By Fabrice Stellaire / October 4th, 2016
|Release Date||September 30, 2016|
|Genre||Shoot them up|
Over the last few years, shmups have made a significant return on PC, and digital platforms like Steam offer a wide selection of them. Xenoraid lands on Steam with a slightly different approach and targets hardcore fans of the genre as well as more casual players.
The story is as generic as you expect it to be when you play a shmup in space – the Earth is threatened by an alien invasion and you have to defeat them. Humans do not have a very advanced technology and have converted air vehicles into spaceships to be able to repel the invasion. This explains why your spaceships will generally shoot bullets and not plasma or laser beams. You control a single ship when starting a mission, but you can switch freely with 3 other ships, each of them having specific main and sub-weapons. Getting used to switching ships is essential, as you are virtually invincible while switching, even if this only lasts a few seconds. It can also allow you to let some weapons cool down, as all main weapons can overheat if you use them too much. This is probably the biggest difference of the game when you compare it to other shooters, you do not have to constantly shoot your enemies, it is all about aiming with accuracy and finding the right timing to shoot. It may take some time to get used to this approach, and you will need a few tries to understand the gameplay.
Fortunately, each mission you complete rewards you with money you can spend to repair your ships, upgrade them, or purchase technological upgrades that affect all the ships at once. For example, you can upgrade your hull, your guns, equip a ship with a nuclear bomb which will explode if your ship is destroyed and more.
Some upgrades look a bit expensive, especially considering that when you complete a campaign and start a new one (the story mode includes 5 campaigns on 5 different planets), you only get basic ships and lose all upgrades. Why spend 600 credits on an automated repair bay when you know this upgrade only fully repairs a single ship at the end of a mission? I think some upgrades may need to be re-balanced. Note that the game constantly saves your progress, so if one of your ships gets destroyed and you do not like that, you will have to restart a campaign from zero or go back to a checkpoint, if you activated any. I restarted various times some campaigns to spend my money differently and try and find the best strategy.
Let us now talk about enemies. They are divided into three categories : drones, light ships, and crusaders. The scanner tells you how many enemies of each type you will face during a mission. It can be useful to use asteroids defensively to block incoming projectiles, or as weapons, as they damage both you and enemies. The artistic design of ships is typical of a sci-fi shmup, and the music matches the theme and universe of the game.
Crusaders are often equipped with magnetic shields that will need to be quickly deactivated before damaging the hull. Among crusaders, drone carriers are a serious threat as they will keep spawning new enemies until they are destroyed. It is generally useful to save secondary weapons to deal with crusaders quickly, as their shields regenerate.
The campaign should last about 5 to 10 hours depending on your skills, but the game also features a survival mode where you face endless waves of enemies. Both modes can be played with up to three other players, but unfortunately, this cooperation is limited to local mode and there are no online features.
Sold at the price of $9.99 (but currently discounted at $8.99), Xenoraid should be a good experience for most players. Shmup experts may find the game less difficult than some bullet hell games for example, but the game still requires accuracy and good timing.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Shoot them upSteamXenoraid