Star Command was a darling of the Kickstarter crowd, and couldn’t be much more Star Trek inspired unless there was a button explicitly labelled for making out with space babes. But is it any good, and is it worth your money?
Before we start, an obligatory bit of music that pops up in my head every time I launch Star Command. Given I’ve been playing quite a bit of it since its launch last week, that means it’s been on more or less a constant loop. If I have to suffer, so do you.
(Note, if you will, the logo that identifies where that’s been taped from…)
The thing about Star Trekkin’ and Star Command though, is that they play off most of the same tropes. You’re the commander of a brand new spaceship, boldly going… well, you know the rest, and I don’t feel like getting sued by Paramount any time soon.
Star Command is a space sim with a touch of the management queue about it; your starship uses three different types of crew, from redshirt soldiers who run the weapons systems to yellowshirt engineers who fix the ship when it breaks — which is often — and blue shirted scientists who patch up the physical wounds after each gruelling battle. Gruelling is the right word, too, as from the offset after a very brief tutorial, you’re flung into space with only an inkling of how your ship and combat generally works… and then the bad things start happening.
Star Command isn’t afraid of the space clichés, and I don’t want to spoil them for anyone still to play the game, but let’s just say that you’ll be doing a lot more blasting and not quite so much finding new alien babes to firmly hug along the way.
The management aspect of Star Command is handled via tokens that are earned after every battle, although like many of the ship’s functions they’re not always well explained, and that can — especially early on — lead you into frustration as you can’t afford certain upgrades. There’s a trick here — and again this isn’t made all that clear — and that’s the fact that you can revisit previously cleared missions to earn more tokens. As such, it’s possible — although rather dull — to grind your way through early missions to make the later ones much easier.
Star Command’s combat between ships relies on slowly loading weapons that rely on their own mini-games for success. This does a good job of creating tension, as many battles will boil down to just a few well-timed shots or dodges, so making the most of your resources is paramount. Take enough damage and the enemy can beam aboard, at which point it becomes a battle between the redshirts and the invading foes. It’s not astonishingly deep combat, given you can pair up scientists to redshirts to create self-healing clusters of firepower, but for a mobile game it’s solid enough fun.
There are issues, however. Star Command, at least in its initial release form isn’t terribly stable. I’ve lost more than a few battles simply because the app itself crashed, which is intensely frustrating if you’ve spent ten minutes fighting off the hordes and are only waiting for that last shot to break the enemy ship into tiny airless fragments.
There’s also an issue that isn’t made clear in the tutorial, and indeed doesn’t make a whole lot of sense within the context of Star Command’s actual universe. I’m going throw it behind the spoiler curtain, because knowing it does change the way you play the game.
[spoiler]Star Command ends when your captain goes down… but not with the ship. While it can explode all over the place, leaving holes into the deep vacuum of space that’ll suck out both friend and foe, and indeed catches fire at even the hint of combustion, the ship is functionally indestructible. Yes, a broken down ship makes it easier to kill the captain (or, technically, the princess) due to incoming fire and beamed over hordes, but still, it opens up new strategies. Surround him with healers, let the foes blow the walls off the corridors and watch them get sucked into space. It gives you a lot more room to play according to game rules rather than logic, and hopefully it’s something that’ll be fixed up quick smart, because it’s totally illogical and robs the game of much of its tension once you know this.[/spoiler]
Is Star Command worth $2.99 of your money? Oh my yes.
It’s not without its flaws, and even with the dangling carrot of multiple playthroughs to extend play time, it’s not the longest management sim you’ll ever play. But it’s fun while it lasts, and I reckon there’s far too much whinging about “value” when it comes to mobile apps that only cost a few dollars anyway. Will you get $3 worth of value out of Star Command? Yes, you will — and that’s the only thing that should matter.
Star Command: iTunes Store