REVIEW: Particle Fleet: Emergence


particle-fleet

This is a 2D space strategy game where you have to conquer territory. You build your ships and then move them around the map to conquer new territory and defend existing territory. In the early levels there are no enemy ships. Instead, you are battling against swarms of red dots (Particulate) which are constantly attacking your ships and conquering territory against you. Later on the enemy ships start appearing and then you’re really in trouble.

Status: Released

Developer: Knuckle Cracker

Publisher: Knuckle Cracker

Genre:  physics/strategy/RTS/fleet hybrid

Release date: 29 September, 2016

Type: Single Player

Each level contains points on the map:

  1. Energy sources which a) allow you to build new spaceships for your fleet and b) provide energy to your ships so they can self-repair when damaged. These energy sources represent the territory conquered so the idea is to try and grab them all and then wipe out the remaining enemy which is already depleted due to lack of energy.
  2. Particulate sources. This is where the swarms of red dots emanate from. The objective of most of the missions I’ve played is to wipe out the Particulate, which means destroying these Particulate sources.
  3. Ship plans. Collecting these increases the number and types of ships available for you to build in future levels. Usually a new ship type coincides with the arrival of a new enemy weapon in the next level which you can defend against with the new ship.
  4. Land masses. Well, they can’t be land since this is set in space, but they are areas where ships can travel across but not ‘park’. You have things called ‘omnis’ which you place on the land masses to convert the colour to your own and provide extra energy.

The action happens in real time but you can control the pace by speeding up, slowing down and pausing, giving you time to think when you need it and to skip ahead to save time when you want things to move along.

There is a generic RPG-like story (in the Story missions), with characters discussing what’s happening in the game at the time eg. “hey we just found so-and-so, this could be used for such-and-such”. You get the idea. It’s not a bestselling novel but it’s worth reading for the tips given. There’s a skip button if you can’t be bothered with it.

NOTE: This game is about beating situations and creating/sharing levels with other players. You cannot play directly against other human players.

Sound & Vision

If you’re looking for a slick, fancy space game with glitzy ship designs, this is not it. This is crisp, functional 2D pixel graphics whose primary purpose is to display the territory and items clearly. Think of it more as a chess board than eye candy.

Cheery, upbeat space adventure theme. Nice enough to leave on but not something you’d feel like adding to your music collection.

Difficulty

There are 3 main sections each with a set of levels. The first one you play contains the Story Missions. The first half of the Story missions take a couple of hours and they are very easy. You can just build all your ships and send them in a loose bunch to conquer every strategic point one by one, without knowing or caring about the differences between the ship types. I was starting to think there was no challenge in this game but then eventually it did get more difficult and became increasingly necessary to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the various ship types and deploy them accordingly.

There are other Steam reviews talking about the lack of challenge but I suspect these are people who have yet to play the later levels, and have certainly not graduated to the many user-contributed levels. Yes, there is an easy phase but if you want challenge there is plenty to be had here.

There are stats everywhere: timings, ratings, popularity of levels, you name it.

Customisation

This game is all about configuring levels and ships. Even during the main missions you have the option to either accept the default ships or build your own before starting the mission. Once you’ve completed all the main missions you can create your own levels using the in-game editor, share them and download levels from other players. There are currently 200+ player levels.

Community

The developer is building a strong reputation and loyal following by being very communicative with his users and implementing suggestions. This is a good sign, especially for a game that revolves around user-contributed customisation.

Performance/Layout

I played on Linux with midrange graphics card and it was all smooth and perfect, no glitches found. It should run fine on low-end hardware due to the modest graphics. Menu and settings are all quite elegant and everything is fully configurable. No complaints at all.

Value

It’s one of those games where the in-game levels are only the start. These basic levels are more than enough to justify the price, but once you get involved in the community the content can be endless. So excellent value.

Steam

Achievements, Cloud, Stats, Level Editor but strangely no Cards. It’s a new game so maybe they will come later.

Verdict

Space games are usually geared towards fancy spaceship graphics and planets etc. The space theme here is only incidental, it would work equally well on land, sea or whatever. It’s a pure strategy/puzzle game where you have to be aware of your ships’ abilities and think about your moves.

I found the early ‘easy’ levels to be a lot of fun while getting used to the game, then it declared “right, that’s enough of the nursery, time for big school!”

Love it, thoroughly recommended.

RATING: 83/100

JimDeadlock’s review

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