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Spacecom: A rousing game of strategy between a bunch of triangles

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 18, 2014
Lambda Penduli is a small star system--one rocky, lifeless planet in orbit around a dying star. Here, in this typically quiet system, a dozen ships are locked in battle. Colorful beams of light arc through the cold vacuum of space, piercing through shields and cutting holes in reinforced steel. The doors blow off one of my ships, flushing the crew into space before the emergency doors can come down. Two ships crash into each other, noiselessly. A cruiser plummets through the planet's thin atmosphere, the crew's mayday call screeching over the intercom. The ship reappears as a small bloom of fire on the surface.

Spacecom is strategy taken back down to a more manageable level. That's not to say there isn't complexity to be found, but it's complexity arising from a limited toolset. You're not poring over tech trees trying to figure out what will be most advantageous twenty hours down the road, or losing an entire match because of a choice you made ten minutes into the game.

Three ships. Four planet types. Three tiers of defense systems. An art style that conveys all this information at a glance. No flashy effects. No tech trees. There's not even a save system, because matches are supposed to be finished in one sitting.

The game has hints of Neptune's Pride except you can finish a round in an hour instead of weeks, and hints of DEFCON except with a different theme, and you know what? Those aren't bad names to invoke when making a stripped down strategy game. Not bad at all.

Bottom line

Spacecom is simple, both graphically and mechanically — so simple it could almost be a board game.

And yet despite — or rather, because of — this unassuming exterior, there's a lot of depth for you to explore within a limited space. That's the kind of strategy I like! It's like playing an actual game of chess where each piece has a very defined set of rules versus a weird game of pseudo-chess where each pawn functions slightly differently and you won't really understand the point of half of them until you're fifty hours in.

We like to say "Graphics don't matter! Graphics don't matter!" Well, here's your proof. Just bring your imagination to the table, and there's a deeply satisfying strategy game waiting for you.

 

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