Blackstar Hands-On Preview

Pocket Legends, Spacetime Studio’s flagship title, had a lengthy development time for an iOS game– well over a year. But Blackstar, their next MMORPG, has been in development since 2005. It started as a PC project, but after NCSoft canceled it, the ambitious sci-fi epic was shelved, until now.

NCSoft’s loss is our gain. Spacetime got to keep all the technical and design work they did on Blackstar, which means Blackstar has the production values of somewhere between a PC MMORPG and a Hollywood space opera.

We saw reams of concept art for this game, and it’s beautiful stuff. The artwork was designed by David Levy, who has since gone on to design artwork for the recent Tron movie. There are galaxies with ribbons of color, bulky spaceships from the year 4011, and aliens that look like dragons living among the stars.

Concept art is great, but it’s not a game. We did get a chance to actually play Blackstar, and fans of Pocket Legends will be happy to know that it’s very similar. Just like in Pocket Legends, you have three classes of warriors: tank, stealth, and casters. In Pocket Legends, these were the Warrior, Archer, and Enchantress; in Blackstar, they’re called Commando, Operator, and Engineer.

But this isn’t just a sci-fi re-skin of Pocket Legends. Blackstar has a gigantic storyline that will unfold over months, and possibly even years after launch. It starts with the discovery of “fastgates”, portals that open up the universe to exploration. Corporations are quick to jump into the fastgates, mining asteroid belts for resources and making the common mistake of bringing alien egg-pods onboard for study.

In the short instance we played, we entered the interior of an asteroid base that was overrun with aliens. Like in Pocket Legends, we encountered smaller creatures before fighting a large, bug-like boss. When we died, we had to respawn from the beginning of the level, but if you have a healer in your party, you can be revived on the spot.

Blackstar will be a free-to-download game, with optional in-app purchases for premium currency and items. In a slick move, the in-game “platinum” currency will be transferable between both Blackstar and Pocket Legends.

Though Pocket Legends is currently Spacetime Studios’ flagship title, Blackstar is their baby. The amount of work that’s gone into the design and development for this game is astounding, and the end result will hopefully be even deeper than Pocket Legends. Look for it in the App Store in the next few months.