Disappointment of the Year 2013 Runner-Up: Star Command

By Owen Faraday 05 Dec 2013 0
In Star Command, diplomacy means having three different ways to say "let's fight".

"Star Command takes you across the galaxy to discover alien life, engage in epic battles and discover the mysteries of deep space," crowed Warballoon's Kickstarter pitch back in the late summer of 2011. "Players can discover strange planets, conduct away missions, explore derelict ships and conduct diplomacy with strange civilisations."

It sounded like an amazing "why-hasn't-somebody-done-this-before" idea, and over a thousand of us flocked to Kickstarter to back the two brothers who'd never made a commercial game before, making Star Command one of the first important gaming stories to come out of the then-new crowdfunding platform.

Two years later, Star Command finally arrived, and it remains an important Kickstarter story -- albeit for a very different reason.

Just let the ship die, guys. No saving this ship.

The Star Command that we got back in May was pretty to look at and listen to, but it was a repetitive chore to play with as much gameplay depth as your local carnival's Whack-A-Mole. "It’s not a game anyone is liable to play twice," I said in my review.

I was clearly let down when Star Command turned out to be -- by Warballoon's admission -- only "30% of the original vision". But even taken on its own merits, Star Command was a dud. Some reviewers were more positive. But even in a more generous take, Kotaku's Luke Plunkett took pains to point out that "if [you were] one of the thousands of people who threw down cash based on the Kickstarter pitch, you're not getting what you were promised."

I wanted Star Command to be good. In hindsight, all the warning signs were right in front us. We probably should have abandoned ship when Warballoon told us that they had switched the shipboard combat from turn-based to real-time because players were making "too many good decisions".

So Star Command was a let-down, but it was an important let-down. It taught us a lesson that we were bound to learn sooner or later: if you fund somebody who's never made a game, don't be surprised when what you get back is somebody's first game. A lot of us clearly want the game that Star Command promised to be, and if Tiny Trek and Interstellaria don't fit the bill (both made by proven, experienced devs) then we've got FTL coming next year anyway.

For their part, the Brothers Coombs continue plugging away at Star Command, which seems to have been a financial success, whatever its quality. Maybe one of these days it'll be the game we Kickstarted.


For all the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2013 Awards, visit the awards index page.
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