Admittedly I didn’t know a whole lot about the game going in. I saw a trailer and skimmed over the Kickstarter page along with a few other articles. What I thought was going to be a deep and satisfyingly was instead shallow and broken. I honestly can’t believe I chocolate-rabbit’d myself so soon after writing that. I suppose I have to take partial blame for expecting too much. Wait… No, no I really don’t. They essentially promised as much in their Kickstarter campaign. Anybody who sunk any substantial money into Star Command must be fighting waves of nausea.
Visually, the game is great. They did a fantastic job with the pixel art and the aliens and ships are fascinating to look at. They obviously went for a Star Trek feel and I think for the most part they nailed it. Unfortunately it just all goes downhill from here. The combat, ship, crew, and diplomacy (or lack thereof) mechanics are all bad. They really are. I probably shouldn’t make sweeping statements like that but I honestly can’t think of a single redeeming feature among them.
The entire game is based around tokens. Win a battle, get tokens, spend tokens on upgrades or crew. Good luck being able to afford anything, though, when you have to constantly replace your crew. Parts of your ship also use different types of tokens to dodge attacks and fire special weapons. The problem is that you not only need to wait for the rooms to charge up, but then you need to spend a token. Unfortunately you can only hold 2 tokens of each type at a time. After that you have to generate tokens, introducing an additional timer into the mix. The same is true for shield regenerators, etc. It’s a completely stupid and broken system. I just don’t understand why they created, essentially, 2 different usage timers. It would have been great if they just let you buy and stock ammo, but there’s none of that. Read on.
The combat is only vaguely similar to FTL. You charge up your weapons and then fire. Except that’s not where it ends. You then have to partake in an inane touch mini game to make sure you actually hit your target. The novelty never has a chance to wear off because I don’t believe it existed in the first place. Oh, and this is great… You essentially ALWAYS get hit. I guess your enemies are mini-game masters because they seem to NEVER miss. If you want any relief you can use a dodge token but that’s essentially worthless when you have to wait on 2 separate timers and they can get 3 to 4 shots in between anyways. In the end it doesn’t really seem to matter because no matter how beat to hell you get you never seem to blow up. Your shields go down, hulls can be breached and crew sucked out, and fires can spread everywhere but it seems your ship is otherwise invulnerable.
Oh, and while you micro manage all of your firing minigames and token generation, you must also deal with being boarded by hostile forces, which will happen ALL. THE. TIME. I’ve never been able to tell if having shields up matters or not. It doesn’t seem to because they will send wave after wave at you and you have to send your red shirts in (The only ones who can attack) to take care of them. This means you either need to pull them from your weapons systems or just have a crap-load extra. You also need to make sure your blue shirts back them up with heals or they are shit-out-of-luck because the aliens are way tougher. My personal favorite part is having your last red shirts die and having to send crew members ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SHIP, to either the command deck or weapons room, just so they can change shirt color and fire on the enemy forces. I find this absolutely mind-boggling. I mean, I know I’ve seen Geordi phaser a bitch. It’s all just frantic and hard to manage. Looking at screenshots you are reminded of classic Xcom, but it’s nothing like that. It’s all ll in real-time and difficult to control as your crew is hard to individually select and paths around your ship like a blind person who just had their furniture re-arranged.
Oh, and as for diplomacy… There’s really none. At all. Sometimes you get dialogue choices before battle, but it all just leads to fight after fight after fight after fight.
Star Command really could have been so much more. I really wanted it to be more. In my mind I played a deeper, portable FTL with XCOM features and battles. You could explore vast galaxies, meet strange new species and peacefully co-exist (or not). Then I woke up and realized none of it had ever happened and I didn’t even get a damn flute to show for it.