Space has always been a fascination of mankind. We look to the stars, wondering what answers they might give us, wondering what secrets those mighty massive orbs hold for us, wondering if we are alone in the universe. Or, we just look into the sky and ask, “Could you IMAGINE the bitchin’ space battles that could take place up there? They would be AWESOME.” Those kinds of dreams are exactly what Star Conflict fulfills.
The first thing that might come to mind when looking at this galaxy-set MMO is how familiar it seems to EVE Online. And, despite its aesthetics and similar settings, both of these games have fairly different goals in mind. While EVE Online has a vitally important character element, Star Conflict is mostly set on delivering epic and fast-paced action across the universe, and it does it well.
One thing that truly brings this experience to life is eye-catching spectacle: the ships look fit for battle, and the maps are jaw-droppingly detailed, complete with asteroids and high-tech bases. These elements all fit together so that the giant and chaotic battles can still be good to look at, even when they could give some a headache. Hiding around asteroids is a common and nearly necessary tactic to perform when targeted with a missile or large amounts of ammunition. Unfortunately, even with the great graphics and strong aesthetics, some parts of Star Conflict struggle to be little more than generic.
Of course, in a game like this, you wouldn’t expect a very strong narrative or characters due to its “shoot-em-up” nature. Ruins are found in a sector of space, so looters go to collect their riches. The bounty is great and plentiful, and naturally we have different teams fighting for these riches. It’s simple, yet able to get the point across, but it would have been excellent to see more in terms of storyline. Not too much flak can be given in this area, as the narrative is more or less an excuse to have some space combat action.
The mechanics are not incredible, either. We have tactics and gameplay here that aren’t too far away from what we see in most sci-fi combat games, and very familiar to a lot of dogfighting games (like Gaijin Entertainment’s other Free-to-play title, War Thunder). It’s not downright copying anyone, but it would have been nice to see some variety. One good thing that’s done right is how space ammunition and lasers are handled, which are essentially the most prominent aspect of the in-game combat. In many other titles, lasers are very whiny and when shot are much too slow to get to the target. In Star Conflict, we have continuous deadly beams that could fry an enemy ship and lasers that are treated very much like bullets, as we see other units explode into debris and fire (which probably isn’t very realistic at all, but so satisfactory).
The free-to-play model obviously brings some downsides to the table. Micropayments, which allow you to upgrade your ship, will give you an advantage over players that have not boosted their ships. The micropayments are not necessary to have a good ship, however, as the market tries its best to not rip you off while still making a substantial profit. After some amount of time, virtual money will come your way which would allow for a better ship and hopefully an advantage over the enemy. Another slight disadvantage is the learning curve: the starting menu and displays that should help a beginning player are confusing and hard to utilize. There is the occasional hint that helps out, and the “tutorial” that gives you instructions as you first play and experience the full game is actually one of the more clever ways one has been played out in an MMO.
Unfortunately, the game also loses its luster after a while. Although I don’t enjoy the addiction to games, as they tend to distract me from other things, the desire to go back to a certain title that sticks in the back of the head is a good sign that there is something we desperately want that only that specific gameplay/storyline/mechanic could fulfill. That outstanding element is missing from Star Conflict, which is a bummer for such a potentially excellent MMO.
All in all, Star Conflict is a decent multiplayer experience which, aside from the outstanding aesthetics, doesn’t quite break any boundaries or deliver anything great. I’m glad this is free-to-play, as it is completely worth it. Spending money on it? Not a chance.