Star Hammer Tactics is a fairly basic, but welcome, addition the PlayStation Minis library. The title is a turn based strategy game with a very simple objective; destroy your opponent’s fleet of space ships before they destroy yours.
The game is set in the near future and sees the player take control of a Human space fleet in a battle against an alien race, the Nautilids, over the planet Novus. The story does its job in providing a setting and the story progression screens that appear before each battle explain the forthcoming scenario nicely.
Gameplay is fairly simple and is easy to learn with a short instruction guide available from the main menu. The player is allocated 45 seconds to move their ships and attack the enemy with each ship allowed 10 action points per turn. These points are used up by attacking the enemy or moving your ships across the grid. Smaller ships in your fleet will use a small amount of points to move and have a greater radius of allowed movement but have a weaker offence and can absorb less damage. Larger ships are the exact opposite, they pack a greater punch with rockets and have stronger defences but cannot move the same distances as smaller ships. This brings in the tactical element of the game; you can use the smaller ships to weaken the enemy before sending in the big guns to finish the job.
Combat takes two forms in Star Hammer, long range and short range. Three of the four types of ships under your command carry missiles, the number that they carry increasing with the size of the ship. These long range attacks allow you to weaken the enemy before engaging in close quarter combat. This involves a battle between two or more ships positioned next to each other with luck the deciding factor in most battles. Your ship’s stats can be adjusted by increasing its attacking power at the cost of a lower defence, or vice-versa, to try and get the edge in a fight but in my experience this never really had much effect.
Star Hammer isn’t an easy game. Enemy ships are equipped similarly to yours and the AI is also surprisingly clever. It will perform similar moves as the player, often using rockets and smaller ships early in the battle to weaken your fleet before using the larger ships in close combat. It will also move its ships back across the battle zone when in a weakened position and draw your fleet in; it doesn’t like to make the battles easy for you.
Battles are enjoyable but are spoilt slightly by the time the AI takes to make its move. It is also given the 45 second time limit per turn and often uses most of this with ships sitting idle for up to 10 seconds before deciding where to move it. This does replicate what would happen if you were playing against another player but it quickly becomes an annoyance, especially on a portable console with a limited battery life.
The title also packs a surprisingly lengthy campaign mode with customisable AI Skirmish and multiplayer modes adding replay ability, Tactics is definitely good value for money in terms of length. However the lack of variation in gameplay does mean that it becomes repetitive and tiring after consecutive games. Star Hammer is a perfect mini to pick up and play for two or three matches before putting it down again but the lack of variety does hurt it quite a bit.
The repetitiveness isn’t helped by the bland background graphics, which could have varied as the story progressed, or the looped music which grates very quickly. Otherwise the game does look and sound quite nice. A strong contrast is created between the Human’s bland, metal fleet and the bright vibrant colours of the Nautilids’ ships while the close-combat and missile sounds fit the game very well.
The control scheme also works well and makes the game very easy to pick up. Commands are issued using the face buttons while the d-pad moves each ship. Hitting select will also bring up a reminder screen in game if you need it. Using R and L to scroll between ships can become frustrating if the battle zone is heavily populated but this isn’t a massive flaw.
- Lengthy campaign mode
- Simple and enjoyable gameplay makes it very easy to pick up
- Looks and sounds quite nice
- Clever AI provides a challenge
- Repetitive gameplay
- AI turns take too long
- Scrolling between ships becomes frustrating
The simplicity of Star Hammer works both in its favour and against it. It is a very easy game to pick up and will appeal to players, like myself, who have little experience or interest in the genre but strategy fans may well be put off by how basic the title is. Tactics is, however, a very enjoyable Minis title and is perfect for playing in quick blasts giving you a lot of play time due to the campaign and skirmish modes, Star Hammer Tactics is definitely worth a purchase.
Score : 7/10