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Space Run

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By Fr33Lanc3r.00701-07-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
Bobfish (editor)
Space Run

The Defence

Developer:
Passtech Games
Publisher:
Focus Home Interactive
Genre:
Indie, Strategy
Release Date:
13-06-2014

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
1 GB
DirectX:
OpenGL

The Case

Tower Defense games have been a staple of RTS gaming since the days of StarCraft - to the point that developers started putting official TD maps into their own campaigns. More recently, Tower Defense has evolved into its own genre, with standalone titles doing surprisingly well. Into this varied history comes Space Run. Bringing with it a unique twist on the genre, will it stand up to the pressure of history?

The Trial

Space Run tells the story of Buck Mann, freelance cargo hauler. He’s down on his luck when he gets contacted by Big Cargo, the largest freight company in the sector. From there, you take on a range of transport contracts from five different companies, each with their own particular cargos and requirements. Aside from randomly spaced conversations to introduce each employer - and preface runs where a major boss appears - there isn’t much in the way of an overarching story.

Asteroids do not concern me.

Asteroids do not concern me.

The real strength of the game lies in the inventive take it has on the normal Tower Defense gameplay. Each mission starts you out with a single thruster, your cargo, and a pre-assigned number of ‘hexnuts’ (in mission currency you build additional ship components with). From there, you need to construct a defensive arsenal to hold off attacks that will come from all angles. There are a variety of different offensive, defensive and utility structures to assist you, from lasers to anti-missile batteries to bigger and better thrusters. Each item has a limited range and fire radius, and most cannot be reoriented once placed. Enemies range from simple asteroids, to small pirate ships, to larger, multi-component ships like your own; and come at you in waves. The core challenge being ensuring that you are able to defend your ship from all angles of attack with the limited space available for constructions.

Each mission also comes with additional time challenges, and challenges that require you to complete the job without losing any cargo. At the end of each trip, you’re left with a screen that details how much you got paid (number of remaining cargo items multiplied by the time frame you completed it in), and how much your reputation increases (with faster completion with more cargo being better). In between missions, you’re given the opportunity to use your paychecks to upgrade and purchase new components for your ship.

Space Run does ramp up in difficulty quite quickly, from ‘cargo’ components needing to be externally powered and place on the edges of the ship - both of which cut down on the possible defences you can place - to the number and types of enemies increasing rapidly as you take on more and more missions. The upgrade system does help meet these challenges, but it can be difficult to know ahead of time what you are likely to be facing, and how to counter it. You can re-do old cargo runs to earn extra money for upgrades, or to complete the reputation challenges, but all up it just feels like unnecessary padding to extend the gameplay.

I vote we do this job really really fast.

I vote we do this job really really fast.

On the other hand, Space Run does present a remarkably nice aesthetic. It seems to take its cues from Freelancer when it comes to showing off the grandeur of space, and it contrasts wonderfully with the Alien-inspired dirty mechanical feel that most of the ship parts take on. The sound design is superb, the music reflects the mood at every point of the journeys you undertake, and the various parts of your ship all sound good enough to be in an AAA game. The voice acting is good, with only a handful of the performances feeling lifeless, despite the characters and dialogue not reaching past the most broad archetypes of the sci-fi genre.

The Verdict

Space Run takes an old idea, and dares to imagine how it could evolve. While the story and characters are simply window dressing to the gameplay, that gameplay manages to make the Tower Defense idea seem fresh again. The difficulty seems to ramp up much too quickly, but it’s balanced out by a very generous mission replay system, and honestly I was too distracted by the aesthetic to notice. If you’re a fan of the Tower Defense, this is one that you shouldn’t pass up.

Case Review

  • Visuals: The capture the grandeur and danger of space travel perfectly.
  • Gameplay: An inventive take on the normal Tower Defense gameplay.
  • Difficulty: The curve ramps up quite quickly, although you can redo old runs for extra upgrade money.
  • Voice Acting: There are a couple of performances that fall flat.
  • Story: Nearly non-existent.
4
Score: 4/5
Space Run takes an old idea, and dares to imagine how it could evolve.

Appeal

Being a space pilot who hauls cargo around the galaxy has always sounded like a cool career. You only have to watch an episode of Firefly and you will see that the life of a space trader is exciting and fun. So when Space Run was released and the description said it is a real-time space ship construction strategy game then of course I was intrigued. The game integrates tower defense elements which can kind of make or break a game. You start the game and take control of the main character named Buck Mann, who is your typical cocky, sarcastic rogue trader who takes any job as long as it pays the bills. Buck never travels alone thanks to his android companion, Adaam-12.

The game itself is a side-scrolling shooter in which your ship starts off as hexagons bolted together resembling a chassis of a ship. You then must build additional stuff onto it with the likes of extra engines; so that you can go faster or build gun turrets that are used to destroy asteroids and protect yourself. As a reward for this you find that they drop what looks like gold nuggets that build up collected so you can add even more cool stuff to your craft. The layout of the hexagons vary each mission and before you leave dock you need to decide what storage containers you need as each cargo has different requirements. Also the positioning of the add-ons is crucial as otherwise you may not be able to place a turret in a useful position; which would lead to having little or no defenses and the delivery would get destroyed.

Luckily to help you do get a type of early warning system that notifies you when asteroids and bad guys are approaching. You don’t control the ship like in traditional side-scrolling games; instead the craft is on autopilot and your only task during the run is to protect the cargo. No delivery means you don’t get paid. Late arrival will also cost you money, so speed and safety is key here. Overall, Space Run is a fun, entertaining game that will give all you Han Solo wannabe’s a chance to make the runs and earn a living. Be warned though, you don’t have a Chewbacca at your side but by the game you won’t be disappointed.

4
Score: 4/5

Appeal

Tower defense games have long been a staple of the strategy genre, comprising roughly 120% of all Flash games released to this day, and featured in quite a few retail releases: Sanctum, Defense Grid: The Awakening, and Anomaly: Warzone Earth to name a few. Like these games listed, Space Run also innovates on the idea, and while calling it a “true tower defense” isn't entirely correct, “wave-based survival construction game set in space” doesn't roll quite as cleanly off the tongue. Regardless, the game innovates, and does so excellently, though not without some caveats.

Like many other games, you buy towers to defeat enemies, though in Space Run, you orient said towers' cones of fire to match the incoming asteroids and pirates. Instead of in-wave upgrades, completing missions quickly and safely earns you credits, which you then use to unlock persistent upgrades for your towers, or, after acquiring enough reputation, buying new modules entirely. The grind to acquire enough credits can be rough, and while older missions are easy enough once you've figured out proper turret placement, newer missions are comprised of one part gambling, and another, skill, particularly with a rather steep difficulty curve. You, much like the characters, must take it all in stride. The main character, Buck Mann, is a clearly defined stereotype seen in all sorts of science fiction work, a gruff male hero with a debt-filled past, and one who's not motivated by much else other than money. While the story itself is nowhere to be seen, the voice acting performances are well done, and do well enough to keep you entertained.

While it comes at a bit of a difficult time for tower defense games, Space Run certainly lives up to the pedigree of its predecessors. While I could see the possibility for user-designed ships facing off at some point, there's enough lasting and lengthy challenge offered in the game now to entertain for some time. Altogether, for a first game, while it may be lacking in some areas, those that aren't are well polished.

3.5
Score: 3.5/5
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