You can't go a week without an intriguing tactics game popping up - today's is Element Space, a story-driven tactical RPG from Sixth Vowel, debuting into early access. This one breaks away from XCOM's familiar combat grid, offering familiar cover systems, but free movement. Set in a vaguely Mechwarrior-ish universe of modern Earth nations stretched into caricatured space empires, there's real-time exploration, turn-based combat, choices to be made and a branching mission structure that they hope will result in a shorter, more replayable game. A combat trailer lies below.
As with Mechanicus last week (which turned out to be surprisingly good, if needing a couple more patches and maybe a Hard mode, thanks for asking), I've not had a chance to go hands-on with Element Space yet, but it's an interesting prospect. I've always said that I prefer RPGs that are shorter and more focused but offer major choices - Alpha Protocol as a key example - and I'm interested to see how well Element Space's branching structure delivers. I can't help but notice there's an achievement for a 'perfect' ending, though, suggesting there's an optimal story route.
According to Sixth Vowel, the current release is the first half of the game, with the other half due to launch in the first quarter of 2019. They estimate that a single playthrough right now will take six to nine hours, and twelve to fifteen in the final game, suggesting that they're developing all the possible story branches in parallel. While there's some XCOM-like elements shown in the combat, including defined high and low (and oft-destructible) cover, the free-form movement and area-effect abilities opens up some fun possibilities, though I hope the AI is able to keep up.