Space. It’s a realistic concept which companies can capitalise on; spinning and rolling with numerous combinations of what life can be like if space was colonised by life, and not just the human race. In this case, Between the Stars is a Spaceship RPG which bases its gameplay from human colonisation, as well as warfare and bad decisions by a particular Captain.
Developer: Isolated Games
Between the Stars and its missions to save the Galactic Republic was created by Isolated Games; an Indie Developer from Barcelona, in which Between the Stars is their first IP game.
You understand that the game is attempting to feel dramatic with the background music they use in the menu. Unfortunately, this is somewhat repeated and becomes quite old to listen to. When you start the game, you choose whether your Captain is male or female; a Captain in which is determined to do whatever it takes, so I learned. Your battleship warps into an asteroid system, from a battle you do not witness. This is when you get your first feel of the gameplay.
My first impressions were stumped. It feels more along the lines of a 3rd person shooter, crossed into a space exploration RPG, it’s bizarre at first, but it works. Combat and manoeuvrability feel very similar to the controls that Elite Dangerous has, only the mouse cursor is used to aim your guns instead of control where your ship is pointing, so it takes some time getting used to flying.
Ship shields take form on 4 sides of the ship; Front, back and both sides. Taking either shield down on a ship allows you to attack its hull and create pretty explosions. You can also scan enemy ships to find weak points, which allow you to focus on that particular shield and area for extra damage. It also includes a very similar, if not the same, power diversion system; This allows you to divert power to specific areas you require more power out of, such as recharging shields faster, increased agility, or increased firepower from your guns.
Combat also has a small surprise which I didn’t expect. It has an ability feature; specific abilities are hotkey’d in a format similar to World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Abilities can include weapon systems like a Nuke Launcher, to modules that modify your ships effects like Cloaking. It seems to work quite well all in all, and can definitely help your odds when you are in a tight spot. It’s quite satisfying to fight in combat, but can be a bit slow and disorientating to act on, as you struggle to combine the aiming with the mouse and the different movement options with the keys. You end up ‘fat-keying’ a lot of the time.
Then you can take a look at the ship itself, we only experienced two different classes; A frigate and a Battleship. Each one had different capabilities and module slots you can fit on them. Ships can fit different modules, which affect the performance and statistics of the ship itself. You also have a crew on board, which specialise in different areas such as specialist, researchers, medics and much more. Each of your crew members have specific stats in certain areas that can level up when you gain experience. These crew stats do not only allow your crew to craft higher grade modules, gain more resources from scrapping, or treat wounded crew members, but also assists you in certain story scenarios and dialog situations.
During my missions, whilst waiting for my ship to repair at a station, I encountered these Story scenarios, which sort of reminded me of one of those books where you choose your fate, so you have to ‘turn to page 3’ because I choose to go down the right path instead of the left. It’s similar sort of system, dungeons and dragons style of gameplay. It’s a completely different twist, but it is interesting. Whilst I was making decision after decision, you can choose, or chance, one of your crew in able to pass, skip or create more opportunities during the scenario, so that you may earn better rewards or avoiding bad situations.
Unfortunately, for me and in fact those on board my ship, crew mates can die, most likely from my piss poor flight skills in combat. What is strange and somewhat realistic is that when a crew mate dies, they stay aboard your ship, ready for a true send-off that they well deserve. So, imagine my surprise when one of the comments in the space station is “Send off dead crew mates to save space for your cargo”. WHAT!? Poor medic Suzy bites the bullet for our cause, and we just palm her off to a space station to “create space”?! A true, but utterly savage reality space life appears to be.
Other features I could dictate during this beta was different rarity levels for weapons and salvage crates you collect from destroyed wrecks, blueprints which allow you to craft new modules provided you have the resources, and space stations which provide a trading market, and contracts you can undertake for extra goodies and side quests. But, for me, what put me off a lot of the gameplay, was the incredibly cheesy narration of characters. With the story being somewhat short, I took that with a pinch of salt.
There isn’t enough salt in the world to throw over my right shoulder that could calm me from the cringe that was the dialog, especially when the corniest of speech dialog was coming from the main character, you. I mean the lack of emotion and compatibility between other AI characters was almost embarrassing to play. So, I have deduced that this game might be aimed at a slightly younger audience, but even still might have to include some better voice acting.
So, what can bring the game back up to standard with its atrocious audio dialog? The visuals could do. It’s a surprisingly pretty environment; space always has a way of looking endlessly satisfying, looking around at the multitude of colours and stars and nebulas that surround you everywhere you go. When it comes down to structures and ships themselves, they are well thought through; textures are very good and the detailing brings a little more realism to each structure, ship, rock and other objects. The only detail that lets the graphics side down is the lighting and shading. It’s somewhat lacking, and would make a massive difference on the games looks if there was just even a little bit of shading.
I did enjoy playing this beta; it’s got some great potential to be a single player exploration game, which would bring it into independence with many of the other space exploration games we have on market currently. However, a little dent in the graphics and the abysmal dialog acting just made me laugh and cringe, especially towards the end where your Captain sounds ‘mildly mad’ that treachery has sprung and everyone you know about the Republic is being destroyed before your very eyes, hence why I said it might be aimed toward a more younger target audience.
Between the Stars
Good individual IP for an attempt at a single player, story based, RNG RPG 3rd Person Shooter Space Hybrid. Just fire those voice actors and get a lamp to shine a light or two in the game.
- Has potential
- Choose your own adventure
- Beautiful space
- Repetative music
- Awkward conversations
- Bad moral choices