Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Star Nomad is an open ode to classic space exploration games like Freelancer and Wing Commander, and the fact that its scale approaches those benchmarks is certainly impressive. But even though there is a lot to uncover, the world is itself is so dull and confusing only the most hardcore pioneers will want to try.
Players take on the role of a neutral spaceship in the middle of a massive galactic war. And with so much conflict, there’s much money to be made. So players drift throughout the vast cosmos, encountering new space stations and accepting new mercenary missions. Assignments range from flying through waypoints to patrolling hostile sectors to protecting precious cargo from pirate raids. Beyond these specific tasks, players can also purchase goods and ferry them through the galaxy looking for the best selling prices. All of these jobs earn credits to buy ship upgrades that the unlock higher-tier objectives.
However, while actually playing the game, half of the battle is just figuring out what the heck is going on. Basic controls are slow yet simple enough, as are the specific instructions for most missions. But with the intimidating star map, poorly explained directions, and confusing story thrown around in easily ignorable chat logs, players are left utterly aimless. Lack of feedback means even succeeding at some missions feels like lucky guesswork. Developer Halfgeek Studios admits that reading the tutorial on their blog is basically mandatory to comprehend the experience, but some of that should have been in the game itself.
And even when players do get the hang of cruising through Star Nomad's universe, it’s not a particularly pretty universe to explore. Ship designs are uninteresting. Colors are flat. There are weird creepy references to RealDolls, anime porn, and other less savory parts of otaku culture in the “pleasure domes.” Meanwhile, the soundtrack oscillates between pretty good techno and cheesy 80s movie synth techno.
Star Nomad is big, rough, uncharted territory. It’s ripe for the conquering, but don’t expect any help along the way.