Preview: Between the Stars (PC)

Like FTL: Faster Than Light, this Kickstarter demo version of Between the Stars begins with the player exiting warp space in an attempt to evade pursuit. Upon exiting, Captain (Jane) Scott orders the systems AI, EDI M.A.I. to perform a systems check. During this tutorial cleverly disguised as a diagnostic test, everything is functional enough such that when the pursuing fleet the Republic frigate-class ship Genesis is able to defend itself. A heavy hitter, the Genesis burns enemy ships like marshmallows over open flame in its wake.

Sector map looks familiar. I would have liked to have seen different areas.

Unable to re-enter warp space due to the visibly-apparent engine damage, Captain Scott commands M.A.I. to chart coordinates to the nearest space station for repairs. It would have been possible to cover the distance of 150 km with regular thrusters, however “quantum” speed covers approximately 5 km per second, which is not only significantly faster, but is simply a neat way to travel by holding spacebar to charge the engines fist. At the space station, Scott is able to contact home base, where she is reminded that she is supposed to be at home base. After providing a send off for two crew members who had perished during the initial escape, Scott is given a smaller ship to investigate piracy in nearby colonies in exchange for the credits for the repairs to the Genesis.

If you ever wanted to play with the SSV Normandy, well, the similarities of ship model are uncanny.

By the time one concludes these missions, which include another trip to the space station, an enemy ambush, and an FTL-like random event where I gained an item during my first playthrough while during my second, a crewmember is injured, the Genesis will be fully repaired. After the warp jump near a headquarters, an admiral of the Children of the Sun declares an all-out war on the Republic. Scott engages the enemy, but the invading fleet has numbers. In an act of desperation, she makes the Ultimate Sacrifice in an attempt to save the Republic. The demo ends, and the credits roll.

I wonder if the film grain was disabled, would the graphics suffer overall, and prove to be underwhelming.

This last leg of the Between the Stars demo is not included in the QuickScope above; I end it right before that happens, to my regret. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the hour of time this game provides. Appropriate for space where gravitational pull of nearby masses is negligible, the ships I control are capable of full 3D movement. I would typically float in circles around enemy ships as I barraged them with fire, doing my best to simulate fighter or corvette-class ships in Homeworld, my all-time favorite RTS. I experimented little with different weapons; on one hand, the game did not encourage or necessitate that I should, and on the other, the default kit seemed strong  and felt sufficient.

I would have liked to have experienced more of Between the Stars, particularly how systems like crew and research work, though I wonder if some of those features might be more complex than I care for. Something like a complete sector would give potential Kickstarter investors a better idea of their investment. Indie developer Isolated Games is trying to get out word that they are working on this space-faring roguelite, and they are currently at ~$15,000 out of their $34,000 goal. They are halfway there, when at the time GUG was issued a demo code, they were sitting at $13k. So far, so good, but time will tell if Between the Stars makes the cut—it ends on October 16.

Preview code generously provided by Isolated Games.

Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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