Reinventing the wheel may seem akin to making round holes more round for square pegs, but it happens all the time in game development. Whether the developers come up with some vague and abstract idea of what they want to do and just wing it in the studio or actually have an inspired concept that can be made tangible in various configurations, the results do pop up with mixed results. The simpler the thing they wish to reinvent, the more eyebrows are raised, but also the more potential hits do come up, just like this one.
Space Run is a strategy game set in space, developed by Passtech Games and published by Focus Home Interactive, the French company that’s also known for making Cities XL and publishing titles like Bound by Flame, Wargame: Red Dragon, and the recent hit Divinity: Original Sin. It’s basically a reimagining of the tower defense game, a genre that has already undergone several attempts at revamping in the past. What it needs though is not to become more outright sophisticated, but just to be made more fun, and this game does do that pretty well.
You play as Buck Mann, a racer and adventurer turned freelance space runner who has a lot of pride, but not a lot of money to his name. Due to being down on his luck, he has to take jobs from different clients to deliver cargo as quickly and as safely as possible. He has a space ship for getting to the destination, as well as an android assistant named Addam-12, who is oblivious to figures of speech and has a deadpan sense of humor. Buck sounds a bit like Jim Raynor from the StarCraft series, and he looks like a womanizing redneck played by a Hollywood actor.
You get delivery missions from different clients, and how you perform in each of them corresponds to a 5-star rating system, as well as a cash reward that scales according to how much of the assigned cargo survive the trip. The ship looks more like a floating platform in a hexagonal grid, upon which you can build various implements like weapons, force fields, thrusters, and so on to both defend yourself against asteroids and attackers and to deliver the goods fast without taking too much damage. You can then upgrade your equipment afterwards with the cash you earn.
As you take out interlopers and asteroids, they drop hexnuts, which can then be used to construct more stuff on your ship. The ship has a set amount of space in each mission, some of which must give way for the cargo you are tasked to transport. It’s designed as such that you have to make compromises in order to fit everything in throughout the mission, so the trick is to know how each mission plays out and having the weapons and equipment to tackle those challenges accordingly. There is quite a bit of multitasking involved though, like repairing and reorienting cannons on-the-fly. It’s a good thing that the game does have a simple hotkey layout so that you can get things done quickly, which is great if you’re an RTS player who is used to it.
There are some little flaws here and there at times, like how the voice acting would have minor discrepancies with the on-screen captions, as well as the voice acting that is not diverse enough. It’s kind of irritating when you get hit and the android points out that “No wonder our insurance premium is so high.” for the umpteenth time. But perhaps what’s really messed up is how you can only achieve higher star ratings in some missions when you’ve acquired higher level equipment and try again, which means that you couldn’t have gotten 5 stars on the first try, which does seem a bit cheap.
Due to its difficulty and the inevitable frequency of game restarts, it could have used some checkpoints. Calls for making games a tad bit easier are usually met with cynicism and accusations of weakness, but it really could use some checkpoints anyway since it would have made the game easier to get used to. With this much micromanagement and decision-making involved on-the-fly, it’s a bit daunting and tedious to have to restart from the very beginning if you did something wrong, so checkpoints would be more respectful of the players’ time, but it’s a small sacrifice. There aren’t checkpoints in FTL: Faster Than Light either, after all.
If you’re into challenge and strategy, as well as tower defense games in general, then this game should be pretty good for you. While it can be frustrating due to how hard it can get and how you have to do it all over again when you die, the mechanics are solid overall and the visuals do look good. You may want this one in your collection if you’re into this genre or any game set in space.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10