(Thanks, Iceberg Interactive!)
I tend to sway between not playing too many Early Access games and playing too many at once, but while a bit of a daft thing to do in practice, in theory, the best games rise above that “Oh, it’s ANOTHER incomplete beta” to “Hey, hey… this one’s pretty darn solid!” Into the latter category goes Shortest Trip to Earth, developer Interactive Fate and publisher Iceberg Interactive’s new game now available on Steam Early Access for $19.99. Described as “a roguelike spaceship simulator focused on exploration, ship management and tactical battles”, it’s indeed all that as well as providing a decent level of challenge, some unusual ship designs and what’s looking to be plenty of replay value.
The opening tutorial is fairly simple as you learn the ins and outs of your starter ship. This isn’t an easy game if you attempt to play outside the tight rule set you’re given, so paying attention and following directions as closely as possible. From putting together the propulsion system, firing up the engines and right down to picking the proper crew members to man the weapons, pilot the ship and other tasks, the game packs in a ton of pre-exploration setup that’s going to appeal primarily to simulation fans. I guess you can call it a somewhat more fussy version of a Star Trek episode if you like. But I don’t think you’ll be Kirk-ing green skinned alien babes much here unless that situation pops up in one of the procedural maps.
The real-time combat is based around tactically pausing (which slows down time), entering weapon commands (after making sure the weapons have been switched on), aiming for an enemy’s weakest points and crossing your fingers that you’re going to to do as much damage as you can to the right systems. During combat and general exploration, crew members can be injured or killed if things go too south. But exploring is key to finding everything from hidden caches of goodies to planets that hold plenty of secrets. The main goal of the game is to restart your ship after it’s stuck in deep space after an incident and yep, try and take those words in the title and make them happen. Oh, did I mention there are pets you can own? As far as I’ve played, they’re not too useful in running the ship, but they all have quirky names and habits (and yes, clicking on them or other crew members reveals some interesting to downright hilarious info.
When firing up a new game or before a new mission, you’ll allowed to choose perks that can aid your cause, but you’re limited in which you can choose. Go for extra fuel or rations and you’ll be better prepared to travel farther. Pick some expensive special weapons or skills and you may do better in battle. Spending all those points before starting a mission is crucial, as excess ones are wasted if not spent. You’ll get a small selection of ships to choose from after the tutorials, but the rest need unlocking by clearing certain milestones. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s really all up to what you want to experiment with. That crazy looking bio-organic alien craft, though… ewww, although I got a chuckle thinking of those alien ships in Buckaroo Banzai as soon as I saw it.
While not a bad way to kill a few hours, the real test will begin as the game comes closer to completion. Then again, that’s just what the Early Access period is for, right?
-Preview code provided by the publisher