It’s a Solar Struggle

Review of SolarStruggle on XBLIG: Pass
After enjoying every bit of Solar Struggle: Survival I went back to check out its predecessor, Solar Struggle.

I’m not sure what my expectations were when I sat down to play Solar Struggle.  Coming off of Solar Struggle: Survival I did expect the previous game to have less polish and possibly a worse combat system.  That would only be natural, as developers learn a lot between games.  Solar Struggle: Survival though isn’t a sequel, it’s an arcade shooter spin off from it’s Action and Adventure father.  I guess what I was hoping for was a game to take me back to thrill of Wing Commander – solid space combat mixed with great story and cut scenes.

Solar Struggle has two gameplay modes.  The first is an 11 mission campaign that is story driven, and the second is a skirmish mode that lets you fight waves of enemies for high score.  I was surprised to see how close Solar Struggle: Survival is to skirmish mode – it’s almost the same game.  I could only find minor tweaks and improvements to the combat that, when added together, equal a great improvement but this wasn’t apparent at first glance.  Since the release of Solar Struggle: Survival, there is no reason to go back and play Solar Struggle skirmish mode.

The story mode of Solar Struggle is the real reason to play the game.  It’s unfortunate then that I found this mode to be pretty weak.  The story was light, predictable, and provided little reason to be there except to serve as a marker when a mission ended.  The missions themselves don’t provide much variety and all boil down to shoot everything.  The are a good number of missions that involve escort and protection, but in practice these missions can be completed by ignoring the ships needing protection and focusing on shooting down the closest enemy.  I wanted to have more strategy required in these missions, and harsh consequences if I went off on my own.

The story starts off with some nice voice acting, but most of the dialog is read by the player.  I didn’t get any of the cut scenes I was hoping for, just a few moments where the camera was controlled by the narrator.  I ran through the entire campaign in one sitting, spending around three hours total in the game.  Coming off of an extensive background in Solar Struggle: Survival, I cannot say that will be a typical playtime for those new to the game.

It was surprising to see the RPG elements of skirmish mode and Survival are not present in the campaign.  There is no experience earned and no ships to choose from.  Before a mission there is a ship configuration screen, but there is no unlocking of ship upgrades.  This made the ship configuration pointless as I just selected the best weapons every mission.

Solar Struggle does have better lighting than Solar Struggle: Survival, and really shows off the excellent 3D graphic of the game.  The music is repetitive and forgettable, but it does have a good beat to keep the feeling of action.  The inclusion of game achievements is nice, but most focus on skirmish mode so I’d suggest playing Survival instead of unlocking these.

It’s difficult for me to give a final verdict on this game, but I rate it a Pass.  Had I played this game before Solar Struggle: Survival it would have be a try for the skirmish mode.  Now that Survival is out, I cannot recommend this game on skirmish mode and the campaign mode is pretty rough.  The story ends in a cliff hanger and implies there will be a proper sequel, but I’m not pulled in enough to care what happens.  I do think that Z Software has the ability to make a great space epic and look forward to a sequel or new space setting hitting Xbox Live Indie Games in the future.

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