Star Conflict – Preview
Space is friggin’ huge, and the universe is constantly expanding, so why do people have to keep fighting over it? There isn’t a piece of sci-fi that I can think of that has a nice, happy, unified galaxy that has everyone living in harmony, and if there is then it probably has a civil war in its history somewhere. Clearly humanity just isn’t cut out for a peaceful lifestyle, but it sure makes for some interesting games, including the new free-to-play MMO space flight sim, Star Conflict.
There’s centuries of back-story to Star Conflict, but the basic gist of it is this: ancient alien technology has been discovered in the distant future, out in the great expanses of space, and now there are six different factions warring over who gets control of them. There’s a lot more to it than that, but what we’re really here for is the space combat, so let’s get right to it.
First off, you have three classes of ship to choose from: the interceptor – a small, fast ship that’s quick to get blown up but can quickly get round the map and take down the much larger ships who can’t lock on to it, the fighter – an all-rounder, good for all scenarios, and the frigate, which is the powerhouse of the group and is useful for blasting things to smithereens, but is pretty slow to get anywhere. You’re able to use each of these in a match, and will need to switch between them each time you lose a ship. The ships can also be customised and upgraded, and there looked to be a fairly extensive research tree to get your hands on to find new and exciting upgrades for your vessels.
The battles themselves take place in huge expanses of space, with up to 32 players in total fighting it out to take control of beacons. Each map will have different strategic elements to contend with as well; for example, the map I was shown took place in an asteroid belt with six huge asteroids in a circle, each with a beacon somewhere in its vicinity. This was great for interceptors and fighters, as they could easily manoeuvre around the asteroids to get to the beacons, but the frigate had a tough time travelling around and was obliterated in no time. You’ll need to plan out which ship is best for which map to truly get ahead in this game.
Each beacon is protected by four sentry drones, which circle the beacon and fire at anyone trying to take control of the point. The drones are really effective too, and are almost as much as a threat as the other players. Take care of them and you can start to take control of the beacon. It’s a conquest mode with a small twist, but it’s simple enough for everyone to get on board with and start playing straight away. The control scheme looked fairly straightforward too, as it used the same flight controls as War Thunder, another game by Gaijin Entertainment, although, as the developers pointed out to me, spaceships can come to a complete stop, so the controls are obviously altered slightly. I didn’t get the chance to get my hands on the game, but it looked fairly simple to get your head around, despite having more buttons compared to War Thunder’s stripped back control scheme, mostly due to the obvious technical advancements in the future, which allow for additional weapons and skills that the player can make use of.
Star Conflict also makes use of the free-to-play model, and will have a mix of premium accounts that allow for faster leveling up, and micro-transactions so that players can purchase better weapons with real money. Obviously there will be in-game money as well, and the developers were keen to stress that it will not be pay-to-win, so the free-to-play players can still enjoy the experience without being at a huge disadvantage.
All in all, Star Conflict looks like it could be an interesting addition to the free-to-play world, and to the space flight sim genre in general. With plenty of research to sink your teeth into, a huge amount of customisation and a class-based ship system, combat is destined to be interesting and exciting from match to match. Combine that with a well known but proven game mode, and a control system that looks easy to pick up but with plenty of scope to make it deep and strategic, and this could well be a game for sci-fi fans the world over. It’s in open beta now, so why not go and check it out?
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