By: Ted Chow
SpaceCom is a true strategic Starfleet command game in which tactics and decision making in battle can usher victory or total defeat. The 4X genre has always been a personal favorite of mine, especially space sims, and I was innately curious how SpaceCom fared against the heavier contenders.
Akin to other 4X titles such as Sins of a Solar Empire, you will explore, expand, exploit and exterminate the opposition with extreme impunity. However, does SpaceCom bring any innovative ideas to the genre that normally holds strategy in high regards?
The controls for SpaceCom are relatively simple as the entire game relies only on your mouse. Left mouse button is used for all actions and movement of troops, while the right button is used to pan the world map. Beyond that, there is nothing of importance to note.
Like most games with a space theme, the environment is mostly black with a lack of color to convey. SpaceCom suffers more so than other space games as the backdrop is the same for all missions, skirmishes and multiplayer modes. The ships you command as well as the planets you conquer are bland circles and triangles that really hamper on the overall presentation.
While I can understand the minimalistic approach for artistic choice or optimization, hand drawn planets or spaceships would’ve given more life to the game without compromising anything. The out-worldly music fits well with the ambience of Space and is probably the only aspect that is captured correctly.
When I envision a space game that wants me to command an armada to take over the universe, I expect to see grand space battles, gorgeous planets, interesting tech trees and diverse alien races. Yet, we get none of that in SpaceCom and, as it stands, it’s completely bare bone in terms of strategy. There are no factions to play as, no tech trees to research, no diplomacy and no visual anchor to keep you engaged.
So what is left you ask? Well, you get a completely stripped down experience of essentially moving triangles into circles. You’re left to your imagination of epic space battles and role-playing your experience like an old-school D&D pen-and-paper game.
The gameplay is extremely simplistic compared to other games of the 4X genre. The three different spaceships available are attackers, siege and invaders. Attackers are great for taking out enemy spaceships, invaders are good for capturing planets and siege for destroying the system.
Planets come in different sizes as some gather resources for you to build more ships, while others are designated repair stations. Certain planets can build kinetic shields and defense platforms to help defend against most attacks, but that is the limit to the interaction with your assets.
The overall goal is to completely destroy the enemy to win the match. And while there is some strategy involved in liberating planets and establishing supply lines, the underlying gameplay fundamentals are severely watered down.
Necessitating you to pause the game every time you decide to opt out and do anything else is a poor design choice as it forces players to micromanage their game instead of letting upgrades and movements advance naturally. It would have been a wiser choice to let players enjoy browsing the web or multitask other errands rather than waiting on ships to finish building or staring at a screen devoid of life.
Things can be sped up with the fast-forward button available within the match to alleviate that issue, but the system falls completely flat in multiplayer where only the host can adjust the speed.
Available game modes are limited to single, multiplayer and skirmishes. The story is told through purely text-based prompts that don’t really elaborate on the mythos of the SpaceCom universe and act more as a tutorial.
Skirmish is the mode to test your skill against the computer AI with various difficulties, and multiplayer brings you into a lobby where you can create or join available games. Multiplayer is essentially the only endgame available, however, which makes me worry about the title’s longevity.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with great 4X games such as Sins of a Solar Empire where there were interesting tech trees, a stellar art style and epic space battles. In comparison, SpaceCom is a game that completely under delivers, not only aesthetically but also in viable strategies. Ultimately, there are plenty of games within the genre that offer more enjoyment than what SpaceCom can provide.