Developer: Bundle Of Sticks Studios
Publisher: Black Shell Media
Platform: PC, Mac
Tested on: PC (Linux)
Empires of Creation – Preview
If you are a fan of open world type of games and you like a science fiction angle to them, you might find yourself excited about Empires of Creation, the debut title by the Bundle of Sticks studios. The game allows you to roam the galaxy as a fleet commander while conquering worlds and establishing diplomatic relations. You are free to decide yourself if you want to be the good or the bad guy while doing so. We aren’t quite sure yet on which side of the intergalactic fence we are flying ourselves though.
Empires of Creation is a so called sandbox or open world game. In these kind of games there is no real ending and there are no real boundaries to the world your moving in. Of course if you eliminate the other players or if you fly into the black emptiness of space where there are no inhabitable planets you’ll find yourself quickly becoming quite bored. In the beta version we played the backstory was not really developed yet but the general objective is to become a powerful force in the galaxy, which is measured by the size of your fleet, the diplomatic relationships you maintain and the amount of credits you gather in your bank account.
When you start Empires of Creation you have the choice between playing in the Single Player or Arena mode, the latter being the quickest way to get into a dogfight. You immediately take control of a very basic ship while wave after wave of enemies come at you. After each wave you get to upgrade your ship and your health is restored before the next stronger wave hits you. This reminds you immediately about classical arcade games like Space Invaders and Bosconian.
While fighting in Arena mode we quickly found that it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to win even the first waves if you engage the enemy head-on. You steer your ship by pointing in the direction you want to go with the cursor and using your keyboard to control the motion. Weapons are fired using the mouse but because your weapon always shoots in the direction your ship is facing, performing a fly-by shooting is a tricky thing to master and usually results in driving your ship into that of the enemy. Although this damages the enemy it also impacts your own health. After a while it becomes clear that the best strategy is actually flying backwards while keeping your weapon pointed at the enemies dropping them of one by one. While doing this you also outrun your enemies and even the shots they fire at you. If you then let them catch up they all approach from the same vector making it ridiculously easy to kill them.
In Single Player mode a new world is generated at the start containing other factions and rogue pirates that are not associated with any faction. You start by colonizing a planet which becomes your base of operations. Here you can manage your understanding with the other factions, buy new ships, grow your fleet and get quests. Once your base has been established you can venture out into the galaxy. Here the fact that you can speed up time to a factor of 5 becomes a necessity as traveling between the planets otherwise would take too long. You can encounter fleets from the other factions which you can choose to engage. Enemy fleets that are smaller than yours will try to run while the ones that are bigger will engage you.
When engaging an enemy you go into the same dogfight view as in the Arena mode. You can let the AI determine the outcome of the fight for you or actually take control of one of the ships in your fleet and engage the enemy yourself. If your ship is destroyed you just switch to the next one and continue fighting. If you destroy all enemy ships you are awarded a number of credits you can use to increase production and buy more ships.
If you approach a planet occupied by other factions you can choose to engage it or go into a similar view as on your own base where you can trade or get new quests. Planets that have new quests available for you are helpfully marked with an exclamation mark in the galaxy view. At the moment the number of quests are quite low and all of the same category but on the support forums the developers have already promised a lot of extra goals for the final release, saying they were focusing on engine features rather than content first.
The graphics of the game are nice to look at, especially the lighting and weapon effects using some modern techniques while still maintaining an old school feeling to the game. The user interface still needs some work though as at times it is difficult to see which type of ship you are handling. When buying ships it is also impossible to see if you are going over the maximum number of ships in your fleet until it is too late, after which you have to start again.
Empires of Creation is a title with a lot of promise if you are into these kind of games. Unfortunately there is not enough content available yet to make it more than a casual game to kill some time with. It remains to be seen if the promised extra content will change that and if the developers can improve the controls during the dogfights. If they manage to do so, they have a great first title in their hands.