Gameloft have come in for a bit of a hard time lately, with their various releases all seeming rather similar to other, big budget titles. Saying that, there’s an underlying streak of quality that always manages to raise an eyebrow. It’s fairly easy to spot where the inspiration for their latest title, StarFront: Collision, comes from – but is StarCraft on your iPod such a bad thing?[boxout]This RTS takes place on planet Sinistral. Debris surrounding the planet was found to contain crystals of a substance codenamed ‘Xenodium’, a very valuable resource which was then coveted by the human mining conglomerate known as ‘The Consortium’. Word spreads though, and soon others became interested in harvesting the Xenodium for their own nefarious ends. It’s not long before The Consortium are locked in battle with the insect-like race known as ‘The Myriad’, and just when things couldn’t get any worse a savant robot race called ‘The Warden’ make their presence known and join the fight. It’s like Eastenders with slimy ooze creatures.
The first thing to mention about StarFront: Collision is the price. The app may appear to be free on the app store, but that is a watered down ‘Light’ version which contains a handful of levels. To get the full experience costs £3.99, which is edging into premium price territory.
As mentioned above, the game has three factions to choose from, although they all play fairly similarly. The Consortium favour vehicles and carry standard weaponry you would expect any Marine Corp to have; The Myriad weapons are much more organic, and favour vicious, animalistic attacks; whilst The Warden are clearly the tech-heads of the lot, creating robots to go on the attack. All factions have their standard buildings, as well as varying special abilities that you must research to gain access to. For example you can upgrade The Consortium gunners to use bullets that have a greater impact, or armour that can withstand just that little bit more damage. Just for information, I much preferred playing as The Myriad, purely because I liked their upgraded fighters the most (I’m a sucker for electricity throwing pods of death!).
This adds a nice amount of variety and a good sense of progression as you build your team and unlock more powerful units. It’s just as well really, as when you up the difficulty you really will need to have your wits about you. Key buildings all require a set number of worker units to activate them, and upgrading these buildings uses more worker units still. These all cost Xenodium, but bring greater rewards – it’s down to you to discover if it is worth it.
The first place you will want to head when booting up the game is the tutorial, which treads the fine line between giving you all the details, but not enough to explode your brain. As you would expect from an iOS game, everything is mapped to the touchscreen and Gameloft have done a remarkable job of keeping things simple. Prodding individual units or buildings will activate their menu, from which you can choose a number of commands. If you need more than one, you can trace a rectangle over the units you want, and they will become active. If you’re feeling particularly suicidal and decide a charge is in order, there is a ’highlight all’ icon which does exactly what it says on the tin. Directing a unit is as simple as prodding the area of the screen you want said unit it to go to. When tactics are needed (for example, most of the time) you can separate out groups of units into squads. You can also set patrols, as well as perimeter defences.
The games main mode is the ‘Campaign’ mode, which spans 17 levels (divided over the three factions). The levels in campaign mode have a fair amount of variety, but not all are hits. If you just fancy a massive fight you can head over to the ‘Skirmish’ mode, which is you verses the computer, with four levels of difficulty to choose from. Not only is this great fun, but it gets you used to fortifying your base and building resources quickly and effectively.
Last up is the fantastic multiplayer mode (which comes in local or online flavour). Online presents you with ranked matches which contain 1 v 1, 2 v 2, and free for all, and custom matches which you can tailor to suit your tastes. This could easily be said to be one of the defining iOS multiplayer experiences, and is a real time-sink with matches lasting a considerable amount of time (unless you suck at it like me and just get repeatedly and brutally kicked up the backside).
Through all the positives there are a couple of negatives. Overall the game looks good (although nowhere near as nice as the pictures suggest) but can suffer from a case of the jaggies. Also, when things kick off the frame rate occasionally slows to a jog when you really need it to be running full pelt. Selecting single units when the screen is crowded can also be a bit of a pain, but not one that has any major impact on the game. The biggest issue for is the lack of anything new being brought to the table, which is a shame.
- Loads of single player content
- Plays very well
- Fantastic multiplayer
- A (mostly) good control scheme
- Occasional slowdown
- iPod screen can get busy
- Adds nothing new or surprising to the genre
This is an awkward one to score. Whilst it doesn’t add anything new to the genre, what it does bring is very good and well-polished. The game is jam-packed with single player content, as well as a multiplayer element that is slick, and could very well last you until Gameloft decide to do a sequel. Very impressive stuff indeed; well worth the £3.99 and essential for fans of the genre.