Where do I begin with this game. It wouldn’t be fair to define it as another top down arena space shooter. I can think of it as having most of what Gimbal was missing. In multiplayer, and single player. It was as if I walked into a game that was fleshed out and completed. While Gimbal was focused on customization more than anything else Ring Runner scaled back the customization a few clicks. I’ll stop making the comparison and focus on the review.
I found myself enjoying the game from the moment I sat down to play the single player campaign. We’re given an intro sequence, some dialogue, and we’re off in a top tier space fighter ready to make the universe our oyster. Well, assuming we can escape first. Spoiler, we don’t. Not entirely. How else would we be able to fully appreciate the sweet starfighter inspired by the Swordfish II from Cowboy bebop if we weren’t made to learn and get a feel for the basics in lower tier vessels? That’s right. A single player campaign that engages the player in learning how to play with what they have available. Trust me, you appreciate the little things you learn now when you’re coming to the final chapter. If not for the ‘tutorial’ missions in the campaign I imagine most players would run into something of a wall in certain missions, even if most missions can be approached from more than one angle. Missions are split up into a series of closed maps instead of one big, free roaming galaxy and this is perhaps better suited to a game of this nature.
Storywise, the plot of the campaign has its ups and downs. There are some cliche moments but otherwise I enjoyed the writing even when I came up the occasional “saw that coming” moment. The plot wasn’t exactly a straight line, given the player has choices to make. There were some typical filler characters, expected villains, but there were characters I found myself holding attachment to hoping to see them survive is the setting’s harsh world. Again, I found myself enjoying this run through the plot. I felt the hype a time or two, especially at the end of my thirty-five hour run. And side note, it seems as if there were a moment or two that were a reference to other media. I will say that I felt a certain gundam vibe at one point or two, and one of the missions reminded me of a scene out of Macross Plus.
So the plot and campaign were used to familiarize the player with game mechanics, hulls, and ship equipment. So what you might ask is the big deal with that? It’s quite a big deal, you’re given these sandbox missions in which to learn new facets of gameplay while still having a risk of failure and giving you a reward for overachieving. And this matters because the number of available ships is not a small number, and once you reach the fifth tier ships start branching out from the archetypes and adopting features from other ships. Cross class ships have a wide range of versatility while giving the player room the flesh out their own play style. Before I gave the brawler ships a try I thought they were a gimmick or probably something I’d not be able to get a hang of. I was wrong, so wrong that I found it rather fun zipping through space shredding other vessels at ramming speeds. Casters come with rather weird but useful options for combat, and arsenal is for if you want to be a roving tank. There is even a set of ships that is meant be piloted by two players,the duo class, which gives room for co-op multiplayer fun. But if you want to go fast, likely you’ll want a fighter. Just be careful because there are some moments where you’re going too fast to stop or move out of the way safely and all you’ll have left is to retry or rework your build.
And ship loadouts are fun. Even more so when you have the credits to buy the things you’ve researched and I’ll cover that in a bit. So we’ll assume you got the credits and the research to have all the components, the possibilities are endless for your ship builds. I made this one ship build that did bonus damage based on my heat levels, the enemy heat levels, and if the enemy was temporarily disabled from overheating. And even more the build would bleed heat to surrounding enemy ships, causing them to overheat. This required my ship to run very hot and close to over heating. I’ve made tanky builds that could soak damage, take out two or three ships, and then quickly escape to regen on shields and repair hull strength. I’d even found a weapon which seemed useless unless your ship is in overwhelming odds. A weapon that does more damage based on the number of targets in a certain range of your ship. And then the plot sits me in front a a tough guy itching to crack his knuckles on my face with his posse of of two bit droids. I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. Because I knew just what was coming the moment the dialogue came to a close. He didn’t even last a second. Come to think of it, combining that caster weapon with a dual-class brawler, hmmm.
About what I said regarding money and research. Don’t worry, you can research and gain credits outside of the solo campaign without spending any real world cash on some grifty micro transactions. So yes, play long enough, take regular breaks between every other mission and you’ll have so many options for loadouts that replay value really comes through. Giving the player the chance to try and retry different missions in order to work on bonus objectives they may have missed on a first run. Something I should add, there is a level select from the very beginning allowing the player to go back to earlier missions if they want to redo them. It should be noted it doesn’t show the player parts of the campaign they have yet to reach. Plus the mission selection looks good.
As for the graphics in game, it’s as good as you can expect from a top down space game. Backgrounds can be generated on the fly. Ships rendered in 3D on a 2D plane. Weapon effects are not always the star of the show but there are some impressive weapons. The game interface works well, but there were times when I found it a challenge to take my eyes off the action to check my ship stats, but there is an option to display certain information near the ship instead of on the edges of the screen. The menu has some nice effects, having the sort of aesthetic I would expect for a game set in space. Granted some of the visuals aren’t as great as they could be, it is my opinion that some of that is more intended feature than overlooked bug.
Multiplayer like many games of its age it has dwindled to nonexistent. Shame given the variety of modes, split between co-op and versus. I’ve not seen any trace of a co-op campaign, but co-op has several modes ranging from wave survival pve to something similar to a moba. Versus holds similar regards with deathmatch and pvp version of the moba maps. It certainly seems to be a trend with some games. I just wouldn’t count on this game having some sleeper hit e-sports scene.
Now to wrap things up. All in all I enjoyed the game enough that I would suggest it to friends. Plot driven campaign to give players something to do when there isn’t multiplayer. As stated, there were times when I felt the hype. And the ending struck up notes of Gundam’s ‘Universal Century’. I will say that the final boss was not as difficult as one of the bosses I faced earlier in the campaign largely because of certain mechanics in that particular fight. But was more my particular play style and stubbornness to blame for that. That said, slaying both bosses mentioned was very rewarding. Combat had its rewarding moments and the AI are certainly not dumb, and the brawler/melee class AI ships were something to bet on, giving you a tough fight. Choices made during the campaign have an effect on later missions. I was pleasantly surprised by this game. I came in expecting something incomplete but got more than what I paid for. I say give the demo a peek for the sample campaign, if it seems like your game, buy it. It’s easily worth the present price tag.
Take a look