Fractured Space: Multiplayer Mayhem
Edge Case Games, the guys who brought us the incredible Strike Suit Zero and Strike Suit Infinity have been working on a multiplayer space game for quite a while now, and it’s shaping up to be as beautiful and polished as their singleplayer titles are. We first covered Fractured Space in 2014 and back then the game seemed vague in terms of the direction it would take, at least from a player’s perspective. Well, the vague-ness is gone: Fractured Space is a 5v5 multiplayer space MOBA featuring stellar (haha, see what I did there?!) graphics and gameplay!
Now, before you run for the airlock at the mention of MOBA, hear me out: Fractured Space isn’t some four hotkey, toxicity-laden, queue dodging, 50-minute-long-match nightmare. Now, I’ll address each of these points:
Each ship has 8 abilities split between a combination of offensive, defensive, and utilitarian skills. Some abilities like the Point Defense System (anti-missiles) and the Jump Drive are shared among all ships, while others can be unlocked and purchased or are unique to the chosen vessel.
Despite surpassing 500,000 players as reported by PC Games Network, the Fractured Space community seems to completely lack the toxicity ubiquitously (and unfortunately, accurately) associated with every other MOBA game community. Four of us from FoH have logged about a dozen hours played in the current build, and have yet to run into a single rude comment in chat. How incredible is that? Yes, very incredible. This follow suit to a trend we’ve noticed: space games tend to have a lot friendlier communities as a whole, perhaps due to the much higher learning curve and skill base. Whatever the reason(s), it’s an unexpected yet refreshing change.
In addition to the friendly community, queue timers are accurate (something that ‘Triple A’ MOBA’s haven’t fully mastered!) and prompt. I’ve never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a game while queuing solo or as a group of 3 which is the current maximum allowed in a queue. I also have not experienced a single queue dodge or ragequit and have only been a ‘man down’ once, and only for about 5 minutes. Our team’s respawn timer approximately halved while we were a short a player, and we seemed to gain resources faster. Once the player reconnected he/she apologized for the disconnect, and we went on to win the match. All in all, a great community!
Currently, there are two game modes, each with one ‘map’ (keep in mind, this is still an early access game!). in Conquest mode games last about 20-40 minutes and Frontline (unlocked at level 5) is essentially ARAM in space, lasting 10-20 minutes. In Conquest mode you work with your team to capture and hold mines (points) on the map which produce resources, allowing you to upgrade your ship faster. Capturing one of two stations allows access to the enemy base – capturing the enemy base is a win for your team. Before launching into a game of Conquest, you are able to select your ship, your crew (crewmembers provide various stat bonuses and allow further ship customization) as well as your offensive and defensive loadout. All of this is randomized in Frontline mode, including your ship selection – it’s a great way to try out ships you don’t yet own. As someone who likes to game for 15-30 minutes at a stretch, I felt these match times were perfect.
A Brave New World
A multiplayer-only space game is a big risk, especially for an indie studio. Every multiplayer-focused space game I’ve seen has quickly died from the lack of one thing every multiplayer game absolutely must have: players (and lots of them). Multiplayer is also much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to implement. While Steam alleviates these factors somewhat, there’s no getting around the fact that multiplayer, especially multiplayer that works well, has a lot of overhead. The team at Edge Case has already proven that they can make one heckuva single player game, so logic would follow that they would stick to that niche. However, I’m really glad they didn’t, because…
Fractured Space is the first competitive multiplayer-only space game that I’m actually playing – and that 500,000 others are, too.
Back in 2014, I was somewhat skeptical about whether or not the game would become polished enough to actually be playable, and should they overcome this rather large obstacle, that there would actually be other people to play against. However, as I’ve followed Fractured Space over the last ~18 months, they’ve rocketed (man, I’m a riot with these puns, aren’t I) over both barriers and have built a multiplayer system that works incredibly well, on par with or exceeding those of so-called ‘AAA’ titles. The UI is easy to use, queue times are fast, lag is non-existent. I’m so excited that a competitive multiplayer space game is gaining so much traction, especially in early access stage. I feel Fractured Space has what it takes to become the first space game to enter the E-Sports arena, and I sincerely hope that it does.
If you’re not a fan of MOBAs, please don’t let that deter you. I vehemently dislike MOBA games, not only because I find the genre repetitive but also because of the extremely toxic community. As I mentioned previously, the Fractured Space community appears vastly friendlier than that of traditional MOBAs. The game is also much more than mashing 4 buttons and pinging the minimap: there’s a deep level of customization possible, to the extent that two people piloting the same ship could still have very different experiences. Moving a ship in space, and all the skill that it entails, is thrilling, and that feel of flying a ship or vessel is one of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to the space genre. I’m extremely glad that Fractured Space is being sculpted into the ‘thinking man’s MOBA’: you haven’t played a MOBA until you’re juggling 8 abilities and moving in 6 degrees while trying to anticipate the direction your enemy will exit the asteroid they’re using for cover because of the time it takes to turn and move that much mass!
Fractured Space breaks the mold
Although the term ‘Space MOBA’ accurately defines Fractured Space, I feel that description places limits on what is a much deeper game. Fractured Space breaks the mold, and Edge Case Games has made an exciting, compelling, and, most importantly, fun new title that in some ways is the first of it’s kind. This is a game that we’ll be covering and playing lots of in the future, and I personally am excited about the possibilities that it brings to the genre.
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