Space Settlers (out now, free) is an online interactive sci-fi game that’s available for free on the App Store. It follows a very thought-out story set in the future, when Stephen Hawking uploads his brain onto the internet, works with the time-travelling dark energy of the recently-discovered ‘God particle’, therefore giving humans the necessary resources to exploring interstellar space. It struck me as a wacky idea because I didn’t expect to read about Mr. Hawking let alone the God particle, but it all comes together nicely.
When you first launch the app, you are taken straight to the tutorial. It’s a very lengthy guide of the whole game. There was too much text to read for my liking, and the tutorial just throws you out in the wild before taking you through each part of the game bit by bit. Nevertheless, I still learnt the necessary parts of the game after revisiting the tutorial via an exclamation mark on the right side of the screen. It’s pretty handy when you aren’t sure what to do next.
The graphics in Space Settlers may ring a bell or two for you StarCraft fans. It features cool hand-drawn graphics with a homely sci-fi feel. All the units complement the overall theme nicely so there isn’t anything terribly out of place, setting the scene for a cold outer space. Once complaint I do have though, although not entirely relevant to the graphics department, is that the game is only playable in portrait mode. You have an awful lot of panning to do around your planet, so a landscape view would be much more useful.
If you’re going to make an online game, including a chatroom is an awesome idea. Many developers try to ignore the idea but iPhogame (the brains behind Space Settlers) took it head-on. It’s really cool — everybody is nice and helpful in the chats, so if you get stuck, you aren’t afraid to ask experienced players. But this feature also begs the addition of a landscape mode; it would make typing on an iPad a lot easier.
Space Settlers mashes two distinct genres together — base building sections and combat. I don’t know if the developers were trying to reach a wider market or whatever, but it really doesn’t help. One minute you are thinking hard about what to buy for your base and the next minute you are in battle fighting using frustrating controls. Your anger boils when the unit which you spent so long harvesting blows up right in front of you.
The zero dollar price tag of Space Settlers is definitely a plus point. Of course, it is a freemium title (you can buy extra dark energy crystals via in-app purchases) but unlike most other freemiums, you aren’t forced into buying extra tokens just to play the game (I’m looking at you, EA).
iFanzine Verdict: Space Settlers is a really well-thought out game. For a free game, you get a hell of a lot more content than many other competing freemiums offer. Although it may lack satisfactory controls, an almost vital landscape mode, and a few other bits and pieces, there’s no harm in giving it a go. Besides, if space is your kinda thing, you might just get addicted.