On Sunday I completed the missions that come flat packed with the game and have a few thoughts about the process.
After quite a long initial period spent trying to understand how to build a close-up cruiser, a missile/plasma cruiser and the other assorted ships, I hit on a few designs (probably the sort of ones everyone’s put together) which beat every mission in the game. In some cases I could play the exact same fleet in hard and expert, changing only the starting positions to account for the unknown setup. Assuming that the pre-installed missions work as a tutorial for the challenge system (apologies if I’m wrong) I think there needs to be a much greater difficulty curve. On expert the computer was using very slow interceptors which would get massacred by my more bespoke squadron. In fact on one mission I fielded a force entirely made up of fighters and won with approx 80% of the force remaining.
After beating each difficulty, the associate race is quietly unlocked. As this is quite a big thing, it increases the number of design options available at the least, some fanfare would be nice; the info card on the race select popping-up for instance. Regarding the races, I wonder if there should be more variety in modules: the Alliance and Empire have some nice, slightly different weapons, but why only them? Couldn’t the Rebels, the greasers in their hot-rods, have souped-up engines? The Federation might be the vanilla race, but something special for them (maybe unlockable in Fleet HQ) would be good.
The missions themselves are rather characterless, which is a real shame. The names are really evocative, Defending Sirius, Conquering Chiliad Prime, hell one’s even fought near a singularity and a little bit of fluff would help distinguish them and make each one special.
Mostly though, I’m really, really impressed with the way that the missions slowly teach you how to play the game. Learning how to deal with missile-spammers, slowly increasing the scale until the last mission is really tight, nasty knife fight make them excellent for learning the basics. Thanks very much Cliffsky for a really fun game.