Star Horizon – Review
Follow Genre: On-rails shooter
Developer: No Gravity Games, Orbital Knight
Publisher: No Gravity Games
Platform: PC, Switch, Android
Tested on: Switch

Star Horizon – Review

Site Score
6.0
Good: Fun arcade action
Bad: No boss fights to be found here
User Score
5.0
(2 votes)
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Rating: 5.0/10 (2 votes cast)

2014’s Star Horizon is a late arrival on the Switch, and at first glance it doesn’t really make an effort to stand out. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: an on-rails space shooter with a conflict between a federation and a rebellion? It’s definitely not the most original premise. We took a look at Star Horizon to figure out if it’s worth joining this fight.

Story

The game’s tutorial stage acts as the setup for the story as well. Our protagonist John finds himself in what seems to be the closing stages of the war between the Federation and the Rebels. Accompanied by his AI, Ellie, John and his teammates try to suppress the Rebellion, but things don’t go as planned. A couple of years later, John emerges from cryosleep. Unaware of what’s been happening with the ongoing war, John goes looking for answers….

Admittedly, No Gravity Games were ambitious with the story, which they bill as mature. Unfortunately, the execution of the story leaves a lot to be desired, even if you are thrown in the middle of a conflict and you’ll have to decide which side you will join. The story has very little substance to it, which might be annoying if you are the kind of player that really likes to get stuck into a game’s lore. One major bother was the fact that the game can’t decide whether the side you start the game with is called The Federation or the Intergalactic Corporation, as the narrative keeps switching between the two names.



Graphics

Given that Star Horizon was originally released as a PC title way back in 2014, and has been ported to mobile devices as well, you can imagine that it isn’t the most graphically demanding title by 2020’s standards. Looking at the game today, there’s a couple of rough edges that are especially apparent when you blow up the images on a modern tv, but overall, everything holds up surprisingly well. This is largely due to the framerate, which is smooth as butter. The graphics are far from perfect but despite the flaws, the game does manage to capture the feeling of the vastness of space through clever use of camera transitions and odd angles. 

Sound

Star Horizon sets itself apart from most budget games simply by offering a fully voice-acted experience. Admittedly, most of the voice acting isn’t very good. The majority of the cast reads their lines without any form of emotion whatsoever, despite what is happening on screen. Fortunately, the two most important voices, Ellie and John, put in a little more effort, and their chemistry makes up for a lot of the flaws with the rest of the cast. The music and in-game sounds are less ambitious than having a voice cast. The music couldn’t sound any more generic and the sounds seem to be lifted directly from a stock sounds library. 

Gameplay

Star Horizon offers an on-rails space shooter in the vein of the Star Fox series, albeit more primitive. Playing as John, you board your ship and navigate your way through enemy-filled courses as you try to shoot down as many of their ships as possible. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal, and you’ll earn credits after each level, which can then be used to purchase upgrades and new weapons. Overall, the core of the game is a by the numbers experience, with very little effort put into bringing something original to the table. Star Horizon does make an effort to stand out by introducing an on-the-fly decision-making system. At certain points in the levels, you’ll be forced to make a decision that will influence the flow of the story, as well as the flow of the level. This adds a bit of replayability but overall it doesn’t do enough to really make an impact.

Being an on-rails shooter means you have very little wiggle room when it comes to playing through the levels. Your ship follows a predetermined path and although you have the ability to move up, down, left, and right, you’ll only use that movement to avoid enemy attacks and to aim your own weapons at whoever is trying to kill you. You also have the ability to perform barrel rolls, although these are a bit pointless. The game makes use of an auto-aiming system, but this actually hurts the player more than it helps. As you move your visor over an enemy, the game will automatically target them with your missiles. For most levels, this isn’t an issue, but certain levels require you to target specific enemies. The auto-aim system does not allow you to prioritize who you target, and given the speed with which you move through the levels, this means that you’ll sometimes lose a level just because the auto-aim system works against you. You can eventually overcome this system by leveling up your weapons so that you can simply destroy your way through everything fast enough, but it does feel like bad design on Orbital Knight’s part.



Levels themselves are expansive, with some running upwards of 10 minutes to play through. One issue with the level design lies in the way enemies are spread out over them. You’ll often find yourself just waiting for things to happen for 20-30 seconds simply because certain parts of the levels do not have enemies in them. Given that you’ll more likely than not find yourself playing through the same levels over and over, if only to earn more credits to buy upgrades, it can become a bit of a chore to work your way towards that new gun you’ve been wanting to buy. Those guns aren’t just for fun either. You’ll often need the firepower to clear a level. What you won’t need the guns for though, are bosses, simply because there aren’t any boss fights in Star Horizon, which is perhaps the game’s biggest disappointment. That’s not to say it’s all negative. There’s still plenty of fun to be had here, as Star Horizon offers pretty solid arcade action, especially if you are a fan of the genre.

Conclusion

While it is far from a masterpiece, Star Horizon offers a decent, if mediocre, on-rails space shooter. The story is uninspired, the voice acting quality is all over the place and the levels suffer from minor design issues, but somehow, we really had fun with this title. That’s all that should matter when it comes to a game like this. You could do far worse at this price point. 

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Rating: 5.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Star Horizon - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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