Transported through time. Lost in space. Space pirates. We’ve seen it all before in countless sci-fi movies and video games, but never before in such detail on the iPhone or iPod Touch. While many developers have attempted to nail the sci-fi genre, few have been as successful as Galaxy on Fire. The original game, while great, lacked depth and longevity, but its sequel outshines it. Hop in the cockpit, because this is a ride you won’t want to miss.
Mobile games have never been known for their intricate stories and believable dialogue– and Galaxy on Fire 2 is certainly no Citizen Kane– but it manages to be compelling nonetheless. You take on the role of Keith T. Maxwell, a war veteran whose warp drive malfunctions, jettisoning him 35 years into the future. Once you get your bearings, it’s up to you to save the galaxy from an alien race that is bent on destruction. Cliche, yes, but captivating enough to move the game along.
Competent voice work is one of the keys to its success. There are no Oscar-worthy performances, for sure, and at times some of the voice actors seem to have an emotional disconnect with the story, but all in all Galaxy on Fire 2’s voice work is quite good, especially given the competition.
This is Bowie to Bowie, do you hear me out there man?
The game itself is fairly standard. You travel from space station to space station, meeting new contacts, picking up missions that drive the story forward, and filling in the gaps with odd jobs and side quests. It’s formulaic, but the missions are generally compelling and feel worth your time.
If the story doesn’t drive you forward, the sheer volume of customization of your ships will. You start out with a basic vessel, but with hard work and a few paychecks, you can upgrade your engines, shields, weapons, and even buy entirely new ships.
For the most part, these upgrades have a noticeable impact on gameplay. Speed boosts are very important due to one of the game’s downsides: You can’t control your ship’s speed. There is no breaking or boosting, so having a fast default speed is vital. It’s annoying to not be able to outrun enemy ships or turn on a dime, and the game forces you to finish combat rather than avoid it. This keeps you in the action, but also puts you at a tactical disadvantage, allowing you no fancy maneuvers.
Upgrading your blasters, however is something you’ll always want to do. There are a vast number of upgrades overall, and keeping your ship in top shape is necessary if you want to survive the hordes of space pirates and alien ships thrown your way. Battles are not terribly difficult, especially with the virtual analog stick. You can turn on motion controls if you like, but for precision we opted out. The game is forgiving with its aiming, and locking on to targets is a cinch. And if you like to play a bit haphazardly, you can just turn on auto-shoot and blast everything that flies in front of your face.
That’s no crab, that’s a space station!
Along the way, you’ll be met by plenty of other challenges, even if they’re standard fare. Talk to this person, retrieve this item, mine this asteroid– it’s nothing out of the ordinary, but collecting loot or harvesting it from downed enemy ships with your tractor beam ensures that you have plenty of materials to horde and trade for better equipment.
It’s an immense galaxy out there, too, and for those who enjoy exploration, Galaxy on Fire 2 will keep you coming back for some time. Over 20 solar systems and 100 space stations are begging for you to visit them. Using your handy map, you can travel to these quickly if you don’t want to wait around for long treks through seemingly endless space.
If you do, though, you’re in for a visual feast. A few low-resolution texture aside, this game is gorgeous. Ship models are diverse, space stations are massive structures, and the darkness of space is pierced with haunting lighting effects, asteroid belts, looming planets, and gaseous clouds. Exploding ships don’t look so bad, either.
Hey little lady, buy you a missile launcher?
If you tire of your wandering journeys through space, you can always stop at one of the space stations and spend time buying, selling, and trading wares. You can also hang out at the space cantinas to meet new people and pick up additional work while building up your reputation.
Galaxy on Fire 2 doesn’t break new ground for the space sim genre as a whole, but it nevertheless delivers a console-quality game to iOS. The story is well told, the galaxy is filled with memorable characters, the combat is exciting, and being able to hop out of your ship to do business and talk to strangers makes all the difference in the world– and was something sorely lacking from the original.
If you’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out if Galaxy on Fire 2 would live up to the hype, wait no more and click the Buy Now button above. Save the galaxy in peril before it’s too late. Doing so also ensures you get a cheaper upgrade to the iPad version when the game goes universal down the road.