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Galaxy on Fire sees the return of unlikely monikored hero Keith, an ace spaceship pilot fighting the good fight out there in a galaxy far, far away. Keith is in real trouble when he is caught up in some sort of space anomaly which sends him spinning through time and space so that he ends up hundreds of light years from home, and almost 100 years into the future.
The original Galaxy on Fire looked good and offered a real change to iPhone users who wanted an alternative to the casual games that seem to dominate the App Store. A space epic that recalled the early Wing Commander games it cast you in the role of a spaceship pilot who had work his way up in a tough universe, undertaking missions to raise credits that could be used to enhance your ship. Galaxy on Fire 2 pretty much offers more of the same; just with added mineral mining.
As you might expect from a sequel running on superior hardware, the presentation stakes have been upped and GoF2 looks even better than its already good looking predecessor. Graphics are beautifully crisp and clear, with lots of different spaceship designs and alien races to give the game a truly epic feel. The game looks fantastic, particularly on the iPad's bigger screen.
Sound is no less impressive. A full orchestral score accompanies the action, with speech for all of the main characters. Most of the voice characterisation is pretty good quality. The voices of the various alien races are imaginative without ever feeling silly, although Keith perhaps sounds a little odd (his lazy London drawl sounds out of place in outer space!). True, sound effects are a little disappointing, but that's true of a lot of iOS games.
Gameplay is also initially great fun. Learning how to handle your craft, exploring the massive gaming universe and getting into dogfights with enemy ships is both exciting and satisfying. The excellent script provides a strong narrative so that you really feel like the missions you undertake are making a difference on the world around you.
Like a great big black hole in space, the game is surprisingly addictive and sucks you in. As you complete one mission or reach a new location, there is always that temptation to just have a browse around your new location and see what other characters have to say... and then, of course, you are tempted to just try one more "last" mission before you switch off. You become engrossed in Keith's mission to find out exactly where (and when) he is and to raise enough money to get himself back home.
The difficulty curve is well-judged. Early levels treat you quite gently, giving you nice easy missions with few enemies. As you progress, things get steadily harder. Not so difficult that the average gamer won't be able to progress, but tricky enough so that you won't breeze through the title in a couple of hours. Of course, there are the inevitable in-app purchases to ease your progress and give you quicker access to the more advanced ships and weapons but it's perfectly possible to complete the game without resorting to these.
The trouble is that whilst the game's developers have undoubtedly enhanced the scale of the game and improved the already impressive presentation, they haven't fixed some of the underlying gamplay issues that plagued the original.
For a start, although fun, the game can become rather repetitive. Most missions tend to boil down to "fly to point X, collect/deliver object Y and speak to person Z", engaging or avoiding any enemies you encounter along the way. Obviously, the narrative helps to add interest, but the structure of the gameplay does start to feel very "samey". The ore mining sub-game doesn't add that much new and the need to do it regularly also becomes repetitive. Looking at it from a clinical standpoint, Galaxy on Fire 2 is not much of an advance on the original Wing Commander or, going back even further, Elite. In other words, its basic gameplay is 30 years old.
Controls are still an issue too. You can choose between accelerometer based controls or a virtual joystick. I'd say forget the former - they make the game virtually unplayable and are horribly unresponsive. Joystick controls are better, but still rather twitchy and your shop can be difficult and frustrating to control in the heat of battle. You can fiddle with the sensitivity of the joystick, but it takes an awful lot of tweaking of the settings before you even come close to getting the settings even vaguely right.
A further issue is that if you download the standard (rather than the HD version) of the game then every so often the action is interrupted by a full screen advert for the HD version. This is incredibly annoying and destroys the immersive atmosphere by effectively shouting down your ear "HEY YOU'RE JUST PLAYING A GAME, YOU KNOW.".
On the plus side, assuming you don't choose to spend wodges of real cash on in-app purchases, then you can pick up Galaxy on Fire for free which has got to be a good deal. It's a fun game in short bursts, although the repetitive nature of the missions and lack of variety soon starts to grate.
© Copyright SWSt 2013
Galaxy on Fire 2 is a multi-format sci-fi shooter initially released for the iPhone, then Android, and now there are HD versions for iPad, Android, Mac and PC.
= = = So what is it ? = = =
As you might have gathered from the game title, Galaxy on Fire 2 is a sci-fi themed game. You spend most of it rocketing about the galaxy in various lethal models of space ship. You do not need to be familiar with the original Galaxy on Fire, as this doesn't really link much with it, apart from the returning hero Keith T. Maxwell, who's back-story is pretty much inconsequential to this game.
