Screenshot_2013-10-19-11-05-13
Sometimes a good old-fashioned space battle is the only thing that will cure whatever it is that ails you. Many times, it can be downright impossible to find a decent game that can serve as the medicine for what you need - specifically something that can stand up to only being used in the short bursts of playtime that are often a hard requirement for mobile gaming. Star Command, the product of an early Kickstarter campaign (that may or may not have been successful depending on your point of view) was recently included in the Humble Bundle sale and is now available on Android as well. Does it have what it takes to be a decent space battle gem?

As a player who did not get in on the Kickstarter for Star Command, it is safe to say that I came in on this with very little background on the subject and absolutely no skin in the game. Seeing as I am a fan of galactic space quests and saving the little guy from annihilation, I did see Star Command as something that held some promise and value for me. Whether you had heard of the Kickstarter campaign, or whether you feel that the developers delivered as promised should perhaps be - for the moment, anyhow - set aside so one can see what was delivered with fresh eyes.

Screenshot_2013-10-19-10-53-25
Star Command puts you in control of your very own starship. Depending on the initial difficulty that you pick, you can have a small ship with few room expansions available, up to a near-ginormous monstrosity that has a large capacity for upgrades. Seeing as I've not had a lot of time available lately, I opted for the easier-to-manage small ship - perfect for duking it out one-on-one with any alien scum that should oppose my will. Once you've picked your ship, one of the first things that the game will do is to guide you through some initial room expansion and hiring of crew members to man those newly-created stations.

You will find that there are not a whole lot of room selections and if you have any familiarity with Trekkie-type shows then you should know what to expect: red tactical rooms (weapons), blue medical rooms (healing) and yellow engineering rooms (dodging, engines). The first room that the game will have you assign a staff person to is the bridge, which just so happens to be where the captain starts out at. Then you are directed to build another room, in this case the engineering dodge room. Finally, you need at least one weapons room so you get to build one of those as well, either a plasma rocket cannon or a machine gun rapid-fire system. Each room needs to be staffed with at least one person in it, or it's essentially useless.

Screenshot_2013-10-19-11-39-30
As the game starts out in Earth orbit, you have a nice pool of humans to choose from to conduct into servitude for your ship. You may have noticed while you were building your rooms that you were using up an initial storehouse of tokens - those red, blue and yellow lozenge-shaped items that you'll be using a lot of in the time to come. In order to hire a crew to man your stations, you'll need to trade one token for each crew member. Fortunately, you don't have to use a red token to hire a redshirt for a tactical position - you can use any available token you have, while the new hire will take on the role of whichever room you assign it to. Keep in mind, that only certain roles can provide certain services. A horrible example of this is the need to repel enemy forces that may have beamed aboard your ship. Only red crew members can actually fire on the enemy. Your engineers and medical professionals will happily let the enemy beat the ever-loving snot of them. It's a little frustrating having to re-assign people to red rooms just to get more attackers in this situation, but fortunately it hasn't happened all too frequently yet at this point. Your engineers are also the only crew members that can put out fires (literally…) and make other necessary repairs to the ship. You will want to make sure that you keep an eye out on the amount of tokens you have available for bringing on more crew.

Screenshot_2013-10-19-10-53-25
It is definitely a good idea to keep a fully-staffed ship - as you assign more crew members to the needed areas of the ship, you'll notice that each room gets a higher and higher percentage of actual output - up to 99%. You will also want to invest tokens in upgrading each room, which can have effects such as increasing the damage done by your weapons and decreasing the load time of your ship dodge system.

So to this point there really hasn't been much stated about the actual game play. As you are assigned new planets or star systems to visit you will come across a wide variety of aliens, some good and some not so good. After responding to hails and bantering back and forth as only a good starship commander can do, you will often find yourself in the position of needing to fend off an enemy attacker. This is where the phrase "hurry up and wait" comes into play. Each weapon (or shield, or heal) has a buildup timer, during which you do a lot of sitting around and watching icons fill with color. Almost always, the enemy ship will have a weapons slot that is near ready to fire before they even cut off communications. So you're guaranteed to take at least one hit. If you have somebody manning your dodge room, then your dodge meter will slowly fill up, which is hugely useful. When the enemy gets a target on your ship (you'll know it by the generated sound and the red target markers that are somewhere on your ship) then you can tap the dodge button to force a miss. You can usually miss at least every other attack on your ship.

Screenshot_2013-10-12-11-32-41
Whenever your weapons are ready to fire, you will be introduced to the mini-games that control how well your attack succeeds against the enemy. For example, with the machine guns you need to tap the screen as a rotating target wends its way around the enemy ship, tapping when the red ball enters one of the circular areas on its track around the enemy. If you are good enough, you can get off a decent number of rounds. Once you miss, though, then you need to tap the yellow balls on the bottom of the screen in order to actually launch the attack. It's convoluted, yes, but it does introduce some skill into the game.

As you work your way through the galaxy, you will have ship-to-ship battles as well as crew-to-crew battles. As stated above, in these cases the only crew members that can attack are your red crew, so it does pay to keep some unassigned crewmembers around the red rooms. Keep an eye out on their health levels, and send people to the medic room as needed. Some of the larger firefights can have a tendency to clutter the screen and make precise movement difficult, but it doesn't detract too much from the gameplay.

Screenshot_2013-10-12-13-19-58
There really isn't much more than can be said about Star Command. The graphics are the old-school pixel variety that the kids go crazy for these days, but they do work in this case. The graphics are colorful, it's easy to see what's what and figure out what's going on at a glance. The music is pretty decent as well, and creates a nice ambiance to complement the style of the game.

While the time to pick up Star Command in a Humble Bundle has come and gone, you can still pick it up from the Google Play store for less than the cost of a cup of coffee (assuming Starbucks here, of course) in the morning, at $2.99. While there is no demo available, I would have to say that if you like space-oriented combat sims, then you will most likely enjoy Star Command. It may not be the most open-ended game out there (Freelancer this ain't) but it's still a good romp through the galaxy.
Google Play Logo