Certain elements of the game blend decently well together, such as the writing, voice-acting, and comic book aesthetic. Other parts, like the music and character management, don’t mix in as well.
Genres: Roguelike, Strategy
Developer: 2 Stupid Devs
Publisher: Destructive Creations
Release Date: 8 December, 2020
Space Raiders in Space (SR) was a game that I deliberated picking up for a while because I didn’t know what to think of the gameplay. Seeing multiple characters on screen, looting and erecting barriers, while shooting at giant insects, made me wonder if directing all of their actions would be a pain. Seeing the title of the game as In Spaaace didn’t enthuse me either. However, after checking out some videos on it, I got a better idea of what it’d offer and thought it would be worth playing. Strategy games aren’t usually my favorite, but this one seemed fairly straightforward, and having less than 10 characters to direct means it’s not that complicated.
There are 3 game modes in SR: Story, Endless, and Survival. Story has you follow the main plot line for what’s taking place, unlocking new equipment after each chapter, and getting into situations that seem more hopeless and treacherous than the last. However, you have means to handle it. Your crew will explore their environment for important resources, which you turn into defensive barriers. Thankfully there’s a few weapons left behind as well, since weapons degrade with use, so you’ll have to switch at strategic points to keep them well armed. Of note, the materials you have as you finish a chapter carries over to the next one, so even if you do manage to narrowly scrape by and survive, you might screw yourself heading into the next chapter. So managing your resources has to take into account your starting materials for the next round.
This principle also applies just as much in Endless and Survival Mode. Endless Mode emphasizes getting a high score, as you travel from one location to the next. The objective is to balance gathering enough resources, particularly food, to survive the trip to the next location. However, staying in one place leads to the waves of insects to become stronger. Not every defensible place will be as viable as the next, as my starting location was somewhat of a lost cause. Going to the next location was much better, and with more gear available, I hunkered there for quite a bit longer. Survival Mode removes any idea of moving somewhere else, as you stay in place and see how long you’re able to last. With enemy forces gaining strength every wave, and nowhere else to go, it’s only a matter of time until you meet a grisly fate.
The game can be played with a controller, but with how it functions as a strategy game, I found it easier just to follow the tutorial and use the mouse and keyboard. Moving the camera around is done with either the ‘WASD’ or ‘arrow’ keys, and the perspective can be rotated with ‘Q’ and ‘E.’ There are shortcut keys available to bring up some of the menus, but I relied on the mouse to bring them up myself. Otherwise, the mouse is used for interacting with all of the items in the game. The scroll wheel of the mouse zooms the perspective in and out, as well as rotates objects about to be placed around. I’d say the only time it feels clunky is if you have a bad angle when trying to interact with an object, such as a weapon, as those items are smaller and can be a bit hard to select.
There’s not a lot of detail given, but human beings are exploring the cosmos, and a few astronauts make contact with a hive mind alien race. Things proceed smoothly for enough time that it doesn’t seem like the aliens are plotting anything, as they likely would have made a move by now. However, they suddenly turn hostile, and the astronauts desperately try to reconnect with humanity to both warn people about this threat and to determine if anything happened to change the aliens’ behavior. As events progress, the astronauts make some allies and start figuring out the cause of everything. Story elements unfold both in the gameplay and in-between chapters, any of which can be skipped by hitting Escape. The tone of the story is largely serious as far as the events taking place, but the tone of the writing, character interactions, and the voiceovers don’t take it very seriously. It’s a bit of an odd blend, but it kind of works.
Not only does SR make use of a comic book style in its visuals, it’s also heavy-handed with darkness. This is typically done to reinforce a moody or serious tone, making everything seem gritty, but the visual effect here is that the colors contrast strongly against so much black background. SR somewhat lampoons the potentially dour tone by interspersing goofy dialogue and commentary from the narrator. Either way, I like this approach to the graphics, as this coloring and style aren’t something I see in games often, and I’m a sucker for blue and purple.
With a soundtrack not nearly as striking as the graphics, the music in SR is something I had to force myself to listen for because the sound effects drown it out. When I am able to hear it, most of it sounds like eerie ambient noise, as if what you’re experiencing is really suspenseful or unnerving. The tone of it doesn’t quite fit with how the game plays out, even if it does have a sci-fi vibe to it. The sound effects are fitting for the game, but could be balanced better with the music. I think most people would like the voice acting, although Jimmy’s voice can get a bit old with his bruh stereotype.
- Being able to set up your own defensive perimeters allows for some creativity in determining the best line of defense, as there are ways to manipulate the AI. For instance, enemies are pretty single-minded in finding the shortest route, while also prioritizing defensive points. If you place turrets out of their pathways, they’ll still be shot at, but typically won’t bother destroying the turret. With a boss coming up, you can create a decoy wall further out than you’d use, and let it be a sacrifice as you sideswipe the boss.
- Unlike many games dealing with monstrous aliens, in theory the ones in the game had no issues intermingling with humans. That is, until the fire nation attacked.
- Although the comic book style has been implemented before, SR still has its own unique flair and attitude. It’s not quite like anything else I’ve played.
- Even though the game revolves around micromanaging each character, your ability to control their actions is limited. Setting all raiders to defend won’t necessarily lead to all of them taking enough shelter to prevent being attacked, since they act like they’re social distancing or something. If they’re too deep in defenses and you set them to attack, they’ll advance beyond your wall of defenses to fire on enemies, when what you really want is for them to stand behind the closest barrier. Not being able to position them directly is a limitation.
- Like tower defense games, you can have a very successful run until the last wave, and make a mistake that gets one of your characters killed, wasting all of the time you just spent playing through the chapter. I’ve had to replay a few chapters a few times due to this. You can save and quit from any mode at any time, and return where you left off, but dying won’t reload that save. It’s deleted instead.
- Figuring out how the map is intended to face and where you’re theoretically supposed to build up your defenses is at times unclear. The UI for building new items can also be hard to make out.
- It can be hard to gauge whether you’re overbuilding your defenses or not. However, having at least 2-3 layers of walls to act as barriers is incredibly useful, so you have an emergency barrier to hunker in if necessary. Turrets and caltrops aren’t expensive but increase your DPS, so generously scatter them around your walls. When you get the ability to build a defense point, replace portions of your outer walls with them. These protect your allies against AOE attacks, which walls won’t do, and when in defense mode, they’ll hunker down in the defense point much closer to the enemies than otherwise.
- After killing the last enemy in a wave, turn on planning mode and select items you want repaired or built. Then at the start of the cool down phase, manually select your best characters for building to work on those projects as the others search. Searching doesn’t take a long time, but if you have everyone take long walks to get to the search points, you won’t have enough time to both search and build.
- I’m sure there’s situations where the melee weapons are useful, but 99% of the time, I use the guns exclusively.
I was a bit perplexed by what the devs expected me to do within a few of the early chapters, as the defenses I were setting up didn’t cut the mustard. However, after getting past those initial humps, I got a better grasp of how to approach the game and manage the few variables it presents. After getting more comfortable with SR, I enjoyed my time with it, although it wasn’t without some flaws. Handling all of the characters could be made more clean and simplistic, but micromanaging tends to clutter things up no matter the approach. Unless you get really sucked into Endless or Survival Mode, the game would last you about 12 or so hours, so I’d recommend picking it up on sale.