Combat initially seems simple. As a battle gauge fills, attacks become available. There are three levels of attack: dodge, fire and barrage. A smart relationship exists between the three: dodges avoid potentially fatal barrages, but amplify normal projectiles into something much worse. Thus begins the waiting game. Is a dormant enemy charging up a barrage or waiting for you to dodge? We love making the right call: dodging a barrage and unleashing our full arsenal on an enemy too depleted to dodge back.
It’s a double-edged sword: victory and failure on a single button press. We’ve never cursed louder than the hundreds of times a barrage has sent us to the title screen. We’ve never cheered harder than the times we’ve defeated an entire fleet on a sliver of health and a whole lot of foresight. Over time, the lack of options actually emphasises how ship design can alter proceedings. A less fatigued crew raises the battle gauge faster. Long-range weapons place hero Yuri out of reach. Play fast and furious or with methodical cunning? What other RPG can boast such a responsive combat system?
And don’t the devs know it, structuring missions to test your grasp of every facet. In one mission you target specific ships in the fleet. In another, you try to lure enemies into a trap without firing a shot. The addition of anti-air units ten hours in reinvents the system again – now you have hundreds of fighter ships in your metal belly. A warning: save often. Tinkering costs money and investing in a poor ship design can heighten some difficulty spikes (and there are many) to near impossible size. A single save file can paint you into a corner.
What Infinite Space lacks in the soft approachability of a Pokemon or Mario RPG, it makes up for in bombastic scale and mettle. Hundreds of planets. Hundreds of interesting, fully formed characters. Hundreds of lasers, mess halls and intergalactic toilets to equip. Infinite Space feels like proper grown-up gaming and a proper grown-up journey. Our hero grows from man to boy, and the DS matures with him. Brutally uncompromising, but never anything other than ridiculously silly fun, Infinite Space really is a grusing revelation.
Mar 16, 2010