Bomber Crew, but in space… that’s pretty much how I sum up my entire lifetime of space battles and epic laser shows from the creative minds of Runner Duck. Space Crew provides the hectic simulation of crew management as you juggle through a multitude of tasks from managing your ship and its inhabitants to shooting at alien baddies whenever they show up.
From the highly praised management tactics Bomber Crew, Space Crew is pretty much that and more as it takes the stakes a bit higher than just the Earth’s atmosphere. While you’ll still be managing the same midget shaped characters, the premise is a bit different here as you take on missions from your space station before zooming through hyperjump gates and into the exciting emptiness of space.
There’s a lot of things at play here from choosing between your ship’s equipment loadout and decals to figuring out how you want to gear your captain and its crewmates. Each one provides different bonuses so some thoughtful decision making is still kind of needed here. But easily the most interesting part of the game goes into its actual live gameplay where it starts getting hectic between lasers popping off from every direction to the more internal struggle of putting out fires or fixing anything that breaks in between. Even the word hectic doesn’t justify just how much it means to be at the very helm of everything.
To put it simply, a simple quest that can take about half an hour give or take would have you go through a hyperjump gate into new sectors of space that could potentially have aliens popping out of the darkness. At this point your course of action is to shoot back or rush through the next gate in hopes that you’ll only suffer minimal casualties. And similar to Bomber Crew of the same development team, Space Crew is pretty much automatic where you only need to tag enemies or objectives to do something. So most of your time would be focused on tagging new enemies that pop up, fixing the ship or moving your crew around to do other mandatory tasks.
As a crew management simulator each of your crewmates also gets to unlock new skills based on their levels such as having your captain issue an evasive maneuver which gives your ship full evasive stats to dodge most shots for a short duration. Meanwhile my favorite ability has to go to the communication officer’s fighter support which adds an extra pair of hands on battle which is really helpful on occasions with heavy resistance. However finishing a task is just half the battle and returning with your ship and crew intact is another.
And if you do get to come home safely to the comforts of your own reinforced steel space station, you’ll get to live another day while also being rewarded for a job well done. From research points to credits that ultimately lets you upgrade your crew and ship’s effectiveness, these are just a few more things that you’d also have to juggle around and micro-manage as each frantic mission rewards you with far too few in comparison with the risks you’re actually taking.
Suffer a complete wipeout however and you’ll be starting over from a more basic spacecraft and a lower leveled set of crew members. Now while upgrade unlocks persist, grinding back to your old state requires a bit of credits that you most likely won’t even have at that point. Having to lose an entire crew of battle-hardened individuals also mean you’ll have to start leveling up everyone to even stand a chance at higher difficulty missions which really sets itself up as a grindy experience that often becomes repetitive for its same-y mission types and objectives.
This kind of frantic back and forth while enjoyable at first is something that had me wishing a permadeath is in place to completely end my suffering. It’s all incredibly grindy and for a game that has its focus on crew skills, it becomes its own nightmare should you take on a mission above your own pay grade only to come back empty handed and a chock full of laser bullet holes on every possible angle.
Controls on the PS4 can seem awkward on the first few missions. Its heavy usage of the thumbstick along with the face buttons for either highlighting crew members to issue orders or changing camera angles had me confused from time to time but it ultimately becomes second nature after a while. It mainly has something to do with my lack of experience with the genre and the fact that on the back of my mind I am hoping for keyboard and mouse support on the said console.
In conclusion, while there are a couple of great things that Space Crew has to offer, it’s definitely marred by its lackluster showing of mission variety that every now and then the lengthy mission times often feel like an eternity and going through more than one or two missions per session is enough to really tire me out. At this point in time, the game isn’t as enjoyable as a hectic game of Overcooked or Tools Up! for its punishing death mechanics and grindy experience.
Space Crew is Developed by Runner Duck and published by Curve Digital
Space Crew is available on the following platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
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