Developer: Raconteur Games
Publisher: Raconteur Games
Tested on: PC
Close Order – Preview
Flying about space by yourself when you know there will be enemy fire coming from every corner, doesn’t sound like the best idea ever. But what if you could bring your very own army to the fray? In Close Order, this is exactly what you do. Finish off spaceships trying to send you to an early grave while turning their debris into your very personal grand armada. O yes, the time to pay those nasty foes back in equally well organised coin is finally nigh.
Close Order isn’t the first arcade space game to rear it’s head this year, but it sure is an interesting one. This indie 3D arcade shooter promises a mishmash of genres tying together to create the perfect platform for bad-ass armada mayhem. The basic idea for Close Order is a simple one. What if you could turn galaga-like battles upside down by facing the enemy fleet with an army of your own? It’s a very intriguing idea, but one that leads to yet another question: how to best make it happen? It’s an issue which clearly needs some overthinking, which probably is also the reason why the game opened its doors as an Early Access project on Steam already.
As of writing, Close Order starts of with a nicely designed 2D intro, giving a sweet presentation of its story and basic premise. In this fully voiced stylised and animated slideshow, you learn that not all is well with planet Earth. Worse, while humans were ready for galactic conquest, their nuclear lifestyle lead to the downfall of their own home planet and forced the remnants of their kind to spread out throughout the galaxy. One generation later however, three brave idealists set out to flee the colony they are based on in an attempt to find out what became of the rest of humanity.
Right after this intro is where the actual game, or at least it’s tutorial, begins. A break in style becomes apparent now too, as the playing field, in 3/4 overhead perspective, is completely in 3D. Well, with a few exceptions of course, e.g. the various menus and of course the conversations between the three protagonists which appears in the top left corner during gameplay. The 3D graphics, which are used for about everything else, work pretty well for the title. They’re not incredibly detailed, but functional enough and even manage to bring a peculiar atmosphere to the various levels. The soundtrack guiding it all, which adds an extra arcade topping, makes for an interesting ambience.
As to be expected, the tutorial chapter quickly explains movement, actions and the basics of minion-management. As it stands now, Close Order does not yet support custom key binding. It also refuses to adjust its controls to your keyboard of choice, forcing AZERTY-players to manually put their keyboard preferences to QWERTY before being able to comfortably play the game.
Minion-management is something you should really pay close attention to, as your minions or drones are exactly what will make up your strengths and defences. Minions can be created from the working parts found in the debris of defeated enemy vessels. There are a total of three types of spare parts that can be harvested. The red ones specialise in attack force, greens in support and blue in defence. Depending on the minion you want to build, the cost for the drone of course varies. At the start, you will only be able to form a tight little unit of one main ship and 4 minions. However, by defeating more and more enemies, larger armada possibilities and a greater variety of drones will become available.
Positioning of your units is incredibly important. For example, placing your shooting units at the centre of the formation and healers outside of it where they get easily hit, will only help the enemy. Same goes for putting minions which shoot to the front right there in the back, where they can’t perform at all. It’s this great bit of strategic thinking that allows this game to shine in it’s own way, despite he otherwise dull storyline and mission briefings.
Speaking of briefings, Close Order can really use a bit of magic here. In-game mission briefing is done by little 2D representations of the 3 protagonists that tell the various stories in written dialogue. Outside of the intro cutscene, the game does not feature any voice-acting at all and as every block of text seems to appear and disappear in the same set interval, it greatly breaks immersion. We really hope this will change in the future, as Close Order really screams for a little bit of extra voicing, if not only for people who need a comfortable amount of time to read the longer messages before they disappear into the depths of the coding.
At the moment, this early access version drops the player in a hub world right after the tutorial, a place where you awkwardly pick your next mission by flying towards the corresponding constellation. ‘Awkwardly’, because even though the idea sounds great, the whole process is rather counter-intuitive. Combined with the separate menus you need to open in order to be able to fully manage your personal armada, it gets unnecessarily complicated. This in turn can make doing missions an utterly frustrating business when you need to quickly replace and repair units, yet somehow keep pressing button got the wrong menu in the heat of battle. Another thing is that once you get into the hub, the game’s difficulty climbs immediately and although Close Order offers a survival game mode that allows you to quickly gain some more kills to unlock more positions, even its easy mode can be a bit tricky. Especially when you’re not used to being shot from every side imaginable. Nevertheless, persevering through these significant challenges is the key here as the pay-off is truly incredible.
The indie 3D arcade shooter Close Order is still being developed right now, but it already shows great promise for fans of the genre. The way in which you grow from a measly fleet to a massive armada while strategically positioning your hard won minions, makes this title not just a fast, but also a challenging shooter. Certain parts however, like the separation of minion-management into separate menus, the strange hub and inflated difficulty right after a far too easy tutorial, do definitely scream for further adjustments and improvement. However, we do look forward to Raconteur Games’ final product, expecting it to be an enjoyable title when it finally launches.