Space Pirates and Zombies: Impressions Part II
Don’t know what S.P.A.Z. is? Then clearly you didn’t read Part 1 of my impressions on the beta! Check it out here!
Space Pirates and Zombies is a massive game. I know I said that last time I talked about this game, but I really feel a need to impress upon you just how much game is jammed into this package. Honestly, I’m not sure how two people could do this in 22 years, forget the 22 months they developed it in. My first impressions on the game I gave you took place over the course of perhaps six hours of play time. I am now about 17 hours into this beast of a game, and I didn’t encounter the titular zombies until around the 15 hour mark. That sounds extreme, but the most important fact you need to take away from it is that I wasn’t bored during those 15 hours.
The game’s plot is glacial at times, and it will take long stretches of time to get the parts you need for The Clockwork so it can travel toward the galactic core. You will travel star systems to attack ships and raid bits, to scavenge junk rings and fend off space hillbillies intent on capturing you and your purty mouths, and you will get on the wrong side of the intergalactic government. All that just to get the parts you need. Hours of play time will take you to so many places and conflicts, and yet it only represents two or so sub missions under one main mission. This whole time you could of course take on any number of the hundreds of side missions that litter the cosmos. I have only just managed to breach the inner core systems, and I believe I am only just past the half-way mark, with hordes of zombified ships between me and the end of this game.
Of course, that play time also equates to levels you will gain, research you will scavenge from enemies, and advancements you will buy on the black market. Which brings us to the other reason this game is massive, the customization of your ships. I touched on this briefly in the last entry, but being early in I could only see the research I would one day get to spend points on. What I didn’t see were the number of parts I could attach to my ships. More hours in, weapon types become more varied and you get booster modules that enhance aspects of your ship. You can forgo weapon energy for speed and maneuverability and whittle ships down in fast passes with scatter shot, or perhaps you will bristle a ship with overload beams and ditch the tractor beam in favor of a beam booster for extra power. The options continually grow and expand, allowing you to adjust for whatever challenge you may face in the unforgiving cold of space. I lost count of how many times I watched a ship explode, frantically refit the thing in the hanger before building it anew, and launching it back into the fray cackling like a maniac. The game brings out a dark and vengeance driven part of me, like Batman without the morals.
I have done some terrible things in space since last we met.
I will tell you a shameful story now, about how I became so invested in my goals in the game that I froze out my heart and became a monster. Earlier in the game I encountered that space hillbilly I mentioned. Initially, it wasn’t that hard to beat back his ships while I took what I needed from the dead and broken ships that floated around me. I foolishly thought I was finally “good,” at this game. My lesson was swiftly taught as the ambush came and wrecked me soundly, money and crew numbers plummeted and by the time I finally broke the bastard I was a poor man without anyone to man my ships. Not long after I found myself in a position where I needed to defend The Clockwork from a sizable enemy fleet that was headed up by a much larger and deadlier ship then anything I had. I died. I died a whole hell of a lot. Here, look at this screen.
That screen and I hang out now, we see movies together, and we get snacks at the mall’s food court. We know one another so well that the screen’s mother invites me over for dinner with the family. I think I might be going steady with that screen now. That big bastard of a ship was the only thing I hated in this life by the end. It didn’t matter how I outfitted my ships, without men to crew them they operated at only a fraction of the efficiency and speed. I needed crew, bodies to fill these tinderboxes in space that I kept watching explode, and I was willing to sell my humanity to get them.
Then I found the hotel, the space hotel. A giant space station filled with precious and valuable people, innocent and unaffiliated people. I was able to justify the enslavement of my enemies for my ships–they tried to kill me after all–but these people were literally just looking for a place to sleep. An hour earlier in the game I would never have done what I did. The idea was appalling, but I had a space-station that depended on me, and without a crew I would be letting them down. I would be letting that big ass ship win! So I began to abduct anyone that was in a pod going from ship to station or vice versa, which didn’t make me any friends. Under fire from people just trying to save friends and family from a very short and miserable life, I began to target and gun down ships, sucking up the escape-pods of the survivors. It still wasn’t enough. In an hour of darkness for me and those little digital people, I turned my guns on the hotel, and I began to crack it open like a flesh filled egg.
