I bet you think you’re supercool, Elite and Star Citizen, with your one ship. Pretty special with your intricate UI and Oculus Rift enhancements, your detailed models and weapon customisation. Pah, I say to you, what I want is a fleet. Not to go mining out an existence trading ore for cattle with other space bumpkins, but to command the destinies of hundreds through a few mouse clicks. Contact Vector, an extraordinarily pretty SpaRTS after £85k on Kickstarter, is planning to offer just that. While there’s some obvious cues taken from the Homeworlds of years past, the focus is on tactical movement and well-timed strikes rather than base-building and resource harvesting. Quite where on the Ground Control to Dawn of War 2 scale it sits isn’t clear yet, but there is a demo, trailer and delicious thoughts to be had at the next warp marker.
Something rather Man of Steel about the soundtrack that’s endearing it to me, I think. Well, that and all the lovely missiles. They’re the one constant throughout my various space loves, from Starlancer to Homeworld 2 to Endless Space, each features sublime examples of the jet-powered portable explosion. They’re a perfect end-note to a warp-exiting symphony – pah-beeeooow, clink-clink-clink, woooosh, KABLOOM.
Anyway, moving past my particular fetishes, what’s promised should raise a more objective eyebrow too. A quick glance at the past few years of released RTS games and some darts through my own rusted memory banks reveals space is a remarkably untapped setting. There’s plenty of sci-fi, from far-flung StarCraft escapades to near-future Command & Conquers, but actual spaceships are limited. Only Sins of a Solar Empire has been attempting to scratch the itch in recent times, with varying degrees of success. Its appeal is hardly reduced by a different camera perspective, allowing for all the same incredible starscapes and explosion porn, only in larger scale.
In a few minutes with Contact Vector I could see the promise of it and was honestly surprised at how long it had been since those particular endorphins had been triggered. It’s startlingly beautiful, piling more evidence on the “Unity can do everything” pile. There’s ambitious plans for the way various systems will interact, which look far more complex than what has been attempted before. Sadly, their campaign’s struggling, despite regular updates. Their upgraded demo might draw some interest, and is commendable for the simple fact of being a playable Kickstarter prototype. Many of the just-scrapes I’ve followed since it became a little harder to milk the dream machine have done so on the back of such easy access. Have a play, check out the pitch video below and then see about bringing her home, (space-)sailor.