Monday, 30 April 2012

What happened to space battles?

Photobucket Something that I’m really missing in my current gen games collection is a mass scale space combat game. I mean proper large scale space battles with hundreds of combatants, whizzing around large flag ships like laser spewing flies drawn to a bloody carcass with yesterday’s dinner spilled on it. With Space Invaders being a fairly iconic ‘first game’ for lots of people, and the universal fond memories held for titles like X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter, you’d have thought a modern equivalent would have seeped out of somewhere.

Before anyone says EVE Online, I played it for five years and finally got sick of spinning my ship around on the spot. Yes, the huge battles are intense and fairly amazing, but controlling the ship feels so unsatisfying compared to something like Freelancer of Rogue Squadron. It also relies on you finding a competent group of players, and then usually waiting within that group for three hours until it can organise itself into any kind of large scale battle that lasts more than 20 seconds.

I want to be in the middle of large space battles like those seen at the end of Return of the Jedi or even the start of Revenge of the Sith. Being in control of a nippy ship dog fighting within chaos and running a gauntlet between large ships sounds like the best space flight game ever. Instead, most space games pit you against a handful of ships in a fairly sparse environment with nothing else going on. There’s hardly ever any infighting or other form of interaction between the ships that otherwise just seem to drift toward you.

The closest I’ve got to this was Star Wars Battlefront II, in which two opposing teams spawn on their faction’s capital ship and then jump into fighters to attack each other and the enemy mothership. It was so much fun and a completely different experience to any other game. The leaked footage of the canned Star Wars Battlefront III showed similar battles between surface bases and orbiting ships, which I believe could have been exactly the kind of game to fill this gap.

There must be someone out there working on such a thing. Space combat was made for portrayal in video games. I can’t help but think Mass Effect missed a trick by not letting us participate more with ship navigation and combat, especially as you spend of the game on board a ship or station. Maybe another Rogue Squadron would scratch my itch, but the Nintendo console exclusive series seemed to have missed this generation, along with so many other great games. Ah well. A man can dream.

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