[Review] Battlestation – First Contact

Bugbyte is an independent game developer team from Finland that recently released its mini game Battlestation: First Contact for mobile devices as a demo and a trying ground for their upcoming PC game Battlestation: Humanity’s Last Hope (Kickstarter). Developers rely on feedback for the mobile release to keep building their PC game, but the way I see it Battlestation: First Contact is great and entertaining as it is.

iconBattlestation – First Contact [Android, iOS]
By Bugbyte
Release Date – October 14, 2014
Genre: Strategy
Game website: http://battlestation.fi

A word in advance: the first episode is free and consists of 50 enemy waves, but beating it is easier said than done, and provides plenty of gameplay time and an excellent replay value. The next episodes are available via in-app purchases for $3.50, and by the time you reach the end of the first episode you might as well make up your mind if you want to buy.

Gameplay

Humanity has been expanding to outer space colonies, establishing diplomatic relations with alien species throughout the universe, but at some point we struck the spot where time has begun the countdown on us. An unidentified alien force started eradicating our colonies one by one, and approached the last bastion – Earth. You play as the commander of the Earth’s space fleet and you are humanity’s last hope.

Battlestation manages to diversify tower defense genre with strategy, roguelike and defense games, and in a way it reminds me my favorite PC game Chicken Invaders, but with a more grown-up approach. So, you are in charge of a Battlestation, which has several modules for you to keep an eye on and upgrade.

First, there are crew slots – scientists, pilots, marines and engineers. Each team has its value and jurisdiction – engineers construct upgrades for your battle station and produce fighter spacecrafts; pilots man the fighters and turrets; marines board alien spacecrafts and take over; while scientists wreck their brains over how to upgrade your defensive, offensive and energy systems to give the entire crew a better chance for survival.

Second, your battle station has a limited number of slots you can fill with hangars, shuttle bay, bolters, laser and whatever weapons your scientists can come up with. These cost in-game money you earn by killing off alien attack waves. What I didn’t get, though, is when the scientists crew releases an update for an already existing hangar, for example, why do we have to have a separate slot for it, instead of buying it for that hangar? Anyway, you will have to think carefully how you spend that money because at some point you may think you need more marines, but it may be wiser to save enough for a new laser.

Third, there is crew management, and at some point you will need to order more marines, or more engineers, and that costs a lot of in-game currency. Likewise, your initial crew can be re-assigned. For example, the scientists are assigned to three different priority tasks in equal teams, but if you wish to finish the weapons ahead of, say, energy task, you can re-assign some people from the energy team to the weapons team, and have your orb delivered faster.

The shield can be adjusted to match your play style – it can load fast, but be weaker, or it can load longer, but be more powerful, or a mix of those.

You don’t really aim in this game – the pilots and turrets aim automatically as soon as the enmy fleet are within the weapon’s reach. It is funny how the tiny ships manage to convey maneuvers during which they don’t have a clear shot and simply can’t fire. Even though there is not a great level of detail in the graphics, the physics of the game is notable, and so is the gameplay.

Replay Value

Provided you will be failing a lot during the first episode, you are sure to come up with a strategy that will get you through. Nonetheless, the game is different every time you start over, and in this respect the replay value is excellent. It is never boring, yet simplistic, but it is not too difficult to make you want to put down, either. Overall, I was impressed by a free game that initially seemed like a time killer you might uninstall in 5 minutes, and now I am sure I will keep the project on my radar and wait till the PC game release next year.

Design

Battlestation is an example of the great concept and fun gameplay with neat graphics, and that’s the right call of the developers. With their aiming to release a bigger project, they chose to test the playability over spending too many resources on 3D graphics. It doesn’t mean the design is mediocre, no. It’s beautiful, but not overly detailed.

What I enjoyed particularly was the UI color schemes and standalone graphic elements, especially the AI icon – Eden. Overall, the navigation, buttons and UI are intuitive and don’t suggest any learning curve. You just follow the instructions the first time you play and pick it up easily from there.

Music

Since we talk feedback, I was not impressed by the soundtrack. It is ok and non-intrusive, however I would like to hear something more atmospheric here because now, the OST is like any other epic space theme, while something more subtle, sinister and ambient would definitely hook picky gamers and create the atmosphere the game deserves.

IAPs

The game is free, but you can play for free only the first episode, which is 50 waves. It’s hard enough to last you long so that you can make up your mind whether you want to cash out $3.50 for the rest of the episodes. Take your time.

Pros

  • Addicting, smooth and challenging gameplay
  • It’s fast enough to never get bored
  • Intuitive UI, no learning curve (unlike Haegemonia)
  • Neat design
  • Lag-free performance
  • The game is different each time, so you can’t play the same way twice due to random scientific research and incoming waves
  • You can play the first episode for free, and it’s long and challenging enough to have fun

Cons

  • The game’s description does not say the other episodes are only available via IAPs, so it leads to misunderstanding you could unlock them by beating the first episode.
  • I might be wrong, but the upgrade system is more restricting that it should be. When scientists finish some upgrade for equipment, shouldn’t we be able to upgrade the installed equipment instead of buying a new, upgraded unit?
  • It is not a con per se, but if I get to spend a lot of time in a game I want my music catchy, but then it’s only my opinion.

Conclusion

Battlestation: First Contact is a pleasant surprise and one of the best entries of the past week. Games like this prove how ever evolving and thriving indie developer community is these day, and just when you think you’ve had enough of TD or roguelike, or space shooters, they release something that entails all of it in a surprisingly addictive and challenging gameplay that will have you come back for more until you beat it. The game is accessible for anyone to pick up and work out a strategy, but it’s not too easy, either. It’s a very solid game with interesting execution, neat graphics and a measured challenge. In my humble opinion, Battlestation: First Contact is great, and I will anxiously wait for the PC game.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gameplay
Visuals
Replay Value
Story
IAPs