Version Reviewed: 1.0.8
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
For a platform still seen by many as a haven for casual time-wasters, the App Store sure does seem to have a lot of dizzyingly dense space sims. Plancon: Space Conflict is the latest game that dumps players in an endless frontier and tells them to make their own way, but thank the space gods it’s not nearly as opaque as its peers.
Set in the middle of a human-alien conflict, Plancon has would-be smugglers making a living throughout the Milky Way using advanced tech harvested from the invaders. Ship upgrades come fast and furious as players gain experience and level-up. Need to fend off multiple foes at a time? Upgrade your weapons with a missile launcher and a droid assistant. Need to escort an important scientist without having to check a crew member into a space station? Buy a roomier ship.
The fast-paced progression extends to the game’s map as well. As players’ warp capabilities improve, they’ll take on missions at the outer edge of the Solar System as if they were playing an actually finished version of Destiny. And the game’s detailed vision of space just makes players want to stay longer. Stylish starfighters leave glowing rocket trails as ornate 3D space stations orbit in the background to the sound of cable TV sci-fi music.
But whereas too many games like this overwhelm players with the immense freedom of space travel, Plancon helps players wrangle all that complexity with its extensive early tutorials. Explicit instructions woven into opening missions have players navigating the cosmos in no time. Objectives are clearly explained and marked while crucial ship functions are constantly reiterated. This is important because some of the systems, while intriguing once explained, wouldn’t make much sense otherwise. For example, while fighting, players slide weapon icons onto enemies to automatically fire that specific gun at that specific target. But they can also manually fire certain heavy weapons. It’s a clever blend of active and indirect combat, like something out of a modern RPG, but it’s not a mechanic players would just pick up on their own, which is really indicative of the genre as a whole.
Space sims are an understandably intimidating genre, and Plancon: Space Conflict does eventually reach a point where players are faced with a paralyzing lack of direction. But the game does such a great job easing players into that scary place that once they actually get there, they just might be ready for takeoff.