Indie Review: Stellar Impact
Stellar Impact opted to be a unique take on MOBA style games, blending elements from classics such as DotA with sci-fi ship combat. The result is a miniature gem that shows a lot of promise.
- Worth The Time?Yes, if you're prepared to get invested.
- Things LovedThe simple yet enjoyable gameplay, the gameplay depth, the focus on teamwork, the diversity in play styles with the various ships and skills on offer, the team option to vote surrender so as to avoid prolonging the inevitable, the graphics and sound effects are decent, online plays great.
- Things HatedThe game is very difficult to newcomers since players become stronger the more they play, the tutorial only teaches you the bare basics so you have to learn the hard way in the beginning, the game lacks a matchmaking system, the UI could definitely be improved as it's not easy to use.
- RecommendationIt's difficult to recommend Stellar Impact, even for its price of $10, when there are lots of great alternatives in the same genre, namely DotA 2 and League of Legends, both of which are completely free. Your desire to play this can only be influenced by how much the sci-fi concept appeals to you.
- Name: Stellar Impact
- Genre: Strategy
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online (12 players)
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Tindalos Interactive
- Publisher: Tindalos Interactive
- Price: $9.99
- Reviewed On: PC
Stellar Impact is an online-only strategy game that emulates, but greatly deviates from, traditional DotA-style gameplay, taking place in a sci-fi universe and focusing on space naval combat and micro-management. It treads a fine line between classic real-time strategy and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games. It’s the first title developed by Tindalos Interactive, and while it’s a pretty solid attempt at creating something new in the genre, it faces a fair set of problems that prove to be extremely difficult to overcome. The main issue is that it suffers in the face of its incredibly strong competition, with games like DOTA 2 and League of Legends on offer at zero cost. As such, Stellar Impact has to sell itself on its unique space navy combat, and if you’re someone interested in this concept or looking for something new in the genre then this just may be a good choice. It definitely shows promise.
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The game caters for up to 12 players, and offers two gameplay modes, namely Conquest and Battlefield. The former is similar to traditional DotA, in that you have to destroy your opponent’s base that is safeguarded by turrets, your enemy players and mini attack squadrons that spawn at set intervals, much like DotA’s creeps. However, the twist is that firstly you’re able to buy up to three mini fleets to follow you and help you in combat, ranging from armoured tanks to assault squads, provided you have the cash for it. Secondly, you’ll need to work with your team to capture objectives on the map that all grant different bonuses that are important to winning a match. If you want something more action orientated, then Battlefield would be your mode, as you basically have to eliminate all enemy players or defend a central objective for 120 seconds, and be the first team to win all three rounds.
Aside from a tutorial that covers the basics, Stellar Impact is quite happy to throw its players into the deep end, and even when you feel like you’ve got it you’ll still have to learn the hard way online, as you suffer at the hands of stronger and more experienced players. The core reasons for this is that firstly the game doesn’t really have a matchmaking system, so you’ll need to make sure you’re playing with lower ranked players if you want to have a chance at fun, and secondly, in addition to in-game ship upgrades that disappear after each round, as is the standard, there are also permanent upgrades in the form of equipment that is awarded at the end of each round. This means that the more games you play, the stronger you’ll get, which doesn’t make things easy for newcomers, as it’s unlikely that you’ll be starting on an even playing field with the rest when starting up a game. To put this into perspective, I had to learn the hard way as I suffered four straight defeats when I first started playing, making barely any contribution to my team due to my lack of experience and power. However, the upside to this system is that things inevitably get better, and you’ll appreciate it more once you’re past the bad times.
