I think I was born much too soon. Oh how I long for my own spaceship where I could make an honest living as a Freelancer coming and going as I please. Even an asteroid miner in the darkest depth of space would be a dream job for me. The solitude and the infinite abyss, I feel the black reaching out, I hear its song without a doubt. I’d tell you more but in space, no one can hear you talk.
Developer: MistFly Games
Publisher: Crescent Moon Games
Release Date: Aug 2019
I’ve been enjoying Space Sims for as long as I can remember. The first one I remember getting hooked on was Tachyon: The Fringe followed closely by Freelancer and the X-series. Even though I have not played Tachyon: The Fringe nor Freelance for over a decade, I still have fond memories of the pleasant hours I spent with them, especially Tachyon: The Fringe with its straightforward gameplay. Freelance and the X-series are great if you want a really in-depth game with lots to do and plenty of choices to make but sometimes you just want to live a simpler life. That’s where Subdivision Infinity DX comes in.
Subdivision Infinity DX is your cookie cutter Space Sim. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a design choice. Game’s don’t always need to be unnecessarily complicated. The menu system in some of the X-series games you could get lost in for days and odds are by the time you beat the game (finished the story anyway) you have done about 40% of the possible things you could have done, and 80% of the remainder you likely didn’t even know you could do. Subdivision Infinity DX lays everything out on the table for you as soon as you start playing. The menu system is straightforward although a bit awkward to navigate with a gamepad but otherwise everything is easy to understand. Subdivision Infinity DX is one of those games you could play for a short session if you wanted, or you could take the time and play all afternoon.
The gameplay of a space sim can really be hit or miss. Subdivision Infinity DX manages to pull off a pretty decent space shooter. With enemies coming from all sides and your ability to fly along all three of the dimensional axes it really feels like you are flying free in space. You have four buttons to contend with when flying, another two for combat and a few for special purposes such as using the mining scanner. Directional control goes without saying, you have the full navigation to go at any angle you want, and you also have your accelerator and your decelerator/reverse. Lastly you have a limited boost ability to help you escape an oncoming attack or to get you to your destination a little faster. The boost does fairly quickly regenerate over time so it isn’t something to save too much. Combat has your primary weapons all tied to a single button and your secondary weapon or mining tool bound to the other button. This works well because basically every attack unleashes everything you have got on the enemy all in a burst. Due to ammunition or heat different weapons may go offline, but as long as you have at least two different weapons equipped odds are you will never need to release the trigger until the enemy you are after is dead.
Exploration of the map is only really viable in exploration mode. Your general mission has you going in, completing an objective or two and then leaving. You can’t even mine while on a mission. Exploration mode on the other hand is kind of like free play. You can find hidden boxes (which can be a pain to find on your own but luckily there is a probe to help with that) and mine for ore. You can also hone your combat prowess as you will be constantly pestered by incoming enemy attack waves. While they are usually pretty easy to dispatch, assuming you are armed to the teeth with the best weapons you can afford, they do leave you salvage from time to time. Mining is only really useful for two things, selling the minerals you mine or using them to build a new ship rather than just buy one. As you play through the game you will collect blueprints. Once you have enough blueprints you will be able to build a ship that will have better stats than the commercially available ship on the market. The thing is, outside of the first ship, most of them have been too expensive for me to buy so I have opted to do the blueprint route. The reason why I am poor is the fact that I tend to upgrade my weapons as well as try other weapon configurations. This leaves me with very little money to buy anything, and with limited resources available to mine in the exploration areas due to only select asteroids being mineable, you have to be much more money conscious than I was if you want to fly every ship possible. Even with the limited resources, thanks to the limited cargo space you will have to grind the exploration areas a number of times to claim everything you will need.
The missions are a little uninspired. There is really only so much you can do in a Space Sim so that is understandable, but it would have been nice if there was a little more to do or at least some unexpected events where the mission goes completely off the rails. The basic mission has you flying into an area and look around, get attacked by a wave or three of enemies and either scan something, defend something or blow something up. I’m not really sure what else I could ask for really without the ability to board enemy ships. I’d absolutely love it if I could capture enemies and their ships and either salvage the ships for parts or sell them. Or if when an enemy blew up that I could salvage something like one of its guns or some other modification to my ship rather than just base components. I suppose that would involve a subsystem targeting ability which this game lacks outside of blasting turrets off of large ships. I’m not holding this against the game though because the missions did push the story along and at least the reason why you were out doing these things makes sense. Also, as the mission progressed the enemies did get better equipped so that does help make the missions feel a little different even if they are following the same formula. Missions for the most part can just be played in chain until you hit a brick wall of difficulty, then you will need to hit up the exploration areas to grind until you can afford a bigger and better equipped ship with the latest in upgraded weaponry. Each ship has their strengths and weaknesses. Some are faster, others can hold more cargo, some are nimbler in combat and others can take a punch a better. You are free to fly the ship of your choosing assuming you can afford it.
