Hands-On with Spacecom: Simple Approach, Deep Strategy

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There’s a good chance the Spacecom has slipped past your radar for games to look out for.  A smaller indie title, the game doesn’t boast fancy graphics.  It’s a bare-bones title, using general shapes against a black space background for players to look at…Yet this simplistic aesthetic belies the deeper gameplay.  This game is all about strategy and little else. 

It’s not like any other RTS game I’ve played in that the focus isn’t on fast-clicking or overwhelming your enemy.  Battles are largely fought without any input on your part.  Instead you watch statistics on screen and hope that yours are better than your opponents’.  Here’s the general description from the devs: 

A strategic-to-the-bone, starfleet command game with a heavy focus on multiplayer. Spacecom is a battle of strategists in which deception, smart movement, and choices to battle decide victory or defeat.

No coincidence, no luck. Spacecom pushes your ability to strategize with a focus on real-time tactics and planning. Use proven maneuvers learned from military legends or devise your own plans. Dominate your enemies in planetary systems with up to six players per campaign. Most of all, you’ll need a bright mind, cunning, and sound tactics.

When the war begins, leave the little things behind and dive into austere soundscapes as you immerse yourself in starfleet command. From now on, what matters is your grasp of tactics and strategy, not how fast you can click. Spacecom is about creativity in planning, not complexity of game mechanics.

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The simple game mechanics it talks about, is part of what makes this game so great.  It is all about strategy and it’s pretty unforgiving in that aspect if you make the wrong choices.  Seriously.  During the game’s single-player tutorial I ended up dying and failing my mission.  I’m talking like the third level of the tutorial as well.  It was my own fault, as I assumed during the tutorial I would have some measure of safety against the computer opponent.  So instead of going where I was told, I ventured off with one of my fleets to explore and try some new things.  

I found out very quickly why this was a bad idea as I stared at my fleets being decimated and the inevitable “You Failed” screen appeared.  I was shocked, that even within the tutorial, the game wants you to make sound strategy choices.  It was a nice revelation and it altered the way I played there after, and had me seriously considering all my moves with more gravitas that I wouldn’t normally give.  This the type of strategy the game offers, like in Chess, where every move you make should be towards a certain purpose.  You don’t do anything without examining the possible consequences/risks first.  

It’s an interesting approach to strategy, in that it eliminates a lot of the fluff you find in other titles in the genre.  There are no direct resources to harvest and constantly keep up with, so all you have to think about during missions is the combat and how you plan on taking down your opponent in the best way possible.  This is even more true when you throw multiplayer into the mix (which this game prides itself on). 

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I got only limited hands-on time with the multiplayer, but if anything, this bare bones approach to strategy makes multiplayer even more frenetic and nerve-wracking.  While you’re not trying to build units at a breakneck pace (as is the only way to come out on top in StarCraft), you’re constantly trying to outwit/maneuver your opponent.  For me, this is the essence of strategy and what makes the genre great, so it was a blast and had me constantly thinking on my toes.

While the game is certainly basic, with graphics that won’t be blowing you away, the simplicity in this game, is also it’s genius.  It’s a deeper strategy game than you’d imagine at first glance, and if you’ve been dying for a strong strategy title to test your skills, you should keep Spacecom on your radar.  I certainly will be!

-Jordan