The great thing about Stellar Impact is that its gameplay is simple to grasp, yet it’s a surprisingly deep game that’s difficult to be good at, as it requires a wide-range of player tactics and micro-management. It may prove daunting in the start, but the reward is in reaching a point where you finally become a force to be reckoned with. There are 5 starting classes in the game, defined by the ship you pick, of which you have the choice of Destroyer, Cruiser, Dreadnought, Corvette or Frigate. Unfortunately, to get the Support, Carrier and Artillery classes you’ll need to pay. Each class is distinctive in its attributes and value to the team, and have a large number of special abilities of which you can equip four at a time before starting a match. It’s really awesome to have so much customisability in how you want to play, whether you want to be tank, full on assault, a survivalist or a balance between attack and defense and more. Creep abilities and ship attributes are levelled up in-game using command points earned by killing enemies, capturing objectives, and gradually over time, lasting for the duration of the round. Your ship’s four primary abilities are levelled up using your limited number of skill points available per round, as you reach new tier levels as indicated by the bar at the top of the screen.
Players control their ship by using a right-click to set its direction, and pressing W to move forward. Hitting W again will increase throttle speed, while the S key is used to slow down or completely stop. Left-clicking targets an area or enemy ships, and the space bar fires off your weapons. Your ship’s abilities are mapped to the number keys as is the standard in a game like this. At a glance it seems simple enough, but it’s actually very difficult to effectively maneuver your ship in the thick of battle, so much so that it can often become frustrating to play well, especially when you have to avoid the number of environmental hazards floating around. These come in the form of floating asteroids, which are lethal upon impact, dust clouds which continuously deal damage to you, plasma fields that drastically slow down your movement speed, solar flares that pull you in and deal significant damage to your shields, and gas clouds that render you invisible to the opposition unless they have a scanner or come into contact with you. It’s of critical importance to learn how to micro-manage your ship and its weapons.
These elements add a great sense of skill and tactics to the game, and it becomes rewarding when you eventually learn how to play. The best parts of the game are in customising your ship, selecting the right skills and upgrades and planning your moves carefully in order to best your opponents. Once things are rolling in first gear Stellar Impact really becomes a gem of an indie game, and admittedly I really started to enjoy the game only once I became competent at it and felt like I could make some kind of impact on the game. It’s incredibly satisfying to destroy your first enemy, let me tell you that much. Depending on the game mode you choose and the number of players, matches can last anything from fifteen minutes to an hour, although the upside is that if you’re blatantly losing with no chance of recovery, your team can vote to surrender so as to prevent opposing players from deliberately delaying the inevitable and wasting your time. Of course it can happen that players surrender prematurely, but you end up getting a win so it evens out. Furthermore, it’s pleasing to see that Stellar Impact tracks quitters by showing the percentage of games they’ve abandoned whenever they join a game, so you’ll be fully aware of the risks you’re taking if one of those players happens to end up on your team.
The game looks pretty decent visually, and it’s not overly busy. Maps are nicely detailed and quite dynamic, offering a playing field that’s diverse, easy on the eye and charming. The only problem I had really was with the User Interface, which isn’t the prettiest or most intuitive of interfaces. It takes a while to get used to it and to learn how to properly manage your upgrades and resources. It could do with an improvement, but it’s not exactly unusable by any means. With regards to audio, it would have been nice to have a wider-range of background music on offer, but your own music can always fix that. The sound effects are pretty good though, which makes the experience more enjoyable. Stellar Impact is a breeze to play in terms of its functionality, as it loads really quickly, there is minimal delay online and overall it’s just a very comfortable experience. I had no problems finding games, navigating the menus or learning how things work, but in fairness it does take a fair amount of time to learn how to play.
In the end, Stellar Impact is a really fun and surprisingly deep game that delivers a pretty good tactical experience. Unfortunately, it will most likely fly under the radar for most players due to its stronger competition. To reiterate, despite this being a gem of an indie game, it’s quite difficult to recommend Stellar Impact, even for its entry price of $10, when there are a number of great alternatives in the same genre, namely DOTA 2 and League of Legends, both of which are completely free to play. Your desire to play this can only be influenced by how much the sci-fi concept appeals to you. But either way, if you’re looking for something different in this genre, then this would be a good choice.