Developer: Threadbare Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.4.4
App Reviewed on: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Shifts is a survival strategy game that puts a lone player in charge of five crew members, a ship, and the fate of humanity. As a board game it might be categorized into the worker-placement genre; since the main player action is in managing the work shifts of the crew aboard their ship. While managing work shifts isn’t the kind of thing most people would consider fun in a game Shifts rests the future existence of mankind on it, which ultimately makes for a satisfying and unique experience.

assign_screen_zpsbb8d3e7fTo play Shifts players select a crew and difficulty level before going on to the game board. Once there, players are tasked with the mission to colonize four planets to win and save everyone. As the game title implies, players must accomplish this mission by simply assigning three crew members to work shifts on a starship while leaving the remaining two crew members to rest and interface with the ship’s AI. From here, players move the ship around the game board to try and find habitable planets.

The strategy of Shifts comes in resource management. The game’s ship is delicate, so many problems will arise in exploring the galaxy for habitable planets. Among these problems are hull degradation, reactor drainage, and robot failure – all of which can doom the mission if they persist for long enough. Luckily, each of the crew members is a specialist in solving one these problems, so managing these crises drives some of the decision-making on who works what shift. Additional considerations also include a fatigue system that prevents workers from being as effective at clearing crises if assigned multiple shifts in a row, and interface skills; which are abilities that each crew member can lend to aid the mission only when they are not put on a work shift.

Screenshot_214Making all of these considerations wouldn’t feel meaningful or fun if it wasn’t for the excellent sense of challenge provided by the game developers. Every turn pushes players to make difficult decisions and compromises in their pursuit of saving the human race, even on the easiest difficulty setting. To help keep this tension up upon subsequent playthroughs, game boards are also randomized so players can’t count on planets being set up in a similar way.

Overall, Shifts is a quality experience at a price that literally can’t be beat. As a free game, it does contain a few ads, and players have to shell out some coin if they want access to new crew members or spaceships (note: ships are currently not available but advertised as “coming soon”), but those features did not seem particularly offensive considering the core game doesn’t feel compromised as a result. Unless players have some aversion to all forms of free-to-play strategies, or are somehow completely turned off by the game’s premise, I do not see a reason not to check Shifts out.


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