Fight, trade, and explore to make a name for yourself in the galaxy.
from 16 ratings
Date of Release:
|Also try:||The Battle for Wesnoth, Battleships Forever|
|Are we wrong?||
|Windows:||exe 56.9 MB|
XBOX Live XBIG for $5 and Steam for $10) is an excellent space exploration & turn-based strategy game, with a lot of interesting elements which provide for rather endless replay value. Created by Blendo Games, and recently released (Mar 2010) its a great example of the general increase in quality to be found in some of the most recent releases to XBL.
From the opening screen, you’ll have good evidence already of Flotilla’s polish. You’re treated to a scene of space combat, with the words FLOTILLA floating slowly to the right, with a clas*sical piano solo rising over the scene. What a few hours of gameplay will confirm you can tell from the opening sequence already: Flotilla is a polished game with exceptional audio and solid visuals. The presentation is strong from the get go, instantly separating it from the hundreds of other games available on XBIG which can’t match the crucial ability to install the player into a sense of presence and anticipation.
With only seven months to live, however, as captain of this space faring crew it’s best to get a move on. Yes that’s right, you’ve only seven months to live, which means essentially that Flotilla isn’t a game of hours and hours dedicated to one simulation. In fact, surviving is ultimately impossible, since even if the numerous enemy vessels don’t destroy your crew, your inevitible sickness will get you eventually. It’s an interesting mechanism by which Flotilla enters the scene of player production, including a high score board (combat instances and random encounters all add points). So despite the length of combat instances, which can last from 5-10 minutes, an entire playthrough won’t last longer than an hour generally, at which point when you die you get to do it all over again. Since the map and all instances therein regenerate and randomize, however, you’ll always have more to return to.
Despite it’s emphasis on performance, Flotilla seems a game of exploration at heart, drawing on randomized encounters and story-based consequences to keep you moving forward. You’ll start at the tutorial planet (which you can skip if you like) with a couple of planets available to visit. This is done through an overhead map mechanism between instances, where you can visit most any nearby planet. Those planets which glow white are story-based instances, and those glowing red are automatic combat instances, in case you’re looking to mix it up consciously. So while you always have the option to fight, you can always planet jump around to engage with the randomized-story encounters.
The random encounters are decently varied, and always come with some sort of choice. For instance, you may discover some hitchikers who you may decide to pick up and ferry around to another planet, or from whom you may decide to steal some cargo (which you can use to upgrade your vessels). If you steal the cargo, the hitchikers will likely pop up later in a combat instance to take revenge, but if you just drop them off you’ll be no worse (or better) off then you were. Which brings us to the importance of these encounter instances. Since you only start off with 2 basic space vessels, you’ll want to see if you can get your hands on some cargo for upgrade purposes as well as some additional ships, some of which are quite powerful. This is especially true because in any given combat instance, if you lose a ship its gone for good. So the encounter instances are quite important in that you can become more powerful as a consequence, though always with a deferred risk. You can even do some cargo trading with a pink flamingo (who’s near the center of the galaxy map) which is a nice touch. So decide your route wisely, especially because many of these encounters have a 50/50 chance of ultimately working in your favor. And when your game ends, each event is re-randomized so you don’t need to worry about just plotting a standard course through the stars.
As mentioned, cargo is very useful to getting an upper hand in combat. Cargo can do a host of things to improve your vessels, from increasing ship speed, firing rate, and hull defenses. Since you’ll find yourself often in situations where you may feel outmatched, cargo is a necessity. Fortunately, there’s many opportunities to gain it, since it can be earned from encounters (as explained above) as well as from combat instance victories. In harder battles, you’ll be severely tested if you don’t upgrade.
Which brings us to Flotilla’s combat. A combination of turn-based and real-time strategy, Flotilla’s 3D space combat is solid, though not without its hassles. You’ll begin each instance with a view of your ships while the enemy vessels lie in the distance in a gridded space arena. Initially, all ships start close to the horizontal 0-point, with vertical lines indicating their vertical position to the horizon (which makes all objects in the area look like they’re hanging from strings interestingly enough). At the beginning of each turn, you select one of your ships and choose between A) moving combat: which ballances the priority of movement and fire-rate B) fast movement: which allows you to outflank your enemies but with limited aggression, and C) focused attack: which sacrifices most of your movement for a higher rate of attack. Once you’ve selected your choice, you get a horizontal move through 3D planar space, followed by a vertical up/down move (when initiated, your ship moves directly to the end point, not horizontal then vertical). Sequentially, you get to choose your ship’s orientation and finally attack target priority. Once you do this for each of your vessels, you end the turn. What follows is a real-time attack for 30 seconds based on your mapped plans which happens simultaneous with your enemy’s attack. When the turn ends you do it again.
