Dogfight a giant space-worm in the Solar Warden demo

Solar Warden

They really don’t make space combat games like Solar Warden anymore. Come to think of it, they never made them like this, unless you count the wonky X-Com Interceptor. Currently in its last week of crowdfunding via Kickstarter, Solar Warden is a strange but exciting blend of X-Com style Geoscape management, real-time fleet command and action space combat with the promise of some Descent-inspired encounters in the full game. You can (and should) try an early demo build right here and now.

The Solar Warden demo is still pretty early and unoptimised, and drops you right in at the deep end with little to no tutorial so brace yourself for a rough ride unless you’re a combined X-Com and X-Wing veteran. Rough start aside, I see a ton of potential in this strange bundle of concepts, and the promise of claustrophobic tunnel-flying missions and a conspiracy-heavy story (as seen in the Kickstarter trailer below) definitely have my attention. Plus, fighting the worm boss in the demo was pretty fun, even if I did get my heavy asteroid-cracking frigate eaten on my first attempt.

So, Earth is under attack by aliens. Unlike the sneaky extraterrestrials of X-Com that like to bribe governments and hide Sectoid snipers in random farmhouses, these are big and unsubtle silicon-based life forms that plan on riding asteroids down to the planet’s surface. As commander of an orbital defense fleet, you boss around wings of strike craft (starting with one in the demo, but you’ll have access to three by the mission’s end) and order them to crack open incoming space-rocks in the hope of discovering hiding silicoids inside. And then you shoot them.

At any time, you can (and should) directly control one of your fighters. Controls should be familiar to anyone who’s played Freelancer or the more recent Everspace, with simple mouse aiming, plus throttle, roll and strafing controls on and around WASD letting you pilot just about anything without too much new learning to be done. Polar Zenith, the team behind Solar Warden originally cut their teeth on the excellent fan-made stompybot sim MechWarrior: Living Legends, so know a few things about accessible, satisfying vehicular shootybangs.

At the time of writing, the Solar Warden Kickstarter is only halfway funded, and in its last week. I’m hoping that the demo brings a little more interest to the game, but at the very least it’s great to see someone shooting for something new and fresh in a familiar (if presently uncrowded) genre. While the demo has a very steep learning curve and may take a few attempts before you crack the final fight, I’m very interested in seeing how all these systems might come together. You can grab the demo here on IndieDB, and check out the Kickstarter page for Solar Warden here.

Update: The Kickstarter just passed its funding goal, and the demo is now available via Steam.

9 Comments

  1. gabrielonuris says:

    Yesterday I was watching Guardians of The Galaxy 2 and thinking: why can’t we have a nice space sim/action game like this? We have some good space games today, but almost none with a proper and engaging SP campaign.

    Take that movie intro, for instance: wouldn’t it be awesome to get off the space ship and fight a mouth laser shooting Cthulhu using jetpacks, laser rifles and swords?!

    • brucethemoose says:

      A few co-op shooters (Borderlands, Mass Effect, Warframe) sorta have that. The reaper/collector boss units in particular feel very “lovecraftian with freaking laser beams”

      But yeah, very few go all out like Guardians of the Galaxy, especially with jetpacks. I can imagine an Avalanche sci-fi title doing that… Rico in space?

  2. ggggggggggg says:

    house of the dying sun had this formula down a couple years ago but everyone immediately forgot about it because its 40 minutes long. what a waste

  3. skorpeyon says:

    First thing I thought of watching the controls was Freelancer. Sadly, it just made me want to play Freelancer. I tried Everspace and didn’t enjoy it, the gameplay is too different. This, again, feels like I’ll not really enjoy it except for the style of combat. Why is it every open-world space sim has to have ridiculously overly complex controls and the simpler, more arcade-like ones such as this use the style I love?

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      The combat in this is definitely a bit more heavyweight than Freelancer or Everspace, at least when you’re piloting something a little chunkier. From the looks of the development footage you can even control capital-class ships that primarily fight using turret-based weaponry.

      The smallest and lightest ships are agile on multiple axes though, which opens the door to those planned close-quarters tunnel flying missions.

  4. Monggerel says:

    I read the title as “Dongfight a Giant Space Worm” and from now on I’m gonna assume that’s the game’s actual title.

  5. brucethemoose says:

    20k out of 40k? I’m surprised this hasn’t been funded yet, it ticks alot of good boxes and has a playable demo out.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      The demo came out in the last week of the Kickstarter, and they’ve not done nearly enough marketing work, so not too surprising a figure, but also one they can turn around.

      • Cinek says:

        7 days and still over 1/3 to go… Honestly as far as I’m a space fan, backed all the big kickstarters for space games, I can’t find myself backing this one. Just… RTS+SpaceSim mix seems rather appalling for me, mixes like that from small studios pretty much always end up with both parts done in a half-assed way due to budgetary constrains. £30k budget for such a complex production doesn’t add any confidence to the mix.

        It already seems that the large spaceship combat is basically toying with a poor arcade game where fighters just have a different labels and are slower but have longer HP bars.

        Seems to me that the guys missed the memo from MWLL (which I absolutely adored back in the day) – Big Stompy Things should feel big and stompy.

        Not to mention that the perspective of basically a wave shooter with occasional repetitive “Extinction Level Event Meteors” smells like boredom…

        Come on, MWLL was amazing, this… just… can’t force myself to like this whole concept :( Devs, pick something and do it great instead of trying to appeal for as wide audience as you can grab with a niche budget.

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