By Josh Speer / February 3rd, 2015
I recently got the opportunity to try out the Beta build for StarCrawlers, the delightful procedurally-generated Sci-Fi RPG romp I played at PAX Prime last year. Now that Juggernaut Games has had some more time to expand on the demo I played previously, how did it live up to my expectations? Overall, I would say the experience has been more of the same, which is certainly a good thing, considering how much I enjoyed it at PAX. But let’s delve into the game in a bit more detail.
When you start the game, you are given the opportunity to choose the difficulty, as well as one of seven different classes for your main character. Those opening choices are Cyberninja, Engineer, Force Psyker, Hacker, Smuggler, Soldier and Void Psyker. Not content to start out my game with a more tame sounding-choice like Hacker, Smuggler or Soldier, I immediately decided on Cyberninja (cause what’s cooler than ninjas in space?). After that, you are left to your own devices at the hub where you can choose from going to the Store, Doc Sam’s or the Med Bay, as well as the Menu. As you might imagine, the Store is where you buy and sell goods, and the Med Bay is where you heal your crew or revive fallen teammates. At Doc Sam’s, you can choose from new missions, recruit additional teammates — which I quickly did — and more. Deciding that my Cyberninja wouldn’t get far all on his lonesome, I saddled him with a Soldier and Void Psyker.
Unfortunately, this early build of the game has no tutorial, so I was unaware that I needed to choose character abilities from the Loadout in the Menu screen. As such, I went on my first mission equipped only with basic melee attacks and was almost annihilated by attrition whilst battling basic enemies. Fortunately, stubbornness won out, and I completed my mission before all my party members were killed. I was also unaware initially that I could access the Menu from missions, which is where you go to equip new armor, as well as use healing items, which was why that first mission was such a challenging one. I have been told that the preview build of the game will come equipped with a tutorial, however, so this is only a concern to those playing the current version of the game.
Once I got a handle on the various shortcuts and controls, the game was a blast to play. Controls are very simple and intuitive. Left-clicking on an enemy brings up the actions the player whose turn it is can take. Though the game does have many complicated aspects to learn, such as time units and player-specific ones, I found I could enjoy the game fine without completely understanding each system. Whilst exploring, you use the directional buttons to move and can right-click to look around and left-click to open lockers and acquire credsticks. Each class plays differently, which leads to some fun strategies. Given that both the Cyberninja and Void Psyker were physically weaker to start out with, I made good use of my Soldier to protect them with his defensive skills. The Cyberninja made up for that with speed and the ability to get an extra turn occasionally, which made him a great melee annoyance for the creatures and robots I encountered. By far my favorite, once equipped with skills, was the Void Psyker. She accumulates Void energy by attacking or using skills, and the more Void energy she has, the more damaging her attacks become. She quickly became my powerhouse fighter. Though I haven’t tried out all the other classes yet, I’m sure they all have their own pros and cons to contribute to battle.
StarCrawlers certainly shines in the art and audio department thus far. Though conversation is handled through menus and still character portraits, combat has animated foes who each lend a little personality to the hustle and bustle of scavenging space stations. My favorite is one little robotic foe who displays holographic emoticons as he attacks you, including a smiley face when he damages one of your party. While there is only one song that plays during exploration and one during battle, they both set the tone nicely. You will be overwhelmed by a sense of loneliness and desperation as you explore space, and never too comfortable or reassured. Which is just as it should be. My only complaint with regard to gameplay is that my game froze up on me once as I was in the middle of a mission, forcing me to exit out of the game.
Though there are still some kinks to work out, I feel that StarCrawlers is shaping up nicely, and I look forward to trying out later, more polished builds. I especially hope to see more plot and variety in the game, but enjoy what there is for now. To find out more about StarCrawlers, check out their Steam page, and stay tuned to oprainfall for more info as it comes out!