DOTA in space…at least, that is the first impression that I received when I fired up a practice game. DOTA, or Defense of the Ancients, is a mod for Warcraft III that took the game to a whole new level. To sum up DOTA, two sides have a base and towers in between. NPC armies spawn at the same time on both sides and automatically head toward the other base and attack anything in their path. The players themselves pick a hero and have free rein to attack the enemy NPCs and towers so that they can level up, earn money, and eventually make themselves strong enough to press through enemy lines.
Stellar Impact is very similar in that each side has a base and turrets in between. NPC ships spawn at regular intervals and like DOTA, are not controllable. You can upgrade them, along with your ship, using command points that you earn by destroying enemy ships and buildings. You’ll also be able to upgrade your skills in-game by way of the talent tree. Anyone who has played DOTA, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, etc. will feel right at home with the gameplay mechanics.
One things that new players will need to take some time to get used to is how sluggish your ship actually is. You can’t move or turn your ship on a whim, so navigating well becomes just as imperative as destroying the enemy. It also adds an element of strategy when you go to attack enemy ships or turrets. It’s not enough to just sit there and fire broadside shots…you’ll become space dust in a hurry. Asteroids and other space debris will damage and destroy your ship as well, so you’ll be contending with the elements while worrying about that ship bearing down on you. The players who are ranked high in this game have certainly earned their status.
Players will be able to pick from different ships before the game starts, and you are able to download more via DLC. Each ship has its own range of abilities and it’s important to remember your ship’s role while in-game. Like me, you may find one or two ships that really appeal to you and completely ignore some of the others. You’ll be able to loot items in ranked games to improve your ship and “level” it up. I really like the idea behind it all…
Unfortunately, there’s a few things that prevent me from recommending it. First, when I was online, only two hundred people filled the network. I saw, at most, three games…and the matchmaking button I clicked to search for a game ticked on for minutes to no avail. Where was everyone? The only way to level up your ship and get better loot is to play ranked matches…which I couldn’t do, because none were available. I was really hoping that there’d be a newbie room or game I could join to help ease me into the game…but I didn’t see much of anything, which is unfortunate. There isn’t a “bot” option, so you won’t be able to play skirmish modes on your own. There is a practice mode, but it does not feature bots…just NPC ships.
This is really a shame…I really like how the game plays and especially enjoy leveling up my faction during the battle. It reminded me a little of Demigod in that sense, Stardock’s semi-recent action real-time strategy game which I love playing. Demigod lets me play against bots, so I don’t understand why I can’t in Stellar Impact. This game has so much untapped potential…it just makes me sad.
If this game had a larger community and more online options, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. I’d even play the game if I was able to play against bots and level up that way. As it stands, it remains an as underrated, underplayed game with limited play options. I plan to keep trying to join games, but so far, I haven’t had any luck and my ships still sit at the lowest level possible. Luckily, the game was only about $3.00 on Steam during the summer sale…otherwise, I’d be pretty pissed. If I do manage to get into a few games and see an increase in activity, I’ll leave a comment below.
Final Verdict: 6/10