When I thanked Kaliban for introducing me to Crying Suns in March, I may have expressed a bit of skepticism at the fact that Alt Shift was promising a Late 2018/Early 2019 release – beta version and everything – when all it resembled was an early concept at the time.
Painting me foolish, the Montpellier based studio has used the intervening couple of months to compile a Kickstarter campaign that is already less than a week old and nearly half-funded.
I’m impressed, more so by the nuances of its game-play mechanics, and so much so that I’m not going to be doing my usual song-and-dance of how cool the 2D-3D art or the Retrowave is. It’s not unusual for studios to attach fancy keywords to their projects for publicity’s sake and rightly so, Alt Shift’s harping on macro-management.
Basically it doesn’t only want you worrying about where to go next or what color missile to fire, but to fill the literal shoes of a very burdened Admiral that has on his head the future of a race, a hi-tech battleship, a galaxy to explore, chores to perform and not very much lifespan to do it all.
So en-route to Crying Suns many Palpatine-like bosses it’s throwing at you a fully fleshed out Space Exploration system; whims and random movements won’t bode well when Admiral Idaho has at his disposal only a limited amount of currency called Scrap, fuel Neo-N and Commandos.
As if every move of your ship costing 1 radioactive blue Neo-N unit wasn’t enough trouble, Scrap is subject to frequent pirate attacks while the Commandos are your only means of resource gathering via ground based planetary exploration segments.
To this end an intuitive Map provides time for advisement before taking to a star cluster to explore its planets for recruits/resources, any of the 300 scripted branching events, shops to barter in or hostiles to engage.
I’m most intrigued by the planetary expeditions; how you’re given to choose from a host of talented Heroes to lead an able crew, and then prevented from communicating with them until they’re able to establish a secure comms line on the ground.
When and if they do get back in touch, choices will have to be between issuing smart advance/retreat orders to even possibly abandoning them to their own devices. Yeah, the mercenaries are willing to play human shield for their captains, but should all perish, your most capable Hero might never return.
Things are equally tactical in the void where combat with other battleships is a gamble between picking the right squadrons, weapons and Heroes to empty the enemy’s Hull Gauge. Damage to your units really isn’t your biggest problem when your ship can be breached, catch fire or rock so bad that it renders Admiral Idaho stunned and you – unable to make reasonable decisions.
I admit it might all seem very overwhelming on paper, regardless of the Focus Point system that lets multi-task/prioritize actions, or the Tactical Pause that allows real-time pausing to revise strategy.
Which is why every time Admiral Idaho perma-dies in game – he’s cloned back by Kaliban alongside his crew, fleet blueprints, upgrades and other info. assimilated over previous journeys to better tailor your next.
Crying Suns’ overarching story-line being, if you recall, that of a cloned Admiral tasked by the last manifestation of a very sentient A.I. with salvaging humanity from extinction. And it wants your monies to make its 300-odd pages of background elements all the more crazy; try the first chapter here or bookmark on Steam for later.