Review: Star Nomad 225 Aug 2016 2
Review: Star Nomad 2
Released 25 Jul 2016
In space, no one can hear you scream, but they can watch you trade, battle, and communicate with foes and allies. Welcome to Star Nomad 2, a game of exploration with real time events taking place across the galaxy. It also has rogue-like elements, as death incurs a heavy penalty of losing items you have accumulated along the way. It does not feature a set story, and instead plays out as an emergent, open-ended experience.
Originally released on PC, Star Nomad 2 has been ported across to iOS and Android, and the one real major change here is in how it controls. The standard WASD keys has been replace with a circle on the screen, which you can push forward in a particular direction and leave, giving you fingers free for other mechanics – which becomes key when things get frantic in battle.
It’s a noble attempt at converting a game that obviously makes use of a keyboard in its original form. It is a pain though for general movement, as trying to warp from system to system is an irritable affair. Your ship typically begins to orbit around the warp zone, and you need to be within a particular diameter of the zone to warp. More often than not this becomes a time consuming issue, as misjudging the warp zone is an easy thing to do, so you either end up going back a few paces to have another attempt, or you just spiral around in a circle for a while; by no means is it game breaking, but it does break the flow.
Unfortunately, the simplified approach to the controls does not cover up the messy combat, as friendly ships are far too easy to accidentally hit. The game also fails to give you any idea what enemies are best to attack and which should be avoided – desperately vital information that is needed in the early stages.
Star Nomad 2 has a massively complex system; a wealth of planets to explore and spaceships that interact with you, plus an economy that constantly changes truly brings the game alive. On top of that there are warring factions, and you can bring up the entire system to see which planets are under conflict at any given time. Every action has a reaction, so always tread carefully with whom you decide to get in a gunfight with. Raising the ire of one faction will gain you the approval of another – think GTA2, if you can remember that far back. There are benefits though, as you become best friends with one faction, better weapons and ships become available. You can tailor these to suit the needs of your playing style; whether it is increasing the cargo space to haul bigger loads to make a fortune, or attaching giant death lasers with the intent on wiping out half the galaxy.
Star Nomad 2 has been developed to simulate a real life economy, with different scenarios having massive repercussions. If pirates make off with the local traders carrying supplies of food, that system will cry out for emergency supplies and the prices they are willing to play increases exponentially. Smugglers can trigger economical collapse – those smugglers potentially including you. It’s a game that allows you to poke and prod at its systems, and invites you to do so – just be careful of the side effects! You have to sit back and really note down details on each of the systems and their needs and resources; where one area is high in minerals, another will be rich in exotic food, with both typically willing to pay high prices for the other.
Such a complex system does come at the expense of a punishingly steep learning curve. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself starting the game several times over just fully comprehend what you are doing, plus the issue of being severely out-muscled during the early stages of the game. It all seems incredibly daunting at first, and stays that way while you are learning the ropes. Also, pirates are an absolute pain and feel programmed to be totally random in their attack patterns and where they intend to go.
Also random are exclamation marks that will appear on the map and give no warning of what lies at the end of them. Whether it is treasure or an ambush all adds to the risk and reward element of the game; truly giving you the feeling of being in a dog-eat-dog world, especially when you ramp the difficulty up.
Graphically things are relatively simple, though some of the planets up close look nice, the backgrounds, ships, and UI are basic enough. It does have much that truly sets it apart in its presentation, but it is not the selling point, and with everything noted here – both positive and negative - just keep in mind that this is all the work of one person. Star Nomad 2 is very unforgiving, and casual mobile gamers will struggle to get out of the gate. It is a game that has its entrails rooted deep in the likes of Elite, and will certainly appeal to players that have an affiliation for a game of that nature. If the game could only have the combat tweaked to really give that sense of a dog-fight out in space, and if some of the design choices in the UI could only make a little more sense, we would be looking at a very special game here. Instead, what we have here is a diamond in the rough. Either way though it is worthy of a purchase.