One interesting thing about the space combat is the fact that size matters. A large ship crashing into a smaller ship will obliterate or at least critically damage the smaller ship. I can’t tell you how many times that I lost a mission because I accidentally collided with a boss enemy’s ship while trying to avoid their plethora of weapons and supporting dogfighters. It’s definitely not a game that will let you sit and carefully aim your shots. You have to keep moving, dodging and tactically boosting your way around the battlefield otherwise you will be quickly overwhelmed. You can use objects to shield you if you need a chance to catch your breath and let your shields recharge, but the enemies will quickly find you most of the time. The game does help you aim a bit so most of the times if you shoot at an enemy you likely will hit it if you were pointing in its general direction and the targeting reticule had highlighted on them. With the ability to boost while moving sideways I felt like a matador while fighting against large ships. I do have to say I enjoyed that element even though it did make me have to redo things a few times. The game even seems to catch on to your tactics as once you reach a certain point the enemies stop just shooting at you as they pass by, they drop minefields behind them, so if you are power sliding your way behind them to shoot at them as they turn around odds are you will boost yourself right into their mines blowing yourself to smithereens.
Let’s talk about the difficulty. There are alternate difficulty levels but I can tell you that the game definitely stops being forgiving fairly early regardless of the setting you are on. As mentioned, if you sit still you are dead. The early stages are fairly easy, other than the first boss who is very hard with the beginner ship and equipment. It becomes much easier with more advanced technology unlocked later on. The enemy’s kind of felt like they were flying in balloons or wet paper bags as they would practically die as soon as you looked at them especially after the first weapon upgrade. However, once your enemies have missile technology the game becomes even more challenging. Missiles do a lot of damage very quickly, and with the increasing number of enemies in each attack wave, if you sit still too long or zig when you should have zagged you will quickly find yourself exploding. The enemies even start pulling out larger ships more regularly to try to take you on, including some that drop mines like I mentioned earlier. All in all, the game will indeed test your skills and agility before it is over.
Graphically, this game is pretty decent looking. The player has a number of different looking ships to play around with and as you progress though the game the enemies also get their hands on differently designed ships as well. There is a lot of repeated content on the surface, but one could argue that is due to the space Architects recycling designs rather than building new buildings every time they needed another of the same structure. There are various different backdrops for you to fly around in which does help make each area feel a little different though. Asteroids, which as mentioned earlier are mined for resources, come in different colours and styles which can help indicate the contents of the asteroid before you mine it. The portraits of the various people you encounter are lifelike to the point that I am questioning if they are just touched up photos of real people. Enemies who have taken damage in combat have parts of their ship catch fire and spark so that is definitely a plus in my book. Sure, there is no oxygen for the fire to really burn or anything but the fact the ship shows damage and trails smoke definitely helps you feel like you are inflicting damage to their vessel.
The audio is disappointing to me, at least in terms of the dialogue. I realize in today’s global economy that games need to be easily translated for worldwide distribution but usually these days there is at least some kind of language track (even if it is that kind of annoying fake language à la Peanuts). Tachyon: The Fringe was a good game in its own right, but it was made even better with the vocals of Bruce Campbell for the main character. Subdivision Infinity DX has nothing but silence when people are talking opting for just displaying text on the screen with an image of who is saying it. I mean there is nothing really wrong with that design choice and it works well, but it just made space feel even emptier. Even when you are out in the field about to engage the enemy there is no burst of static or enemy taunts or anything to make it feel less lonely in space. The music and sound effects in space were still quite welcome though. The beeping and weapons fire, the incoming damage to your ship as well as the destruction of you enemies helped with the immersion.
So, should you pick up Subdivision Infinity DX? If you are looking for a Space Combat Sim and don’t mind that there isn’t a ton of other things to do besides shooting up the enemies and mining some rocks, then you will likely enjoy this game. The combat is actually pretty good all things considered and I did enjoy it. Sure, it lacks some of the finesse that more tactical Space Combat Sims have to offer such as subsystem targeting, capturing ships, ferrying freight or flying with wing mates, it still is a solid Space Combat Sim in its own right. The ability to collect blueprints to build your own ships was an interesting idea although making you either have to carefully fly all over an area to find hidden boxes or having to pay a small fortune for a probe that will help you find only one loot box did wear a little thin on the enjoyment of the game especially when the loot box might only have contained a small amount resources. I recall an early mission where I sold everything I had just to afford a radar probe to find the last elusive box. When I eventually found the box, it contained a radar probe and a very small amount of resources. I had hoped it would contain the last blueprint I needed to build my new ship. There are not that many mission sets to complete, but the game will take you a while because odds are you will have to grind a bit to ensure you have everything you need. All in all, it’s a decent Space Sim that with a little extra polish could be the start of a new viable series.