Space is vast and full of beauty with galaxies and stars we have yet to explore. As humans, we study the past to predict the future but looking at past strategy games won’t let you predict all this new game has in store for you! It’s not just about strategy nor just about shooting If you’re only building up your base, you’ll get blown up. If you’re focused on shooting the other team, they’ll capture your base. You have to find the balance.
Dead Star is developed by Armature Studios. It is currently Early Access and in beta with the full game set to be released in early 2016 for PC and the PS4.
Setting the scene: You’re a prisoner condemned to the Terminus Zone or the Wastes for the rest of your life. You spend this time being watched over by a red giant known as the Dead Star and a group of hired guards called the Terminus Corp. This method of punishment worked well until the Dead Star went supernova, and the Terminus Corp abandoned the Wastes. The bit of law and order there was with the Terminus Corp dissolved, and chaos ensued. Now, you are left to fight for survival.
The game includes a training section, which I actually stumbled upon by accident. The tutorial details some of the finer points of the game, such as the nebula clouds, space events, rewards, and detailed conquest strategies. While lengthy, it helps to read over to learn more about the game.
The tutorial also covers three core subjects: Loadout, Piloting, and Conquest.
First, the Loadout, which is where you choose your ship, covers the basics of ship creation within the game lore (with holographic blueprints) but doesn’t do much else. It introduces you to the Marksman, a Scout ship you fly in your first mission. You also learn how many ships you can fly and how to select different ships. If you want to learn more about the ships, you have to go into the lengthy training manual. In that manual you will find there are three specific classes of ships and different types within those classes. The class you start in is the Scout. The Scouts are very fast with a weaker fire power. The next class up is the Raider. Raiders are mid-range ships that work well for upgrading outposts. The final class is the Frigate which has a high defense and deals heavy damage. The types within the classes are different styles with variants in levels of speed, armor, shields, and unique weapons.
Next is Piloting. The Piloting section opens by teaching you about harvesting, collecting, and transporting ore. It doesn’t cover many controls except moving and shooting but does tell you how to upgrade the outposts and salvage artifacts floating around for experience. As you collect experience, Mags tells you about the second weapons system for your ship and throws you into a fight. If you die, you can easily choose a different ship. Eventually, you get to an outpost and capture it.
The last section is Conquest. With little information, they throw you into battle. Mags stays with you to heal the entire battle, but you don’t have that luxury in the online battles. The Conquest also lasts only three minutes which does not give you a good sense of how long matches actually take. Online matches usually run 20 minutes with approximately half of it being spent leveling up your ship and farming ore to level up your outpost.
The tutorial could be more descriptive. It gives you the basic mechanics but doesn’t cover much beyond them. Take the nebulae for example. They’re giant clouds that affect your ship when you fly into them. The purple ones drain your shield completely but boost your attack power. There are pros and cons to each type, but, again, you have to go into the novel-length training manual to find out more. The tutorial does teach you how to move, upgrade, fire your gun, and the most basic way to win. This would be sufficient for many games, but I feel like it wasn’t for this one. There is so much more to this game than your basic team matches.
The controls were challenging to master. Aiming properly takes quite a bit of practice. The left stick steers the ship, and the right stick controls what direction your weapons are fired; using both is essential for good aim.
The Scout ships are incredibly fast and quite difficult to control. The Raider ships were more comfortable in steering and a little slower. Personally, I stuck with the Raiders for the majority of my playthrough.
Matches in Dead Star are an average of 20 minutes. Being so strategically based, you have to prepare yourself and your outpost before going in to attack the enemy. Before venturing out to enemy outposts, it is wise to level up within your area by killing the enemies around your initial outpost and harvesting ore. Ore can be found in the asteroids with a green hue.
After blowing up the asteroids, you can harvest the ore and use it to upgrade your outposts with better weapons, turrets, and shields. Mid-range ships seem to be best suited for ore harvesting because of their larger cargo hold and available firepower.
The ore only levels up your outpost. You do gain experiencing from harvesting and depositing it into the outpost but need to kill enemies and capture outposts for faster experience gain. Getting the second weapon upgrade for your ship is absolutely essential to surviving anything past the initial area. There are some low level enemies that surround your outpost, and defeating them helps gain some much needed experience. The higher level you are, the easier capturing the outposts becomes.
In battle, you eventually max out your ship’s levels. However, you can level up individually as well. You start out each battle at level 1 but have an individual pilot level outside of battle. Battling online earns you fame which brings you perks in the game. Paint styles can be unlocked, components for augmenting the ship become available, and different types of pilots can be used.
The maximum level you can reach in battle is ten. As you level up, you can upgrade different components of your ship, including adding weapons, beefing up the core, or getting a stronger shield. However, since there are only ten levels with five areas to upgrade and four levels to each area, you have to pick and choose what you upgrade to mesh with your preferred style of play.
When I started this game, I had a very hard time getting used to everything. There is a lot to absorb. The tutorial was essential for me; I could not have made it past the initial area if I hadn’t looked over it. There is a lot involved in this game, and the tutorial barely scratched the surface. It leaves you to figure out a lot of it on your own.
The controls were incredibly frustrating at first, but as I went to pick and choose my ships, I warmed up to them. Being in beta, it was difficult to jump into online matches. However, the 5v5 and 10v10 matches were still enjoyable when I could get into them. Having a team to play on with several people using different ships helps a great deal in capturing the outposts.
The graphics in this game are beautiful. Everything is simple but elegant. The colors blend together and create stunning pictures of planets and stars. While providing an atmosphere, the backgrounds and space events don’t overtake the view. The soundtrack is incredible, and the music in the loading screen makes you feel like you’re going out to war. Each track provides a great energy in battle, and every aspect blends together to create a great atmosphere for the game.