Since each ship type has weaknesses, indicated by the black paint typically on the bottom or back of your craft (though for some crafts on the sides) you’ll need to be wary of the full 3 dimensions of space in these encounters, and use all the dimensions available for flanking and outmaneuvering your opponents so that you can catch them in a vulnerable position. For instance, one of the most effective strategies is to take your two ships and send one up and the other down, near one of the enemy ships. Once that ship commits to a target, bring the other ship around to pound it’s weak side from above or below. Since there’s a variety of ships out there (controlled by enemies, and available to procure from random encounters for yourself) you’ll need to pay close attention to the battlefield. Some ships have great range but weaker power, while others need to be close in to kill, but can pull it off quickly. To win a combat instance, you’ll need to completely wipe out the enemy, which can take multiple turns. You also have a Smash meter which fills up from successful attacks: when it reaches “1” you have 1 Smash available, which when used will instantly destroy a random enemy vessel, though best used for situations where you’re completely outgunned.
Overall, the turn-based/real-time combat works quite well, and requires a high degree of strategic thought and execution to succeed, especially against strong enemies. The camera for the most part does a decent job of keeping you zoomed on the important action, though it can be frustrating when your battle has ranged far from the horizontal axis, which is where the camera resets for every real-time part of each turn. Thankfully, the controls do a good job of allowing you to zoom in and out of the battles as they happen, which allows you to observe and enjoy what’s happening on the screen since you can only interact at the beginning of each turn. So you always have the option of zooming around like a hollywood camera during an intense Star Wars scene
Visually, Flotilla lies somewhere between functional and beautiful, though i don’t know that it ever reaches the heights that it could with the medium of space exploration. For instance, each space battle occurs in the same arena, which the harsh orange glare of the sun and deep brown of the nearby planet. It’s not an ugly staging, .but some additional colored maps, or at least a variety of colors would’ve livened it up a bit. The overhead galaxy map is certainly serviceable, with a sense of 3D space in a 2D overview, and the encounter instances are quite nice, with a cartoonish/comic book picture rendering of each scenario, and the text is (thankfully) very readable when not in HD (thank god!!!! I’m looking at you Bioware!). Furthermore, ship types are easily distinguishable from a moderate distance. But as mentioned, I think the visual strong suit of Flotilla lies in its overall presentation, rather than in the details. Up close nothing will blow you away, but you’ll have more than you need for a sense of presence. I should also note that the audio is quite fantastic. The low-fi solo piano score is perfect for this game, and really rounds out the sense of polish. There’s nothing quite like destroying a ship with a solo piano in your ear, giving you a sense of stellar bravado without a lot of hoary noise. The game provides enough tension through combat that the music does a nice job of rounding out the experience.
All in all, Flotilla is a stellar game (and i mean that it’s really good, not just that it has to do with stars). Uniquely combining real-time with turn-based strategy, along with endless replay value focused on player productions which allow for each play through to be one-of-a-kind, Flotilla presents not only polish but engaging and fun replay value. Though a part of me wishes that there was an in-game ability to extend your life to allow for longer games, it’s hard to fault the clear decision by the creators to value replay and high scores along with keeping the game fresh. In fact, its hard to find fault with Flotilla much at all. So if you’re into science fiction exploration and solid combat strategy, Flotilla is a game for you!
How you spend your seven months of gametime is another matter all together. You can always wait for doom, but we don’t want that. Then there’s the much more exciting idea of venturing into the fields of space and making a name for yourself across the universe. Now that’s an idea!
Flotilla pushes you staight into this idea, and as a captain of a space-faring crew, you don’t have much choice. The game will then put you straight into command of a pair of ships, which will (you hope) eventually become a renowned battlefleet on which you can rule the space lanes in the short amount of time you have.
Combat mechanics is where Flotilla gets really complicated, but insanely realistic as well. It pays to listen to the tutorial, otherwise you’ll be heading straight to disaster and an untimely death.
The typical space battlefield is 3D, allowing your ships to move in every direction possible and manoeuvre accordingly away from missiles, beams and whatever else the enemy fleet can throw at you. And of course, you get to throw the exact same things back at them.
Athough the graphics are simplistic in design, the music and pretty much everything else isn’t. With an good online community, you can send ships of every kind with bad intentions at them, whilst they can do the same to you.
In all, Flotilla, its realism of the future of space warfare aside, is mainly a thinking game, and God preserve you if you didn’t listen to the tutorial first.