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Space * Pirates * And * Zombies: The First Hour

Space * Pirates * And * Zombies: The First Hour

Platform: PC Games
Category: Action/Adventure, Real Time Strategy, Shooter
MinMax Games Homepage

Having been invited to play the Beta of Space * Pirates * And * Zombies (SPAZ for short... oh, you wacky devs!), I thought I'd let you know what it's all about, and what the beta experience has been like for me. The short version: Fair, with a hint of frustrating. But read on, and you'll get what I mean.

Okay, so the game starts with a slideshow cutscene, basically saying “The universe has gone to heck, and you're a rogue pilot for a bunch of refugees on a treasure hunt.” The game isn't scoring any points for originality, but it's obviously not designed to. It is, as the devs would put it, a homage to all the old arcade style space RPGs like Solar Winds or Star Control, a genre that's largely been forgotten by modern developers. The graphics are a little lo-fi, and the cutscene drama is undermined a little bit by the devs doing their own voice acting, but, let's face it, it's a game designed by two people, and it's a labour of love. So let's be fair here, we're not expecting Unreal quality visuals. And the audio's alright.

The controls are relatively simple, and the physics are the fairly basic ones you'd expect from this genre (you thrust in one direction, you'll keep moving in that direction, and you have less side thrust than forwards or backwards). The basic idea, much like Star Control, is to go around the galaxy (computer generated), looking for stuff to improve your chances of getting to the endgame (Get to the Core of the Galaxy), and mining, shooting, and yakking your way to greatness. But on to the experience.

The first hour of the game is mostly tutorial, as your mothership (The Clockwork, a rough and tumble hunk of bolts) gets damaged on its first test (No, not a Homeworld style attack, just the rough and ready engineering having been a bit too rough.) From there, you're introduced to your first little ship. The Short Bus, as it's called, is free, and you'll only really see it after this if you've cocked up. So you build the ship, maneuver your way to the part you need to make basic repairs to the Clockwork, and wallah, it's all good. The Short Bus steers like a cow, but that's okay, it's only the first ship.

Fast forward a bit, and I'm most of the way through the first set of missions. It's been about twenty minutes, and already, I've taken out a few UTA ships (The UTA being the “Oppressive Space Police” of the game), some traitorous miners who aided them, and I'm about to kill some more UTA, all with my first fighters, which are quite zippy, and have beam lasers. And then the new ships arrive.

Oh lordy... they've got missiles, and I've got, effectively, low damage lasers. Luckily, I only lose and rebuild my two little fighters a few times before winning out, but even that few times means a grindy trip back to the asteroid belt with my new ship type (slow, heavy armour, pulse cannons that can't hit the broad side of a barn... but do a fair amount of damage when they hit). Lucky for me, my new battle barges have tractor beams, and copious cargo holds for their size, so I make what I think, at the time, is enough money.

Oh, how wrong I was. See, while I get through the warp blockade fine (Losing another few ships, and about half the money I collected), the first mission in the next area is wiping me out, again, and again, and again. There's four ships to my three, for starters, and they hit me a lot more often than I hit them. So I die, again and again, until I'm forced to use the Mass Retreat button.

I need to do more missions. But I don't want to annoy the UTA any more than I already have. And then it hits me. The UTA and Civilian faction points? They only apply from system to system. So I head back to the first sector to kick some UTA tail... this time, I'm going to upgrade a lot. And this time, I'll come back strong. I can't say it was a perfect experience (pulse cannons really can't hit for toffee, and I still haven't got missiles), but it was good enough that I'm going to try harder. I will beat you, SPAZ. I will.

Space * Pirates * And * Zombies is being developed by Minmax games, and will be released on the 16th on Steam and their website at the time of writing.


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