App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Which one of these sci-fi games sounds cooler to you: A narrative-heavy adventure full of intergalactic intrigue where you have a say in the fate of the universe, or a systems-heavy game that lets you build the crew and ship of your dreams in a vast open world? If your immediate thought was “do I have to choose?” I have the game for you. Star Traders: Frontiers is an incredibly ambitious game that combines all sorts of space-faring fantasies together, and—although it may lack some production value—is one hell of a good time.
In Star Traders: Frontiers, you can live out a life in space in almost any way you choose. You start the game by picking a character from one of a few basic templates (or making your own), and then launching your career as the captain of your own space ship. There’s a suggested quest path for you to follow, but you can absolutely ignore it and find plenty of other interesting stuff to do.
When I say you can do just about anything, I mean it. You can be an explorer that ventures through uninhabited landscapes in search of treasures, you can play sides in trade wars to gain influence and perks from specific factions, or you can be a simple commercial trader that ferries goods from one system to another. The choice is yours, and just about all of them have interesting and fun quest lines, mechanics, and systems associated with them.
Find your place
On my initial journey in Star Traders: Frontiers, I decided to follow the game’s suggested path and do not regret it. This path concerns your attempt to help sort out an investigation into terrorism charges against a notable galactic faction, and it takes a lot of interesting twists and turns. There are so many paths to take on this quest line and so many moral grey areas that you have a lot to chew on, even if you’re not interested in the myriad systems at play in Star Traders that drive its moment-to-moment action.
If you don’t choose this path though--or if its tale of intrigue isn’t your particular cup of tea--again, there’s plenty of other stuff to sink your teeth into. There’s tactical ship combat, crew training, goods trading, ship upgrading, faction missions, contact development, and just general exploring. All of these things have their own, specific systems associated with them, but Star Traders handles most of it surprisingly well through a variety of menus.
The key to Star Traders: Frontiers is that it doesn’t require to you to invest a bunch of time and energy in learning its systems for you to be successful. You can cruise through quest lines just fine without paying too much attention to tweaking things like your crew’s talents or ship’s capabilities on the game’s basic difficulty setting. That said, if you do decide to sink time into these systems and engage with them deeply, you will be rewarded for it.
This balance lets you engage with Star Traders: Frontiers on your own terms, and gives you the leeway to change how you want to play it once you’ve already started down a specific path. Having flexibility like this is crucial for making such a complex game feel rewarding in the long run. This is especially true for having such an ambitious experience on mobile, when your ability to invest in the game could vary wildly across sessions. As great as all of this is, Star Traders certainly isn’t perfect. The Trese Brothers are a pretty small development team, and it shows here. The game isn’t exactly a looker and sometimes its systems feel underexplained, but those are small complaints compared to how well this game captures the feeling of being your own starship captain.
The bottom line
There may be some times where Star Traders: Frontiers may not look or feel as tight and polished as other games out there, but don’t let that stop you from playing it. This game executes on the idea of creating a deep, open sci-fi sandbox better than just about any other game I’ve played. It’s simply an incredible game.