Into the Stars Review
Have you ever wanted to be your own space ship captain? Calling the shots and making life or death decisions? You can with Into the Stars, developed by Fugitive Games and published by Iceberg Interactive! As captain you’ll be selecting crew for your vessel, determining crew for missions (mining, scuttles, etc.), handling crew issues and determining strategy during battles. Into the Stars is a space survival simulator with you as captain of the Ark 13, the last hope for humanity’s survival. Your main objective is to reach Titus Nova, the only known planet that can support human life before the alien Skorn find the Ark 13 and extinct the human race. Any mistake you make could be your last.
Before I jump into the gampleay discussion, I felt that the beauty of Into the Stars needs to be recognized and appreciated. Using Unreal Engine 4, Into The Stars is visually stunning, and as I’m moving through space I forget I’m playing a game because the view is simply that beautiful! Bright yellow dwarf stars and interesting planets are spread throughout the open world. You can even do a 360 view around your ship while you’re flying, which allows you to soak in the vastness and brilliance of the universe. You can also identify from afar items of interest such as derelict ships, which really sets the tone for the game. You definitely feel like you are alone, moving through space, attempting to save humanity.
Can’t Get Enough of Jack Wall
If you’re an avid fan of the Myst franchise (I love these games!) then you’ll be as excited as I was to hear that Jack Wall (yes, that Jack Wall!) composed the soundtrack for Into the Stars. I love when a soundtrack blends into a game seamlessly, and becomes just as important as the visuals or gampeplay. Jack Wall is one of my favourite music composers because his work is just beautiful. His ability to create songs that enhance even the simplest actions (just sitting in the command chair, for instance) is amazing. I’ve found myself motionless in game, just listening to the ambiance because it is so relaxing. However, when combat occurs, you can hear and feel the music change in intensity. I’ve always pictured Jack Wall’s music as water: it flows with the game play and reflects the mood perfectly.
I’ve always pictured Jack Wall’s music as water. It flows in sync with game play, reflecting the mood perfectly.
Civilians – Let’s just Airlock Them All
A key responsibility and component of Into the Stars is the civilians on the Ark 13. You are carrying the last human population in the universe and must keep them healthy. However, it isn’t going to be easy. During gameplay you’ll be getting constant updates on the condition of your civilians. Are they unhappy? Is there a religious zealot causing a ruckus? Has the plumbing backed up? Yes, yes and yes. If you don’t address the issues occurring with the civilians, you’ll start seeing a large drop in your population. You even get a nice population counter that shows you how many you are losing (reminds me of the counter in Battlestar Galactica, and makes me feel like a crap captain). I’ve yet to see what happens when the population counter gets to zero, but I suspect you lose once that occurs. As the Captain, you can address each civilian issue by assigning a crew member to carry out your orders, and you can build buildings in the civilian module that help with happiness, uprisings, medical and even growth as you make progress through the game. If it wasn’t for the civilians, I feel that much of the time spent moving through space would be rather uneventful – they keep you on your toes!
Mining – It Has to Be Done
I know lots of games have included mining for resources and I completely understand it occurring in a space survival simulator. The Ark 13 has limited cargo holds and you have to prioritize what resources to keep and which can be tossed (or not collected in the first place). The actual mining process I found to be rather difficult, actually. The mining rig moves very fast and you can easily touch material that destroys it. I’m not really fond of the mining aspect, so I tend to run out of resources very quickly and suffer high population losses. As I mentioned, a good thing to keep in mind when mining is to know exactly what you need before you even start the process, which makes it less difficult. I’ve been able to make better progress when I check my resource levels and remember what elements I need when mining. Seems like it would be common sense, but trust me, you’ll forget what you need half the time once you start mining, because you’ll be too focused on keeping your drill from damage!.
Helm to 108
Jumping into the captain’s seat is something that you have to get prepared for. I highly recommend watching the Captain Academy Tutorial on their steam community forums before making your first foray as the last hope for mankind. There is a bit of contextual help included in the game, however you can easily miss the on/off for the tutorial buttons for said help. Also, the tips included in the tutorial are not very comprehensive, which is why I suggest checking out the community forums. Once you’ve gotten the controls down, ship movement and the different panels, you can start figuring out and understanding exactly how to get to Titus Nova. I really appreciate the all-encompassing responsibilities that you, as the captain, must be on top of: it is really easy for you to lose track of your resources, the civilians’ health, and then you have to fight off enemies! All of these responsibilities and more are vital, and losing focus on any one is really bad for your survival changes. For instance, I’ve ran out of resources before because I was too distracted with reaching a planet. Drifting in space sucks, as you watch your civilian number counter steadily drop…
The enemy in Into the Stars is the Skorn, however there are other alien races that you encounter that can be friendly, neutral or jerkoffs that want to kill you. Surviving isn’t just about resources and civilians, you have to survive the encounters with the Skorn – which aren’t too painful if you haven’t lost crew, your shields are up and you’ve got the right crew to start with (big ifs…). The combat is interesting because you don’t just click and shoot. You need to pay attention to the shield types which are designated by colors: red, blue and yellow. If your weapons are the same color as the enemy shield, it will get blocked. Multiple times I’ve fired a shot only to have the Skorn switch shield color, thus blocking it. I think playing the game on the hardest level would make the Skorn more of a challenge than on normal. If you can’t keep up with resources and don’t know how to correctly use the shields and weapons, the Skorn will kill you, and you’ll get a lovely little message about the extinction of humanity.
Are You Going to Make It?
I’m going to beat Into the Stars if I have to quit my job. I really enjoy the multitasking and complexity that the game offers, it isn’t a simple game. I’m interested in learning more about the storyline as well – do you have a final battle with the Skorn, for instance? Are the other people on Titus Nova? What about the other Ark ships? I find myself thinking about the game when I’m cooking or doing laundry: what strategies I can use, are there different crew members I should pick? I know I’ve got to get it out of my system, so I need to beat it! When the gameplay, graphics and soundtrack of a game mesh so well together to tell an interesting story, you just can’t help but be pulled in – and Into the Stars will pull you in.
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