Space Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ) is developed by MinMaz Games a two man developer hailing from Canada. It is an ambitious top down space shooter with progression and exploration being just big a part of the game as the combat is.
The game starts with you generating a galaxy of between 150 and 300 solar systems; where ironically the less planets you have to travel to the higher the difficulty curve tends to be because of the warp gate levels you come across. After galaxy generation you begin withyour Mothershipbeing nearly destroyed and your first task is to build new ships and collect resources to repair it. After repairing your Mothership you begin you journey to reach the core systems and find your fortune as a pirate. The story and writing on the whole is reasonable but a little predicable and maybe even a little clichéd with the story sometimes feeling a little like Firefly. The story missions are mostly quite involving and it’s a real shame that there aren’t any sprawling mission lines outside of the Story.
The game plays in a similar fashion to asteroid or any newer top down shooters where WASD move you in the direction that your reticule is pointed; allowing you to strafe and back off from where you are currently aiming. Left click will fire cannons and beams while right trigger will launch missiles, bombs, torpedoes, mines etc. Each weapon is good against specific parts of an enemy ship; with the three types being: Shields, Armour and Hull. Shields vary from standard shields which recharge over time while not being hit and then cloaks which take less damage and slow your ship but also conceals them from the enemy. Armour is divided into front, left, right and back with each having its own health; so any damage to the front will not affect the other armour plates. Armour also reduces the damage that the hull takes but when armour HP is low then more damage will break through. Finally Hull is the HP of the ship and when that is depleted your ship will be destroyed.
You can build new ships in seconds once one has been destroyed so long as you have enough resources to take care of the job. The two resources for trade are Rez (money) and Goons (crewmembers); where the former can be used to buy ships and blueprints for ship parts as well as be traded for Goons or the third resource Data. Goons can be traded for Rez or can be used to man ships which can improve the systems on the ship. Data is the only resource you cannot trade with but it can be bought; it is used to level up. A data bar will fill up with data is collected it will empty and award you with 3 research points; these points can then be spent on upgrading one of the many ships systems, weapons or components which in turn gives all sorts of bonus’ and also allows use of better parts and weapons.
There are after screens you can access via the space bar: the Ships Log (which keeps track of all story missions), the Tactical Screen (where you can order your ships around on the tactical map), Hanger (where you can outfit your ships with different hulls and different weapons and equipment), the Research screen (where you can upgrade your systems for research points), the System Map (where you can travel between locations in a System and finally the Star Map (where you can travel between solar systems as long as the corresponding warp gates have been cleared for use).
The missions take place on a sort of tug of war battle the majority of the time with the Civilian and UTA factions being in constant war in each system but also each system has separate relations to you. Upgrades can either be bought from their respective space stations or pillaged from the destroyed remains should you wish to attempt to take on a faction station. Many of the missions play the same way that you’d expect from a mmo quest with things including; destroy all enemies, destroy all barrels in a time limit, mine some Rez, escort a ship (which surprisingly I found more interesting as it requires less babysitting than I imagined). Missions will earn you (most of the time); Rez, Data and relations towards or against one or both of the games factions.
Zombies come into the game once you’ve delve a fair number of hours into the game. They come in three types: critters which can infect ships causing them to eventually become Killers, Killers which are mindless ships that will destroy you at all costs and Breeders which will lay eggs which hatch critters. Critters can board an unshielded ship and attempt at a hostile takeover where each crew member killed will become a critter thus adding fuel to the fire. The game even gives the very bleak outlook by telling you to self-destruct so that other ships can remain uninfected. Killers are standard vessels that have been infected and can still use all the human weaponry but armour and shields are no longer in use and instead the ships are treated to a much larger Hull HP. Breeders tend to carry ionic weaponry only which will cut through your shields for the critters but leave you more or less unscathed otherwise.
The presentation is reasonable with ships all having distinctive designs and Zombie ships being even more so. The environments are nicely layered so that some debris will move at a different rate on the layer below giving depth to the backdrops. Unfortunately the Civilian and UTA ships have little to distinguish them in heated battles which are a large concern if you’re entering a system for the first time and they are both either neutral or friendly towards you. The faces that have been used to portray the characters are unusual to say the least and they tend to look pretty odd and mismatched.
The audio is reasonable standard with the usual sound for weapons and explosions. There are some really nice little quotes that get shouted around every now and then though some do get a little ahead of the story with quotes about zombies. Occasionally there will be little radio transmissions that you hear as well outside of combat but to the same affect. Also the narrator for the story is Total Biscuit/ the Cynical Brit which is an odd choice for the narration and although it isn’t bad his voice seems a little out of place in the game.
The story can be a little slow to progress depending on your star map layout and how quickly you can progress. It would be a lot better if there were some missions with extra depth aside from the main storyline as they were the most interesting to play.
Some nice looking vessels and backgrounds but occasional problems telling friend from foe in battles as it’s not always clear with the small ships.
The music is fairly good, as is the voice work that you hear; even if the narrators accent seems a little out of place.
Gameplay is easy to get to grips with but combat itself can become somewhat of an art form in larger battles.
The maps that you can generate are huge and even with a lower number of Solar Systems to go to it will still take an excessively large amount of time just to reach the core worlds.
The tutorial is surprisingly helpful considering it’s mainly text with the odd picture to illustrate what’s going on. The gameplay is solid, though the missions do feel a little lacking compared to the story after you’ve spent some time grinding Rez/Goons/Data. You will spend hours playing this game and will just lose track of time completely as you play it.
SPAZ is one of these “just one more mission” games, you will find yourself playing late and saying ok just this last mission before bed and then at 4 o’clock in the morning just as the sun is starting to rise again you realise how much time has passed. It definitely pulls you in to play just that tiny bit more but the standard missions can get repetitive if you’re saving Rez or need more Goons; especially during the early stages of the game. I found that it tackles a lot of gripes I have with some of the big budget space sims like Eve or X3 where the progression for new ships and weapons are quite grindy. The developers have created this game in their own time and to be what they want to play and I think that not only have they achieved that but also what a lot of people want in a game. I found that while it makes some things simpler than other similar games it’s more streamlining the bad or irritating things than over simplifying the mechanics like so many RPGs will do.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.