All of you space-loving Star Trek fans that always wanted to run your own spaceship, lean forward, because Star Command may be the fix you’re looking for. As a game given life from a successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago, Star Command has finally arrived, albeit nearly a year and a half later than originally promised. The past is the past, but the game is finally here. We dive in to explore whether the wait was worth it.
Starting off, Star Command does not give the best first impression. The way the game introduces the gameplay systems is not the most intuitive. Some things are clear while others are not, and you’ll essentially be feeling your way through the interface from trial and error. One thing is clear, you’d better pay attention to the tips you receive early on, because there are no in-game manuals or resources in the game to help you fully leverage the mechanics and gameplay systems to their full potential.
Once you create your captain’s avatar and customize your ship, you’ll need to hire crew members to help manage the ship. Early on, the crew members are simply palette swaps, but that opens you as you progress. Your ship is modular, and can expand by building rooms that fall under combat, science, and engineering categories. Whether you are hiring crew members or building rooms, it’s all controlled by tokens, Star Command’s main currency. You can make strategic decisions to build more rooms increasing the ship’s technology, or hire more people to maximize efficiencies from the rooms you already have.
There is no skirting the issue: The moment-to-moment in Star Command is repetitive. You essentially receive missions, and you bounce around from planet to planet taking on alien baddies intent on destroying you. The writing in the cutscenes makes an earnest attempt to be funny, but it mostly falls flat. Combat between spacecraft is handled through quick-time events, and they are mostly fun with sharp controls. Each weapon has different timing based minigame, our favorite being the machine gun. After firing off your artillery, your weapon systems have to recharge before you can strike again. You can also utilize evasive moves to dodge enemy fire.
Star Command was originally pitched as a deep experience where you could explore space, build relationships with emissaries through diplomacy, fight strategically in intergalactic battles, and have rich customization options to toy with. However, that is not this game. Instead, what we have is a linear battle-to-battle experience that can be conquered within a few hours. When you are not fighting other spaceships, you’ll be cleaning up alien invasions within your aircraft. Things get boilerplate really fast, and then the game is over much sooner than expected.
The biggest and clearest win for Star Command is in its presentation. The pixel art looks solid, and the various high-resolution galaxy backdrops offer a nice contrast. Performance is exceptional too, with no noticeable frame drops, even with heavy activity going on. The music and sound effects are good as well, setting the mood for the combat situations you’ll run into.
Star Command is obviously still a game in progress. The development team recently submitted a large patch to shore up some of the usability issues and user interface problems in the game. While the original scope and promise of Star Command were not properly executed, there are reasons to check this game out. We found the combat fun, the presentation solid, and managing your crew and rooms gives you a taste of what being Captain Kirk could be like. After all the Kickstarter drama surrounding this game, the end product is solid enough to merit taking a closer look.