You see, poor Mr Maxwell has been accidentally sent through space and time thanks to a faulty hyperdrive on his ship. Awakening from stasis, he is 35 years and a few million miles away from home. Despite his attempts to get back, he ends up getting involved is the desperate struggle of the galaxies inhabitants to avoid the attacks of a mysterious alien race. This is where you step in. The game is basically a RPG space flight shooter, with pretty much all of the action taking place in outer space. You do land on various space stations, but you don't actually get to walk about them, instead interacting with a menu interface once docked.
= = = So, how does it play? = = =
The main goal of this game is, of course, to save the galaxy. However that doesn't mean Keith doesn't have spare time between missions, and you can use this time to do quite a few different things. Since you start of the game in a rust-bucket of a spaceship, with about as much firepower as a pee-shooter, you soon realise you will need to earn some money to progress as the missions get harder. Acting as a mercenary, you have the freedom to fly about various solar systems, picking up a selection of missions, ranging from rather unglamorous tasks such as blowing up space junk, to the more heroic jobs of saving a space station from a pirate attack or defending a convoy of cargo ships.
= = = Anything else? = = =
Well, actually, yes. Apart from the main and sub missions, you can get involved in the import and export market, picking up and dropping of various goods, hopefully selling them of for a tidy profit. You can also mine asteroids for ore, which in turn you can use as parts towards building up special or upgraded weapons to kit out your latest ship. As in games such as Skyrim, for some people, these side games can take up as much time as the main missions, or you can choose to completely ignore them.
= = = How do I fly my ship? = = =
The controls of this game are a bit like a few of the driving games of the iPad/iPhone, in that you tilt the phone from left to right to steer, and up and down to climb or loose altitude. This can make it a bit tricky to fly accurately, but on the whole it works well. Soon you will be zipping about dogfights, and blowing up huge battleships. I have always enjoyed this style of control, as it makes you feel a bit more in touch with the ship you are flying. Extra controls are done via the touch screen, speed controls are adjusted by sliding your finger up and down the screen, and the ability to dodge quickly left or right can be performed by flicking you finger in the appropriate direction on the screen. Your main weapons can be fired manually, or set to auto-fire. I recommend this, otherwise you spend the whole game tapping the screen just trying to shot something down.
= = = Does it look and sound nice? = = =
Given that the game is a couple of years old now, the graphics are not exactly cutting edge, given that many new iPad games coming out almost match console levels of detail now. However they are more than adequate and the game is full of epic space vistas, with different area all having different features and planets in the background, adding to the richness of the games look. This is coupled with a great selection of well-designed space ships, many with very unique looks.
Sound quality is probably one of the games bigger weaknesses of the game. The voice acting is suitable cheesy, but it's the sound effects that can grate a bit. Whilst shooting you weapons on auto mode, the repetitive gun sounds were pretty irritating, and I mainly played this game on mute.
= = = So is it worth playing? = = =
I realise that a RPG space shooter is not everyone's cup of tea. But if it is, then this game is probably the best of its kind on the iPhone, or indeed any platform really, given that there have been very few space sims made in many years. The game has a pretty big sandbox to play within, and there are loads of missions to complete. Extra options like buying or building weapon and ship upgrades give it extra mileage. My main issue is given the size of the game universe, there is a surprising lack of main story missions, and once they are complete, all you are left with is random, but increasingly similar side missions. If you are determined to finish all the games achievements you will need this extra time, but many people will lose steam by this point.
There are a couple in in app purchases available. The add on pack 'Valkyrie' Opens up a few more solar systems, and about 10 or so new main missions. Like the first main story, they are fun, but too short lived, and you are quickly back to floating about wondering what to do. The other upgrade you can get is an upgrade to buy your very own space station. This is basically a giant garage, so that you can collect as many ships as you like and swap between them as missions require. This would have been handier if there had been more main missions, but the idea soon becomes redundant given the games lack of depth. There is also a new add on pack called 'Supernova' which has extra missions and ships etc, but I have yet to try this one out.
I have had problems with the game occasionally crashing, but this is usually whilst landing at a space port rather than in the middle of a mission. It does get a bit annoying at times, but thankfully, the games auto-save feature always kicks in whenever you dock at a station, so I have never actually lost any progress. To be fair, I am unsure whether these crashes occur due to the game, or the fact that I am playing it on a rather out-dated IPhone 3G. The Android version I played on a Nexus 7 Tablet seemed fine.
= = = My Final Verdict = = =
If you enjoy sci-fi games, then I certainly recommend Galaxy on Fire 2, and if you happen to be an achievement completionist, then this game will give you many hours' worth of play. It may be a couple of years old, but it holds its own. The graphics are nice, and the controls are fun. Some people may find the main story a bit lacking in depth. It is still worth looking into if you prefer something a bit more action packed than Angry Birds. I just wish it had been a little less crash prone.
I would give it 3.5 stars if I was able to, but I will be generous, and give it 4.