Review: Nomads of the Fallen Star09 May 2019 0
Review: Nomads of the Fallen Star
Released 24 Apr 2019
A colony ship crash-lands on a hostile planet, leaving the crew struggling against the odds to survive. With the passing of time, the chance of rescue diminishes so the colonists disperse and establish their own factions. Generations of survivors have eked out a living, but there is a limit to the barren planet’s resources and tensions between the competing factions are high.
Nomads of the Fallen Star is a sci-fi adventure in which you take on the role of the leader of a motley bunch of scavengers on a quest for fame and fortune. Initially, there are only two members in your team, a grizzled veteran who goes by the name of Varon and a young woman called Iona, who has a talent for chemistry. This unlikely duo must traverse the land, trading between the numerous settlements and completing missions whilst unravelling the background story as they go. As their reputation grows, they will be able to purchase better equipment and recruit new members.
From the onset, it is obvious that Nomads is a port of a PC game. Indeed, it has the look and feel of a PC game from the previous millennium. The font is tiny, the icons minuscule and the character portraits blurry and non-distinct. However, let us not be too harsh, this is the work of a solo developer and the PC version has attained plenty of positive feedback. Unfortunately, even if you are prepared to overlook the rather off-putting presentation, Nomads of the Fallen Star’s ropeyuser-interface isn’t so easy to excuse.
You will spend a lot of time watching the various factions, militia and caravans trundling slowly across the landscape. On one level, it is easy to admire the machinations that are whirling away in the background creating the sense of a real living world. However, when you just want to get from A to B it quickly becomes immensely frustrating. You have to scroll the map using a little virtual joystick that is nestled at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Release the joystick and the screen flips back to centre on your party. It is a system that feels both clunky and irritating. When you are used to navigating maps by tapping and dragging, it feels positively archaic. Furthermore, you have to constantly switch between input modes to either confirm orders or find out additional information. There are other problems too, such as an exit button that doesn’t appear to do anything and an abort mission button that is all too easy to accidentally press. Overall, it feels like an interface that has been shoehorned into a touchscreen device instead of being designed from the ground up.
Combat is a little macabre as you manoeuvre your units, represented by disembodied heads, around a rudimentary grid. You can then use your action points to initiate numerous attacks. The tiny icons aren’t really distinct enough so the first few battles are even more confusing than they need to be. It is especially tough at the start of the game when you only have two team members and limited equipment. Because the game is so open-ended you can find yourself involved in some hopelessly one-sided battles, and with no option to quit you are forced to see things through to the bitter end. You can pep up your team by taking some performance-enhancing drugs, but the lack of terrain features means that the best tactic is usually to wait around on the left of the screen until the reckless enemies charge into range.
If you are a true sadist then you can play with the permadeath option turned on. However, this game is so tough that any sane souls will probably select the option where death only returns your adventurers to the last settlement that they visited. When you start playing it seems like everything is stacked against you; shortages of food and water, strict mission deadlines and overpowering opponents all serve to frustrate. To be fair the game does give advice, but you have to really pay attention and read everything carefully otherwise you may miss some crucial hints. The vast amount of information that is thrown at the player can feel overwhelming and you soon realise the need to narrow your focus to a few specific goals. Unfortunately, there isn’t an option to make additional saved game files. This seems odd given the open-ended nature of the game, which encourages exploration and experimentation.
This all sounds very negative, but in spite of these concerns Nomads of the Fallen Star still has some really neat ideas. The combination of trading and squad-based combat works well and the music is wonderful, flowing from the beautifully eerie to the pulse-poundingly rousing. In some ways, Nomads is a tremendous achievement, not since Genesis has such a massive living world been created by a single pair of hands, although I’m betting that it took considerably longer than seven days to complete. The butterfly effect has been incorporated into the game with much thought and skill. For instance, a caravan carrying ale is ambushed on route to a local mine.
The miners go on strike, causing supplies of ore to dwindle. In the meantime, metal prices soar and supplies of weapons and armour are hit. The local militia grow ill-equipped and unhappy. Law and order begins to fall apart and raiders take the opportunity to fill their pockets with ill-gotten gains. To make matters worse disillusioned militiamen desert and join raiding groups. Yet, the number of caravans risking journeys has fallen, forcing the raiders to attack the outposts themselves. All because a few miners had dry throats and you didn’t get the crucial supplies through in time.
It is a shame that the dodgy interface and unforgiving introduction are likely to deter all but the most resolute of gamers. Nomads of the Fallen Star tells an interesting story set in a dynamic open-world of warring factions and economic hardships. There is so much to discover, like crafting, trading, scavenging, developing your faction and characters. After the initial hurdles, the game opens up and you can begin to appreciate the ambitious scope.
If you find the concept intriguing and you have the patience to take on the tough challenge then I strongly recommend that you give the PC version a try. Playing on a larger screen with mouse control rectifies many of the game’s frustrations, leaving you free to explore the planet without having to constantly wrestle with the interface. If you insist on playing it on mobile, then tablet is probably the best way forward - the interface issues get exacerbated by smaller screens.