By: Jeff Cater
Dead Star is a multiplayer twin-stick shooter set in a dying galaxy. As the star at the center dies, inhabitants of dependent worlds panic and go to war with one another in a race for resources and interstellar domination.
Dead Star features very responsive controls most of the time, aside from when lag decides to play with your crosshairs. Each ship has four abilities, all bound to the shoulder buttons and triggers. Having all abilities bound to those buttons removes any need to take your thumbs off the sticks, which is great for when you really need to get some precision piloting work done in the heat of battle.
Flying your ship is done with the left stick, and aiming your weapon systems is done with the right. Navigating the in-game menus to switch ships or spawn points can be a bit confusing at times, but that’s mostly because of the representation of what button does what where in those menus.
The game is played from a top-down perspective, so initially it looks very flat. It only takes a short time to notice the great detail of the background is actually three-dimensional and moving along with your position. This often creates different lighting scenarios, as one side of any map might be more exposed to a supernova or something similar.
Each ship looks pretty damn sweet as well, with distinct lighting patterns and several unlockable paint jobs. The weapon effects per ship are just as varied, and some ships can literally “paint” pieces of space with plasma (more on that bastard below).
The soundtrack is pretty well done, but it doesn’t offer any memorable pieces aside from the main menu. That, and a lot of the time the voice of your ship’s AI pipes in “Upgrade Available!” at a steady clip of saying it once every six seconds or so.
While you can simply alleviate that by just upgrading your ship, it’s a very risky thing to attempt during a particularly bloody melee — the only time you really want that lady to stop telling you about upgrades.
At its core, Dead Star is a multiplayer-only capture the flag match. Without selling it short, there’s nothing really wrong with that. As the lobbied players ready-up, they vote on what type of map they would like to play on.
Usually the hexagon sectors are arranged in some sort of diamond pattern, and each sector has a base in the middle to take over. Take over enough bases en route to your opponent’s base and you’ll “expose” it to your team’s gunfire.
Helping your team push the line by securing resources from asteroids is a great way to prevent your enemy from an effective retaliation, because the more resources you dump into a base, the more turrets and shields it’ll have.
This kind of match structure lends itself to several different play styles: are you the pilot who picks the cargo ships to truck resources back and forth? Or are you going to be heading a fleet directly into enemy territory? Whichever role you pick, you’ll have plenty of work to do.
The ship variety is great as well, with three initial races being available to choose from. Each race has a Scout ship, a Raider and a Frigate. Scouts excel at capturing bases quickly and harassing the slower moving enemy ships. Raiders are the cargo haulers and generally move slow but feature utility heavy abilities. Frigates are hefty ships that usually boast heavy weaponry and support abilities like repair fields or stealth generators.
A popular choice online right now is the ship called the Estari Warden. This ship doesn’t have the best speed or most powerful weapon, but its main cannon can pass through obstacles, and it can activate a speed-boosting plasma trail that hangs around and damages enemies. A nimble, experienced Warden pilot can literally fly death-circles around bigger ships.
There’s also a mode called Escape Run, where you are charged with defending a giant capital ship as it makes its way through enemy-filled sectors. The cool twist about this mode is that the sectors that you are passing through are actually other multiplayer matches. For example, you could just be sitting in a match taking over a base when all of a sudden your AI says “Anomaly Detected!”
Suddenly, a new sector appears on your match map and the task changes from simply defending your own sectors to trying to bring down a ship filled with giant turrets and other players. The sad thing about this mode is that you have to unlock tickets to play it, and I don’t believe there is matchmaking for that mode, so it’s currently pretty rare to see one of these events occur.
Dead Star is a fantastic multiplayer game with a few issues that are very likely to be ironed out in due time. For this gamer, it’s very dear to me because of an old game from my school days called Silent Death Online. Whether or not Armature Studios shared my joy with that game , I appreciate everything about this one.