Author: Rory Young
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/strike_suit_zero/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
All that needs to be said about Strike Suit Zero is that it's a space flight combat game in the vein of Freespace and thousands of gamers will beg for it, as the current state of the genre leaves much to be desired. Perhaps this is why Strike Suit Zero found success though a Kickstarter campaign, earning over $174,000 in pledges – much more than its initial $100,000 goal. The extra funding helped independent studio Born Ready Games wrap up development, and here we are three months later with Strike Suit Zero on the verge of release.
It's absolutely fair to say, I believe, that the scope of Strike Suit Zero goes far beyond the funding it received from Kickstarter, however. Thirteen missions of intense, grand-scale space warfare in a variety of space settings, with a myriad of spacecraft, extensive voice-work and... I've gotten myself all flustered just talking about it. On paper Strike Suit Zero is everything a community of space combat fans could ever want, and I count myself among them.
If only we lived in a perfect world. In concept, Strike Suit Zero seems extraordinary and there are moments during the game where that brilliance shines through. Unfortunately, the breadth of the project seems more than Born Ready Games was necessarily prepared for, and the end product suffered because of it.
Players are initially introduced to the world of Strike Suit Zero through what I thought was a very compelling premise, if a bit hackneyed. There's war between the United Nations of Earth and the colonies, a result of finding an alien object and the mysteries it holds. From there it's nothing but conflict between the two sides, but Strike Suit Zero never rushes things. Like a proper science fiction novel or television show, each mission slowly builds tension and doesn't resort to throwing huge dramatic conflict after conflict at you. As such, a simple scouting mission feels disproportionally significant. After all, the Earth is relying on your protection.
A majority of the game's narrative is shared through audio communications between ships in the midst of each mission. Cutscenes are rather few in number beyond the introduction, and I think that creates a more immersive experience. All that’s driving the player forward is the flow of the game. Completion of a mission objective gives the game's characters enough time to discuss what comes next, and it feels entirely natural. Even though the main character is flying a Gundam-style war machine, commanders continue to be wary of putting their fleet at risk. Considering my low expectations in terms of storytelling, I was surprised by Strike Suit Zero's attention to details and overall quality.
Where Strike Suit Zero truly excels, however, is in the visuals of space warfare. Not just high-end PC graphics – though Strike Suit Zero has its fair share – but in the style and use of visual techniques. Tron-like streams of light follow quick-moving fighter ships, while small icons pop up on larger ships to help clarify notable locations. Rockets, lasers, and beam weapons are each visually distinct, along with separate ship types. When dozens of ships are on-screen and you're diving through the heart of an intense battle with lasers firing to your left and right, moments away from imminent destruction, Strike Suit Zero can be truly, perfectly immersive – and wonderfully beautiful at the same time.
Initially, Strike Suit Zero introduces its base gameplay mechanics very smoothly, though I'm comfortable admitting it took me some time to get used to basic maneuvers. After, say, five missions I was used to swapping between both weapon and rocket types mid-dogfight, as well as switching between Strike-mode (Gundam mode) and regular flights. It was at this point, fairly early in the game, that I felt confident in my abilities so long as I properly managed my weapon resources and didn’t get overly cocky. However, it's at this junction, between learning basic and advanced tactics, that Strike Suit Zero loses its grace.
As the game progresses, it's as if Strike Suit Zero realizes it has made the player too strong. Even with certain upgrades limited by progress and achievement (mission ranks), a player with strong mechanics could take on fleets of enemies. So, at this point, the game finds ways to take the power out of your hands in artificial ways. It starts out by forcing you to use weaker spaceships, which can be enjoyable in a “getting back to the basics” sort of way. Then it introduces escort missions and “protect the VIP” missions, which can be frustratingly random in terms of difficulty. Stacking stronger enemies comes next, then weakening allies, and finally, the frustrating feeling that every enemy on-screen is focusing either you or a mission-crucial ally.
At this point, Strike Suit Zero begins to break. Whether as a result of the growing number of enemies on-screen or the visual effects a grand-scale battle demands, certain levels late in the game would crash repeatedly. These sorts of unfortunate technical issues did occur for me early in the game as well, but it was only later in the game that they severely affected my progress. Due to the game's structure, saves don’t remember your location in a mission, only which mission you were on. A hard crash would then result in starting a mission completely over. In the course of a few hours, everything I recalled fondly about Strike Suit Zero left my mind, leaving only terrible and unreasonable frustration. Quick note: I was playing on a pre-release copy of the game that I was told was updated with the release day patch, so hopefully my issues were a special case.
In reflection, I'm able to give a balanced perspective on my entire experience, but at the same time the thought of returning to that mission is an ungainly one.
In spite of the technical issues I had with Strike Suit Zero, which may or may not have been due to my specific hardware specifications or the build of the game which I was running, I still have trouble considering the game anything more than an average experience. Where initially the game showed much promise, pulling me in and drawing my attention like moth to flame (or a nerd to a space combat game), I later felt helpless to awkward game design and balance.
Strike Suit Zero's seesaw change – from being a challenge created through the mechanics of combat and tactics to one based on artificial constructs and the shifting limitations of enemy and friendly AI – was abrupt and disappointing. Perhaps with retooling Strike Suit Zero can be rebalanced or optimized, though I think the technical issues I encountered will likely take precedence.
For many gamers, all that needs to be said about Strike Suit Zero is that it's a space flight combat title in the same vein of Freespace, but while it certainly has the heart of a larger title, its scope seemed a bit beyond its means. There's still a lot to be excited about in Strike Suit Zero, but be prepared for mixed feelings just as the game hits its stride.
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