The really dark part of this all, and what made me feel the worst, was that I didn’t have room for everyone in that station. I filled my ships to the brim, and watched as the station exploded and hundreds of tiny bodies were flung into the vacuum of space to die. I killed countless innocent people in a gambit to enslave a few dozen others. So many little bodies were left floating around that my ship left a red smear as it tried to fly away from the site of our shameful decent into kidnapping and slavery.
The best part, gentle reader, is that it only gets worse from here. I outfitted my largest ship with something called a suicide cannon, along with a pair of overload beams and a beam booster, and flew back to attempt protecting The Clockwork once more. My plan was simple and elegant, ignore every ship that wasn’t the big guy and destroy what was left of my soul if it meant watching it explode and collecting the sweet treats it held inside. I charged it, unloaded my overload beams on it and frantically began slapping the mouse key bound to the suicide cannon. It shames me to tell you this, but I suppose you deserve to know just what that cannon does. It fires crew at enemy ships. That’s right, those people I kidnapped and press-ganged into my service? I slapped a gun in each of their hands, pushed them into a tiny tube, and fired them at the enemy ship. I missed about half the time, sending innocent people adrift in a little glass and metal tube to die. The times I didn’t miss meant these frightened people were violently injected into a hostile ship where they did what they could to kill the enemy crew. The last nail in the coffin for my conscious was that I blew that ship up with my own people in it. Space is not a kind place and it does not make kind people. We do what we need to do to survive, even if that means not being able to live with ourselves after its all said and done.
That all sounds melodramatic and difficult, but it’s why I find myself continually engaged with the game. This isn’t a casual experience, and you won’t win every encounter you face on the first try, sometimes the twentieth try. You will need to constantly look to innovate your methods and your ships, and the money it costs to build ships will always be on your mind. Consider this: a larger ship means more weapons, armor, and subsystems. It also means more crew and money, so every time you build one you are facing a risk versus reward scenario. This ship is the strongest thing you can have on the field, but for the same cost you could build and man dozens of smaller ships. It changes the way you play the game drastically. This isn’t Starcraft, where you just hammer out units. You will slowly consider every part of that ship, from systems to weapons, to maximize the investment it represents. The game wants you to play it for sure, but it also wants to test you and make you want to win.
I’ll save the zombies for my last write-up, but in my brief encounters with them so far I already found myself needing to make new and difficult decisions when fighting them. They are so wholly alien from the UTA and the Civilians who have been your combatants thus far. They of course bring new and terrible ways for crew members to suffer to the table as well. Poor little sprite people.
I should also mention that, as the game is still in beta, it is still growing and changing. I was delighted to find that the initial load time was dramatically reduced since the last update, without adding any additional load times that I noticed. I’m sure ships are being tuned and balanced as well as the game nears the end of beta and approaches a proper release. Which is really what this game does best, is grow and change. You start as a scrappy team building a ship, and from that point on everything is constantly getting bigger and broader, with new and more challenging moments constantly coming at you. After fifteen hours, when any other game would either be over or set in its ways, zombies come along and change everything up again. The plot of the game is also rather enjoyable. So far it’s fairly predictable with the standard twists any sci-fi fan would expect. Which isn’t a bad thing to be honest, as the character’s dialogue is often funny, with the dick of a science officer being a personal favorite as he talks down to everyone in the galaxy. The plot serves as a device to move you forward and give you goals. It may not be winning awards for originality and depth, but the game that’s built around it certainly should be.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to my time in S.P.A.Z. in the coming days, which will almost certainly be zombie centric. If reading this gave you a powerful need to experience this wonderful game, then perhaps you should check out the games website, here. The coming days have, well, come! Read part III here!