rangers 2, I have been on a mission looking for a top down space game that is close to it. S.P.A.Z. definitely was almost close to what I was looking for but I hope Starfarer will give me at least 70%(lets face it no current gen game is gonna give you high school level algebraic puzzle missions, I loved SR2 so much….) of the satisfaction i got from SR2.

  5. Dominic White says:

    Previous builds of the game have just been standalone missions, but the current build has the framework in place for the campaign mode.

    It’s basically Mount & Blade in space, with really good combat. And that’s as cool as it sounds. $10 is a steal (final price will be $20) – there’s a great mod called Junk Pirates on the official forum that adds a whole new playable faction with their own brand of cobbled-together asymmetrical ships, and they integrate great into the current sandbox, even operating their own station where you can buy their ships from.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      Mount & Blade in space is a fantastic description.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s how the developer describes the current build, although apparently he has much grander plans for it long-term. Sounds like it’s going to be somewhat more of a dynamic 4X style universe going on, and quite heavy RPG elements.

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      i’ve always viewed Mount and Blade as an Elite clone set in the medival period rather than space.

      If you look at space ship games like elite or the X series, what do you do, go between locations trading, and fighting various factions, upgrading your ship and gaining allies. What do you do in mount and blade? more or less the same thing just rethemed and with a suitably different combat engine.

  6. Montavious says:

    Is the game a sandbox type? Or is it mainly mission based?

    • marcusfell says:

      In it’s current form, the game gives you a random ship and tells you to survive. You can go and communicate with or engage anything, and if you win you can collect scrap and such.

    • Montavious says:

      Cool. Looks awesome so far. But think ill wait to see more. If its sandbox im all in.

    • Azhrarn says:

      The intention is to offer a sandbox game with mission chains available if you choose to do them.
      As the universe you’re playing in is procedurally generated it’ll rarely be the same game twice.

      Their site is linked below
      link to fractalsoftworks.com

  7. brkl says:

    It seems like StarFight VI without the story, rpg and exploration aspects. I’ll probably get it, but I’d rather have a more freeform experience than separate missions.

    • Aradalf says:

      The developer has huge plans for the game, including story and RPG aspects. It’s still very much a work-in-progress, and the future features list is quite amazing.

  8. Strange_guy says:

    After playing a load of S.P.A.Z. and finding myself both loving and disappointed with it another game in the same genre is very tempting.

  9. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Okay fine I’ll preorder it then. Jeez!

  10. Lucretious says:

    I can’t be the only one who wants to see more Escape Velocity influence in these types of games? To my mind they perfected the top-down space sim genre.

    • jrod says:

      +1 for escape velocity… not sure why there hasn’t been more talk of it in this and the past starfarer posts. Amazing game!!

    • Lucretious says:

      I’m still waiting for an EV retrospective…it’s like the RPS writers have forgotten it exists :/

    • wodin says:

      There is an open source EV type game out. Haven’t tried though..

      link to blog.naev.org

    • Neonrabbit says:

      I’ve tried NAEV and it’s ok, but it’s nowhere near as good as the EV series which remain some of my all time favorites. Soooo good.

  11. Sarlix says:

    So I can’t tell from the write up or the video if this is tower defence or not? Please don’t shout at me if I missed something obvious.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s a sandbox rpg/space combat action/RTS hybrid. Where on earth did you get the idea – from that gameplay footage or preview – that it had anything to do with TD?

    • Sarlix says:

      Because some of the aforementioned games are TD. Well I think Gratuitous Space Battles is. And he didn’t say which ‘favourite parts’ are in the mix, he could’ve meant TD. It seemed like a logical assumption..

    • Fiatil says:

      I’m not sure if any of those games are Tower Defense. The closest you’ve got is SPAZ which sounds sort of like Plants vs. Zombies.

    • Dominic White says:

      Some people have described Gratuitous Space Battles as being kinda sorta like a TD game… but that description really doesn’t work for me. It’s more of a ‘wind up and let them go’ strategy game.

    • Phantoon says:

      Yes. The little alpha of it I played was far more hands on than GSB. I got GSB in the Humble Bundle and wasn’t impressed- having almost no control over my ships really makes the combat part pointless to watch, especially since there’s no campaign. It’s more like a puzzle game than a strategy game, really.

  12. roethle says:

    When i first saw this screen shot I was sure it was Space Pirates and Zombies(which I loved). I will have to give this a try.

  13. Rymosrac says:

    It is NOT a tower defense.

    And it IS a sandbox, that ALSO has missions premade on the side.

    Get off the fence, people, this thing is already fantastic.

  14. Gasmask Hero says:

    Further to Mr Smith’s question, the value of $10 is about £8, according to BMT Micro.

    Yet a direct pre order for AVWW for $9.99 nets you a charge of £6.50.

    From whence springs the difference?

    • Dominic White says:

      Possibly VAT? That would account for most of that difference, at least.

  15. JackDandy says:

    I really want to see how the final version will play out. When we get there, I might buy this.

  16. Zarunil says:

    Alright, alright, I’ll pre-order this, too. Losing count of the amount of pre-orders I have around the Interwebs, but this looks too good to pass up!

  17. squareking says:

    I can’t say it enough — buy this. Buy it really really hard.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      I bought it as hard as I could. After trying the game, I realize it was everything I had ever wanted in a space combat game. Yes, the developers reached into my mind and pulled out ideas I hadn’t properly formed yet and implemented them.

  18. Universal Hamster says:

    Got it on Sunday after viewing Totalbiscuit’s WTF on it. From what I’ve played, its splendid. Action that you can jump right into, but it feels tactical and epic, even in the simple battles I have done so far.

    I had some technical difficulties getting the game going brought on, (It transpired) by my own foolishness. The devs were so incredibly helpful to me that my eyebrows are still raised in pleasant surprise..

    Buy it! The game’s great and they are lovely.

  19. psychoconductor says:

    I would love to love this game but I can’t get past the first mission.

    • Rob Maguire says:

      I’m not that good at large scale battles, but here’s a few tips I can give:

      Don’t send out anything heavy in the first wave – just your quickest interceptors to grab control points, and some frigates to hold them. Getting these will grant fleet points, allowing you to send in the rest of your fleet. They also grant command points to set objectives, give bonuses to your ships, and most importantly will deny all of these things to your enemy. A well-planned combat snowballs in your favor as it goes on.

      Pay attention to the ‘incoming ships’ messages at the top of the screen. Use the Codex to find the ship matching that icon, and decide how best to counter it. You can also click on a ship on the tactical map and go directly to its Codex page from there, but this requires it to already be in radar range.

      Keep carriers behind the front lines, but not too far away that squadrons get wiped out before they can rearm. Keep fire support back a bit as well, but close enough that they can use their LRMs.

      Learn the different weapon types and their bonuses. Kinetic weapons for shields, high explosive for armor, fragmentation for hulls. Or you can just use energy weapons and ignore the rock paper scissors thing entirely, it’s up to you.

      On a related note, learn what each weapon type looks like. High explosive rounds are orange-ish, kinetic rounds are white. Beam weapons are usually energy types, with the exception of the graviton beam (kinetic damage). If you ever see a red missile, kill it immediately (it’s a torpedo).

      Salamander MRMs are good for the early game. They flank enemies and disable their engines. Even if they miss, the enemy will still have to turn their shield and point defenses away from you to stop them, giving you a decent chance to inflict damage. If a missile fired at you ever goes to the side and around you it’s one of these, and is a high priority target unless you want to be floating dead in space or spinning like a top.

      Armor isn’t universal, you’re stripping it away from each spot you hit. If an area is glowing you’ve already done heavy damage there, so target that spot to deal hull damage (red text).

      Turn on auto-fire for your point-defense and other turrets (shift+weapon group number). It makes a huge difference.

      In campaign mode, get an elite crew for your flagship as soon as possible. The space station usually starts with just enough Elites that you can fill your ship with the starting funds (you might have to sell your current crew).

      Flux is the most important aspect of combat in this game. Learning how to manage it (when to vent, when to drop shields, when to turn off your point defenses) is key to survivability. Pump build points into flux venting, it’s crucial for sustained combat.

      Micromanaging omni-shields can make you almost invincible. Keep them down until they are necessary, and drop them the moment the threat has passed. I’ve been soloing the campaign mode with a single Wolf-class close-support frigate by only raising my shields the instant before a strike is about to hit me. You can take out several frigates and multiple squadrons of fighters and bombers at once using this tactic, with zero hull damage.

      DON’T control a large ship. Really, they are not beginner friendly. Even if it’s a mission-critical ship, the excellent combat AI is more than able to take care of itself (assign escorts to it if that makes you feel better). Transfer command to a smaller ship; frigates are good for newbies. If you can’t win a fight with an equally armed opponent, hit U to go into autopilot.

      Remember that you get a decent boost to engines if your shields are down and you have zero flux. Use this to withdraw for another attack run, or to escape from a losing battle.

  20. boldoran says:

    Hmm any chance of getting this on Steam once it is released if I buy it now?

    • Nafu says:

      Yes, the devs have said they want to do this if possible. Whether Steam approves it is another question.

  21. Morcane says:


    I’m a sucker for stuff like this.

    That, as well as Space Rangers 2 and SPAZ consuming my life.

  22. CaLe says:

    I really should have watched the video before blindly buying it. Oh well.

  23. Robin says:

    Will this be available on steam? I’d prefer not having my games on scattared through several places.
    (What DRM the non-steam version is going to have?).

    I was also checking “Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space”, but there is no demo and I’d like to try it before spending 24$. The prequel mentioned in the article has corrupt graphics and for what I saw it seems sensibly different.

    • municipalis says:

      Will this be available on steam? I’d prefer not having my games on scattared through several places.
      (What DRM the non-steam version is going to have?).

      The dev has said he wants to get it onto Steam when it’s complete, but that will be up to Valve to decide. Considering the level of polish evident in the alpha version, I’d bet on it. As to whether a pre-purchaser will get a Steam key – that also depends on Valve. And as for the non-Steam verison DRM: it’s just a CD key you enter once. The dev has been pretty vocal about his disliking of intrusive DRM.

      I bought Starfarer last time it was mentioned on RPS, and am very pleased with the purchase. The single missions alone gave me hours of gameplay. Right now I find the sandbox ‘campaign’ is a bit crude, but still gives you a lot of satisfying combat. If you ever played SPAZ and felt the combat was repetitve and un-engaging, Starfarer’s is much much better.

    • Robin says:


  24. Skiv says: