If you enjoy FreeSpace 2's detailed gameplay and wish for nothing more than some updated graphics, you're in luck. Open-source, free mods dress FreeSpace 2 in updated graphics from franchises you probably already know, and include new storylines and game mechanics to boot. I launched myself into Diaspora, a mod based on the Battlestar Galactica 2004 remake, and was impressed by its slick graphics. It was nice to find myself in the pilot's seat of a Viper, trying to prove myself as a nugget (and badly failing).
The FreeSpace 2 story only shows that a great simulator will likely live on, business circumstances notwithstanding.
After FreeSpace 2 was released, the space simulator market remained relatively dormant for years. FreeSpace 2 and other space combat classics kept the genre alive, albeit on the back burner. That is, until indie game studio Born Ready Games came along and decided to create a modern space combat simulator: Strike Suit Zero ($20).
Developing the game was not without its difficulties: When funding ran out midway through the project, Born Ready Games turned to Kickstarter for extra funding. The crowdsourcing website doesn't always work out, but in this case it did: Born Ready raised almost double their original $100,000 goal, and carried on to release the game as planned.
The end result is a game with thoroughly modern, gorgeous looks, and simple, intuitive controls that puts you in the cockpit of a space fighter. While the game's controls and HUD are simpler than those of FreeSpace 2, it innovates in the spacecraft department in a big way: You get to fly a giant robot.
Most of the time, Strike Suit Zero looks and maneuvers like a typical space fighter. But hit a button on your controller, and it instantly transforms into a hulking mech, armed to the teeth and capable of hairpin turns and aerobatics that just don't make sense in a fighter.
Transforming into a robot makes the game feel almost like a first-person shooter...in space. It's a throwback to the old Descent series, the same one FreeSpace 2 eventually evolved from. For example, in one of the early missions you have to destroy a series of storage platforms containing enemy supplies. You can fly at a platform at breakneck speeds, afterburners ablaze, only to transform at the very last moment and find yourself hovering in front of the platform as a fully armored mech, ready to obliterate everything in sight. This makes for a very engaging, cinematic gameplay.
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