This has been a tough year. The Covid lockdown has limited people’s interactions and movies are coming out virtually under the radar. At least some of our favorite series somehow still come out and a few new ones are hitting Netflix, HBO and Prime, thank goodness. But the PC game market hasn’t been that exciting either. The few games I’m actually looking forward to are sitting on the edge of an unknown future, without release dates. Some, like Subnautica‘s sequel, are still in “early access” and I’m not prepared to dive into that world because when I did it for the first game, I almost never went back. (Yet Subnautica managed to scratch an itch that desperately needed scratching, so I would have missed a deeply immersive game that I ended up loving!)
While flicking through the games that are out there, I did stumble upon another early access game called Between the Stars. Even though I was reluctant to do an early access game, there was something in the trailer that screamed “Babylon 5” at me, and as readers of the Junkyard know, I am a fan! Now, to be fair, early access means the game is still undergoing development so I knew going into it, there could be flaws. Alas, there are a lot. But the plot surrounding an attack on essentially a federation and the battles that follow did attract the attention of this sci-fi fan!
The game is a space battle sim, mixed with RPG elements and a hint of choose your own adventure mixed in with text adventuring. The star map, the hyper jumps and the battles are great. Once you get used to piloting your ship, that handles very smoothly as well. Most of the glitches are on the text portion of the game. At least on one occasion, a member of my crew was asking about himself. For instance, the text would show who was talking and the dialogue would let the player know the randomizer feature forgot to discount the person speaking. For instance “Mike said, ‘Mike has been very weird lately.'” At one point, someone had a comment about my crew; loyal members of the “[players ship name here]”. At least one crewman went through a gender swap in dialogue too, not that there’s anything wrong with that but no one said there were Time Lords in this game and it doesn’t happen that fast otherwise!
However, some of the moments are truly funny. I wasn’t expecting someone to be described by their “dorky face” nor did I expect a member of my crew to blow my cover by sneezing on the back of my neck! The sense of humor even goes to the loading screens. One says “Help! I’m a prisoner in a small sector and my kidnappers force me to write loading screen phrases!” And the combat is actually really enjoyable. In fact, despite the flaws, the game itself is actually one I can’t seem to get enough of. There may be a few too many repeat events like the medical issue that causes peoples heads to explode but the flaws of the game have not diminished my enjoyment at all! And there is a convenient use of the B key to report bugs. I’ve uploaded a number since playing because I think this game has real potential once some of the silly things are hammered out.
My only real gripe with it is the voice acting. Good lord is it bad. The voices are all horrible. The particularly annoying ones go for a nasally dweeb voice that you expect your kids to imitate while making fun of Eugene, their school janitor. (No, there is no actual Eugene, but you get the idea!) And it’s not just that guy either. Even docking at a space station gives you “standard jock voice” with Private Preppy telling you his house is your house. If I had my way, I’d see them change all the voices before we need to start worrying about the other issues, because the voices are the real bane to my enjoyment!
What worries me about this game is that there may not be an ending baked into it yet. That’s the danger of early access games and the very thing that originally plagued me with Subnautica! I may play for weeks without ever making it to the end. Maybe that’s not a bad thing right now, with so few games coming out that I want to play, but I’d like to know it has an ending somewhere.
I picked this game up for about $15, $10 off the actual price and I’m not regretting it one bit. Isolated Games, the developer, has a hit on their hands and I suspect this one may slip under the radar for most gamers, but that’s a shame because I’ve played far worse games and this one is actually very enjoyable. Even the pseudo-dice rolling works for it. It could use a bit more tutorial for some features like why to sell items vs analyze them or break them down, but really, that’s no showstopper.
The best game ever, it is not. A thoroughly enjoyable space adventure, it most certainly is. I just want to see them revamp all the voices! Do that and I can happily ignore the 3rd person dialogue, gender fluidity of my staff, and people referring to my ship as [Players Ship Name Here]. I’d say we just need to give them time, but with so much extra to sit around at home with nowhere to go, I don’t think I want to wait that long. ML
Check out the trailer here: