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.