Frugal Gaming Review – Ancient Space

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Ancient Space is real time strategy game based in; you’ve guessed it, Space! It’s been a good while since we’ve had chance to experience this genre in this setting and as a card holding, badge wearing Sci-Fi nerd I was rather looking forward to getting my hands on this game and seeing how it stood up to the much cherished 15 year old classic.

The first thing that stuck me is that despite the games wallet friendly £14.99 price, the developers certainly haven’t skimped when it comes to the presentation.  Both the graphics and sound design are brilliant.  Ships themselves are nicely detailed and the vast depths of space you will fight over are simply gorgeous to look at.  Add to that a strong cast of voice actors, with some well know names for Sci-Fi fans, some rather decent music and it’s a very well presented package, that at first glance belies its price.

Kicking off the campaign with a basic tutorial is a good start. A few missions in and it soon became apparent why the tutorial was so basic, there is a distinct lack of depth to the strategy elements. Ship A kicks ass against Ship B, but is vulnerable to Ship C. Ship B knocks the stuffing out of Ship C but can’t stand up to Ship A. Ship C batters the crap out of Ship A, but is outmatched against Ship B. That is as deep as it gets.  It’s a real shame that at its core it’s so simplistic. Get your head around which ship to use in which situation and you’re a grand master, all you then need to worry about is the constant herding of your forces. And boy can that be a bit of a pain.

2014-08-20_00092Your forces seem to lack any form of intelligence or initiative.  They will happily blast away at ships their weapons have no effect whatsoever on, often ignoring targets that they could actually damage.  Even in the first few missions is becomes a real chore to constantly monitor what all of your forces are doing or not doing, as is often the case.  I guess some people might like this whole level of micromanagement that’s needed to get anywhere but it was really just a complete turn off for me.

The story did manage to catch my attention to start off with but it soon ends up going hand in hand with the tedium of combat. Despite the great cast doing their utmost to make you interested in the story, the lack of stand-out narrative moments in missions leaves the story with the one task of linking mission to mission.  A real shame considering the talent brought into voice some of the characters.

Whilst I’ve not been blown away by Ancient Space and I’ve yet to find the need to complete the campaign, I do think I’ll be going back to it at some point.  There are no specific bad elements in this game, but there are a few things that just leave me completely indifferent.  As nice as it looks and sounds, it was never going to be enough to carry the game alone.  The lack of any multiplayer is also a big disappointment, as an armchair army General, there is nothing better than being able to get one over on your friends, and the more simple nature of combat that’s offered in Ancient Space would have been rather more suited to multiplayer that it is for a single player campaign.

2014-08-20_00228The developers and publishers have pulled off a master-stroke by releasing Ancient Space before the much anticipated Homeworld Remastered even has a release date.  For people like me who can’t wait for that, this game has provided a pleasant distraction, even if in all honestly it highlights more what a 15 year old game did right than Ancient Space itself accomplishes. Not bad by any means but one for fans of the genre or other Homeworld junkies needing a quick fix.

Reviewing a game can be a tricky thing.  Whilst a game should be judged on its own merits, our opinions are formed by what we have already experienced.  Case in point with Ancient Space, and a somewhat popular classic called Homeworld.  Reviewing the new game without some comparisons to the old is an all but impossible task, and I can’t help but think I’d have enjoyed Ancient Space rather a bit more if I hadn’t loved Homeworld quite so much.

Score: 7/10

Developed by Creative Forge Games

Published by Paradox Interactive

Ancient Space is currently available on Steam and can be found HERE