Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Galactic Phantasy Review

While searching for a game with enough depth to keep myself amused on long journeys, I was pleasantly surprised to find a group of games that I never considered might make it onto the iPad – Space Simulators. Imagine the X series, or EVE Online, but in your sweaty hands instead of at your desk for weeks on end. Galactic Phantasy takes some of the best aspects of larger games, distills them into a brew of its own and polishes it to a high sheen – even though it sometimes lacks in depth.

Starting you off – as so many games of this ilk do – with a small ship, Phantasy's storyline sees the player character battle through a number of star systems, unravelling a mystery that stays entertaining – despite the badly spelled and poorly constructed sentences. For the record, Moonfish Software, if you're looking for somebody to sub-edit your copy into a semblance of English far less likely to embarrass you, let me know…

The game itself revolves around gathering cash by completing a number of different style of missions – mercenary jobs that see you taking on fleets of ships, thievery (or 'robbing', as the game's pigeon English would have it: ' Items robbed', it lists at the end of the mission) or smuggling. You can also make money through trade, and by discovering 'golden routes' of supply and demand – but let's face it, that's boring, and blowing up enemy ships is far more fun.Thankfully the combat is intense, if simplistic stuff.

Working within a fleet of up to three ships, the player can use a combination of missiles and laserfire to destroy enemy vessels, being careful to manage power levels and shields, which need to be raised manually. It's tense stuff at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that the game's AI is poor, and it's easy to outwit the enemy ship captains by making them raise their shields over and over with single missile strikes, then broadsiding them when they recharge.

Also, enemy capital ships are unlikely to take any notice of your other fleet elements, instead hounding the player relentlessly, and leaving themselves open to attack. Poor AI aside, however, the battles are thrilling and addictive.

Aside from battles and missions, you can also spend credits buying new ships, weapons and parts, and micromanaging your fleet of three ships. It's just a shame you can never have more than one fleet, and they can't be set to trade automatically. There's also no scope to build yourself space stations or orbital factories – aspects that would of made a big different to the depth on offer. There is, however, a lot of waiting around to be done.

Galactic Phantasy's galaxy is pretty big, and travelling from system to system can take a long time – especially when you've got slow transports in tow. It wasn't unheard for me to go make a cup of tea or tidy my flat as my fleet crawled across the screen.

Graphically the game looks great on iPad, though the buttons can be unresponsive, and are a little too small for my fat fingers. The music, however, is repetitive and dull, and its midi-inspired tracks can really drive you nuts after a while – even after you warp to a new system and the background elevator muzak changes. However, odd AI and poor grammar aside, Galactic Phantasy is a decent space simulator with a well-imagined battle system and more than enough depth to keep your hands busy on a train into London.

Good stuff:
Lots to do and see – at first
Looks fantastic
Addictive battles and resource gathering

Not so good stuff:
Repetitive missions and grinding required
Dumb AI
Horrible grammar

Reviewed on iOS