Addicting. That is a nice simple way to sum up this game. I sat down one morning to start playing the game so I could get a feel for it and the next thing I knew it was night. I’d lost a day to a deceptively complex yet incredibly fun little space combat game, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Space Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ) is a top down RTS with exploration, research, trading missions… and zombies! It’s not what you’d call your average space shooter. It has a lot in common with many of the old classics like Star Control and Space Rangers and similar games. You explore the stars, gathering resources, working with or against the main factions and basically trying to strike it rich.
Combat is a main focus of the game and it’s wonderfully done. There are various size classes of ship and within each is a nice assortment that each has their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to the player to decide just what to use and how to use them. The game’s physics engine gives each ship a feeling of mass. Your tiny ships might be able to turn on a dime, but the huge cruisers will take a lot more effort. Weapons are varied and all have their place in battle, from sapping away shields to cracking a hull in two. And there is a certain evil joy to be taken in loading your crew into cannons and firing them at enemy ships.
The combat is fast paced and exciting but you’re not out there alone. You will have wingmen with you to help out and can change which ship you control on the fly. You also have a tactics screen that allows you to pause and plan your next move, giving orders to your fleet.
The game boasts an interesting research system. As you destroy enemy ships you will find blueprints . Collecting enough will allow you to reverse engineer ships and build one of your own. Exploring the various systems will allow you to purchase blueprints for various weapons and ship components as well. And of course you can always try to steal a plan or two with a little boarding action. The tech tree allows you to spend research points to improve in various fields, from weapons to engines to crew space, and unlock access to new technologies along the way.
Resource management is of course a key factor in most space games of this type. The element Rez is the focus in SPAZ, and striking it rich at the centre of the galaxy is the goal. Of course, you’ll need to gather what you can along the way. Get paid for missions, blow up enemies and take what they have or just go do some good old-fashioned asteroid mining to bring in the big bucks. Buying those ships and bribing the factions isn’t cheap. There’s plenty of ways to fill your pockets, some a little less honest than others.
The universe you explore is random for each game that allows great replay value, as each game will be a new experience. Every system has its own ratings for how well the factions like you and are self-contained, so if you make enemies in one sector you don’t have to worry about being attacked on sight in the next. The difficulty settings vary the game from a fun romp of blowing things up to a tense struggle for survival. The AI does a very good job helping you in the case of allies or being a royal pain when it’s the enemy.
As far as presentation goes, the game is stunning. The backgrounds are beautiful and the visual effects are bright and vibrant. You can even see damage being inflicted on ships with molten areas on the hull as well as debris and crew being blasted into space when the hull is hit. The music is fitting and the sound effects do a good job of bringing the action to life. There is also a lot of background radio chatter that heightens the experience.
One of the other key aspects which ranks this game so highly is that MinMax Games is a couple of guys from British Columbia who take an active part in continuing the development of the game. The official forums are constantly being read and responded to and they take suggestions and feedback to heart. That devotion to the fans is refreshing to see.
If you’ve got a chance you can check out the demo of SPAZ which is available from their website or on Steam. The game itself is only $10, which is a great deal for such an amazing game. And it just keeps growing as the devs listen to what the fans are enjoying and what they want.
Space Pirates and Zombies is a must have for those who enjoy epic space battles. It brings a lot of action and strategy into a beautiful galaxy and is something that will keep you enthralled for hours on end.