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Posted on Jan 4, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Starshatter: The Gathering Storm – Game Review (PC)

By Ryan Stepalavich

Fleet ops is essentially a tactics-only mode, with players being in command of a battle-group, with a ship carrier under direct command. Ship carriers do not carry weapons except for their fighters. Typically, a mission is given with no waypoints, forcing a myriad of preplanning and thinking before a mission even begins. As things heat up, fighters can be launched into the heat of battle. Commands can be given to the fleet on the fly using the navigation menu. It’s not exactly like Homeworld, where there’s a full-bodied RTS, but considering this is a space simulation with tactics to boot, it’s a well-appreciated mode that feels like the icing on the cake.

The campaign structure is certainly interesting. Anyone who has played Colony Wars will be familiar with the concept. Essentially a dynamic mission structure, as you play, the game will set up missions based on your outcomes. Whether or not you succeeded will determine how easy or hard the next mission in line is. For example, you’re given a set of missions which you can choose, from patrol missions to minefield sweeps. While you may prefer to go straight to the patrols for some ship-to-ship combat, neglecting the mine fields will only come to your disadvantage, as those mine fields will be right in the middle of the combat you so heatedly lusted after, making the battle just that much harder. There is also an option for single missions, in case you just want to jump into the action. A mission maker is also available, so the replay factor is certainly high.

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Graphically, Starshatter finds itself on-par with most available space sims today, but only in space. The explosions are bright and fierce, with debris casually floating away from the carnage. Ship models are fairly well done, if a little bland. The interface design is very intuitive and easy to manipulate. Missiles leave smoke trails and gunfire gives off the expected eerie glow of the particular color of the laser. This is all well and good in space, however the ground battles leave much to be desired. The ground textures are blurry and repetitive, with no foliage or random props to speak of. It can make long canyon runs a tad boring, up until the point where combat is in sight.

In terms of stability, Starshatter has its ups and its downs. For the most part, it runs well and smooth from the start of the mission to the finish. However, Starshatter has a severe allergy to Alt+Tabbing out, as it will usually end up in a crash. Also, there’s a problem with landing in ship carriers, where you can sometimes end up clipping right through the ship, no matter what you try to do. Beyond that, Starshatter behaves as Starshatter should.

Starshatter: The Gathering Storm finds itself in an advantageous position; it is one of the few space simulations that are coming out nowadays, which for the hardcore space sim fan is a godsend. However, Starshatter also would tend to scare off the more casual gamer, with a comprehensive flight system, so-so graphics, and longwinded gameplay. Where Starshatter may fall short in its individual components, it does well enough on the whole to give the hardest of the hardcore a welcoming space-fighting experience.

Armchair General Score – 70%

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