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Hands-On Preview: Galaxy Pirate Adventure

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Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle o’ rum! Turns out a pirate’s life isn’t all that different in the distant future than it was in the distant past — lots of looting and hopping from pier to pier, trying to figure out what to do with all that hoarded treasure. And yet, there’s something so much more attractive about doing it all in outer space. Maybe it’s the lasers, warp drives, and really glossy starships?

Galaxy Pirate Adventure will be Sunfish Studio’s second foray on iOS, and judging from its production values the developer is shooting for glory! If you were into the concept behind Galaxy on Fire 2 but couldn’t quite keep up with the maneuvering skills needed for success in its flight combat system, consider yourself dead center in GPA’s target audience. When the first screens came in I thought players would be piloting single-seat fighter craft again, but Sunfish Studio’s plans are a bit, shall we say, grander in scale. The craft that star in this one are full-fledged space frigates, armed to the teeth with a staggering array of weapons and defense systems. Their crew numbers – maxing out at 16 from what we could tell during our preview playthrough – aren’t quite Starship Enterprise-size, but it’s useful to think of GPA as what might happen if Star Trek came to iOS in Action RPG form.

The three-on-three battle system has been kept tightly under wraps since GPA’s initial announcement, so I was excited to find out it’s the first thing introduced to the player. It definitely lives up to GPA’s Action RPG label: it has the no-nonsense targeting approach of a menu-driven RPG battle system, while leaving every other strategic consideration actively in the player’s hands.

At the left-hand side of the touchscreen are virtual buttons used for switching among available targets, closing in on the current target, and withdrawing from it. Distance-to-target is key, as the player’s equipped weapons systems have varying ranges. Lined up at the bottom of the screen are up to eight weapons that launch when tapped, and each may be used again after a cooldown. At the beck and call of the player’s right-hand thumb are an energy shield and an energy storage option. The shield button is the player’s best friend in GPA, nullifying incoming attacks by drawing heavily on his or her ship’s energy bar.

Weapons and shields both draw from the same energy reserve, so battle becomes a challenging act of resource management. A completely depleted energy bar forces the player’s ship into an emergency energy storage mode, leaving it a sitting duck while enemies pummel away. An expert player will learn to close in on a target, let loose a barrage, and escape the target’s firing range before the inevitable counter attack has depleted shielding ability. Things get even more dicey once the player builds up his or her three-ship fleet; only the flagship is under the player’s control in real-time, and spending too much time out of the fray makes for quickly destroyed companion ships.

When the player isn’t earning loot, cash and experience points for completing mercenary missions, he or she is busy re-tooling the fleet at stations. The space station experience in GPA will feel right at home to anyone who’s played the Galaxy on Fire series — these are where the player finds more assignments, purchases equipment and trade goods, and hopes to one day buy the rights to bigger, badder vessels. The minutiae to sift through in GPA is well-suited to the RPG fan’s interests: each ship has an array of stats that are well worth paying attention to, and you can think of its hull integrity and energy reserve capacity as dressed up HP and MP. Changing and adding equipment is an especially interesting process. Every torpedo tube, deflector shield or other piece of high tech gadgetry must be married to a crew member who becomes its specialist operator, so the player has to go shopping for new recruits before new equipment becomes operational.

We have tons more to say about GPA, but you’ll have to wait for our review once this behemoth space opera is unleashed onto the App Store! We’ll bring you preview footage just as soon as Sunfish uploads it, but if you subscribe to their YouTube channel, chances are you’ll see it just as soon as we do. Also keep an eye on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for the latest news!

Updated: Courtesy of Sunfish Studio, here’s that YouTube preview video! You can also find some full resolution screenshots from our preview playthrough here.

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