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.