Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space
Earth is boring and it sucks. So let’s explore the vast emptiness of space and see what wonderful things we can find and kill! Weird Worlds is actually a remake of an older game with a similar name, the gist is that you get a space ship and your only orders are to explore space and eventually return. A better employment opportunity than many of us will ever get!
First things first: this is a space roguelike. That means you’ll die, a lot, and with no save function, the leaderboard will quickly fill up with the names of unlucky captains and their ships. To expedite the whole ordeal, your captain and ship names can be randomly generated. Believe me, they’ll be way more appropriate than anything you can come up with.
Shields are some of the best early loot you could hope for.
Then you can choose your ship out of the three given – this determines your class, play style and in some small part the victory conditions. The Science Vessel is the weakest of the three, can only carry one weapon and has little in the way of equipment slots. But it starts with a radar (so you might know if the system is occupied without entering it) and it has the biggest cargo hold, which you will want to fill with strange...critters and artifacts. The Terran Frigate is on the other side of the spectrum: it’s a warship with three weapon slots and ample space for equipment, but somewhat lacking in the cargo area. Such a captain will mostly value the various space guns and futuristic thingamajigs that he’ll find. The Pirate Corvette strikes a balance between these two and is mostly interested in archaeological finds (I bet some rich guy is willing to shell out some pretty space bucks for that Codex of Primordius!)
Why do I keep speaking about value? Well, for one thing, the game doesn’t have strict victory conditions. It would boil down to just returning to Hope (the human homeworld) before your allotted mission time ends and drag back as much valuable space loot as possible. Then again, every time you generate a new galaxy (for maximum fun I recommend 30 year mission and low nebula fields) you might secretly get another goal. Say, you’re flying from planet to planet, dodging lasery space death, when you discover that a fleet of space bugs are en route to eat your planet. If you return to Hope before squashing the last of their larvae under you durasteel boot, you’ll still lose, because the aliens would eventually eat your homeworld. There are several scenarios like these, some of them easier on the combat side than the others and you’ll never know which one you’ll get.
The other thing about value is that there’s no common interstellar currency. Which means that you’ll have to carry artifacts with you and trade them in the systems you visit. The best thing you could hope for is to find Klakars, trader avians that will exchange, say, a hyperdrive for any old trinket, despite its value. And value, as I said, is determined by class. A Frigate captain will, say, value a new engine at 5 (it never goes above this – it’s a simple trade system) while one from a Science Vessel will see it only as a 3.
I have a full fleet and loads of loot, time to head home and let everyone bask in my glory!
So, now that you know what ship to get, you need to know how to get around with it. There is no free form of travel between the stars – almost all celestial bodies are marked on the map. You just select one, see how any days it will take, and travel there. Of course, later on, you’ll get some fancier modes of travel that laugh in the face of accepted science, but for now you’re stuck with a simple 12 times FTL drive. There are only two major navigational hazards. Nebulas take ages to traverse, but there are such things like nebular drives that move trough them faster than through open space and, I shit you not, a Nebular plow, to clear yourself a path by rearranging the heavens. There are also black holes that can suck in your ship – it’s very annoying that some of them aren’t marked and only show up when you encounter them. This almost invariably ends with a cosmic U-turn.
However, if you actually end up on a planet, you can hope to find some awesome loot there. Or a special event. Or, if worst comes to pass, a space fleet that is not happy with you mucking about. Some species let you turn away, others attack you outright. You will want to avoid fights for most of the game, since your ship sucks at the start. Also, the enemy has numerical superiority. This can be alleviated by hiring mercenary captains and outfitting their ships with high end gear, but in a randomly generated universe it’s entirely possible not to find any worthwhile comrades at arms.
I should also mention that the writing is superb. It might feel cheesy, but the creators ramped it up so high that you end up feeling like you’re truly mucking about in a living galaxy full of wonder. While it lacks mysterious asteroids that run away when under fire (oh, Canderous…), it has various bit and pieces of artifacts with their own short myths. Them never being fully explained only helps the game – a lesson that BioWare should have minded before fucking up Mass Effect.
Join the Navy, they said, it will be fun, they said.
On the technical side, the controls are easy, since they only use mouse. It could be better when controlling a larger fleet of ships (especially in the Simulator, that lets you pit ships of any race one against the other). The visuals are superb, drawn in that distinctive space 2D that we would later see in Gratuitous Space Battles and SPAZ (though Weird Worlds have the strongest lines). Neither the interface not any other part of the visuals seems to be the least bit dated – despite the fact that I last played this game 4 years ago. And when lasers start flaring and nuclear missiles separate into multiple warheads, you’ll just sit there slack jawed while your fleet is destroyed. This is why I don’t like abstract neon space shooters – all the pretty colors look better when you have solid ships to contrast them. The sound part is excellent, too. I used the docking *clang* as my message tone and that scared every member of the female sex.
Weird Worlds: To Hell With Such Long Names is a tight and awesome little game. It’s definitely something that you can play during a lunch break (unlike the boring, repetitive Dawn of War 2 missions, that, according to Word of God, were designed like that). Roguelikes are in general a pretty fine bunch and this one is in space. The way people have thrown money at FTL and similar games on Kickstater just proves how everyone wants to die in various space related mishaps. If there’s a game that deserves a sequel and an iPad versions, it’s this one!
- Awesome plot: the universe is interesting and full of wonder
- Perfect visuals: a lesson to all budding game makers that feel the need to run their game in 3D
- Easy to learn: If you can’t master the controls in this game, you probably need help with holding a spoon
- Replayability: I’ve played this game far more than it is healthy
- Modding ease: I couldn’t program my way out of a wet paper bag, but the files are so easy to modify, that I was quickly cruising the stars in the most pimping ship ever.
- Controls: the mouse is a tad less helpful in space battles.