Most games that pledge an open world end up falling short. Creating an expansive environment to journey through is not an easy undertaking. After all, it takes Blizzard years to create expansion packs for their top MMO, World of Warcraft. Warpgate HD is no MMO, but having the ability to seamlessly move between and explore dozens of galaxies filled with planets and enemies of all varieties will make any hardcore gamer say “wow.”
To boldly go…
When you first boot up Warpgate HD, the first thing you’ll see is a tutorial. This takes about half an hour to complete and walks you through every aspect of the game, including commodity trading, the ins and outs of galactic politics and faction relations, and combat. At any time you can go back and replay part of the tutorial from the pause menu.
After the tutorial, you are thrown into a galaxy and left to put your skills to the test almost immediately when a pirate ship attacks another captain. From here begins a story where you must help out warring factions. The dialogue is top-notch, despite the overarching storyline, which can be a bit generic at times.
The expansive universe really hit us when we first entered the Sol system. As the name suggests, this is similar to our real-life solar system. All the planets you learned about in school, including Earth, can be found here. Being able to spin around a detailed 3D model of the globe in scan view and land our massive ship on our home planet gave us a sense of pride unmatched in most games.
Even when you finish the story, Warpgate HD never ends. There are always endless side quests to accept, which vary from destroying ships of enemy factions to shipping out or delivering goods. If your only interest is in buying bigger toys, there are 172 different spaceships and a heap of weapons to spend your hard-earned cash on. On top of all this, there is the option to just explore to your heart’s content.
Now, this isn’t to say Warpgate HD doesn’t have some problems. The biggest oversight is the addition of a true commodity guide. You can view faction reputations and scans of planets, but there isn’t a way to check where the best deals are. This means you’ll spend a fair amount of time galaxy-hopping to find the best deals, losing money for warpgate usage in the process.
All that’s missing is the giant neon sign from Space Miner.
Another apparent oversight is the combat system. To initiate combat, you must tap a button and enter a completely new screen where your ship flies around in circles as you rapidly tap attack buttons. To make matters worse, enemies can shoot you in the overworld, while you are confined to fighting only in the battle screen. This does take out some of the immersion, although we don’t see it being an easy fix on the development side.
Freeverse could have easily gone with a wonky joystick and made this game a pain to control, but instead they went in the direction of an entirely touch-based interface. This works especially well on the iPad, allowing you to quickly zoom out, tap your destination to move towards it, and sit back as your pilot does the work. Although you often need to backtrack in the missions, being able to control the game with such ease diminishes the tedium.
Warpgate is available for the iPhone and iPad, the latter version costing a bit more. However, if you have an iPad, we highly recommend springing for that version since the larger screen makes the game more fun to play. Casual gamers will likely feel a bit overwhelmed by Warpgate’s massive scale, but the hardcore crowd is in for a real treat.