iPhone Game Review: Space Station: Frontier Reviewed by JadeDragon
There is no denying that the iPhone and iPod touch are becoming a formidable new gaming platform. But the true AAA titles remain elusive among massive number of new games. Space Station: Frontier is such a gem with a heavy-duty RTS gameplay that sees structures upgrades, unlocking weapons and defending the space station. You are the overseer of a deep space mining operation and your job is to find and mine resources from far away systems. But wouldn't you know it, someone else is doing the same thing. A violent alien race sends warships with one goal in mind: destroy your space station. You must mine from nearby asteroids, fortify your space station and build up your network of defensive towers before the massive attacking force reach the station.
Space Station: Frontier opens with 10 campaign missions that require you to either reach certain mining goals or to defend your space station for certain period of time. The game starts slow but gets hectic quickly. Throughout the 10 campaign missions you will unlock two other game modes: Survival and Mining. These supplementary modes take each segment of the mission mode as the focus of the gameplay. The longer you stay alive or the higher number you mine will earn you higher reward. These reward points in turn can buy upgrades to the space station which makes the campaign missions easier to complete. The three game modes have tight integration, and you will want to play all to reach the campaign finale.
Space Station: Frontier has a solid enough AI that makes things interesting yet not dragging each game on for too long. After all this is still a mobile game. The game usually throws you only a few straggly fighters in the beginning of a level, then the battleships and destroyers come and finally it?s the swarm of hundreds of fighters from dreadnoughts and battleships. This set-up allows you time to mine resources and build up your space station defense. The mining machines have speed upgrade and it?s a good idea to max it out early as the longer you have mining operations out there the longer you will need to defend them from the invaders. The space station powers the mining operation and the defense towers and there is a limit to how many units you can have. The unit number limit is expected but it?s still a bummer since near the end of each battle there are overwhelming numbers of enemy units that over match your towers. In both Survival and Mining modes the game offers three difficulty levels and two maps (one fixed, one random). The AI swarms faster as you go higher in the difficulty ladder but the Hard level earns you a lot higher reward points than the Easy level as long as you can survive for reasonable length or mine a respectable number.
The upgrades for the space station are expansive and extend the gameplay considerably. They include adding more turrets to the space station, more health, more power and power storage, faster crystal synthesizing and more. The Shipyard also provides new towers and new weapons for the space station that you can purchase. After you?ve purchased the new weapons you can install them in the network of towers providing different types of firepower (such as gun turrets, laser interceptor and missile launcher). Different towers have different weapons and different range, and like the mining machines you can upgrade them during a battle. Increasing range of the towers is very handy as some enemy battleships like to stay just out of reach with their long-range weapons. Adding weapons to your space station will prolong the survival time as well.
Space Station: Frontier has smooth and effortless controls. It?s an amazing achievement given how many types of units (towers, power nodes and mining facilities) you can build. The interface is intuitive and the in-game upgrades are easy and quick to operate. The game supports pinch zoom and scrolling which allow you to quickly see where the resources and the incoming enemy units are on the map. You can also change the speed of the game. When running at a faster speed, the game has noticeable slow down when hundreds of enemy units swarm the station. Every achievement is recorded on OpenFeint as well as your score.
Space Station: Frontier has very polished graphics. The Deep Space 9 like space station is large and plays the center of your network of towers and power grid. When the power is connected and used, the grid lights up; and when the towers are inactive the power grid goes dark. Different towers have different firing animation and the mining machines have their own graphics. The enemy ships have different looks, sizes and firing modes as well. The scene of spaceship firefight and explosions are very well done. The menus and upgrades have friendly UI and all graphics are finger friendly.
Space Station: Frontier has upbeat background music with a space theme and feel to it. Though it doesn?t have a huge variety the BGM works well with the gameplay and the overall theme of the game. Sound effects have more variety. Towers and enemy units have different firing sound and when the game is in the swarming phase explosions sound everywhere. The game allows you turn on and off both BGM and sound FX, and also gives you an option to create your own playlist from iPod music.
A very solid and complete package, Space Station: Frontier is an excellent RTS title that stands out from the pack. The game offers a lot of gameplay thanks to the different modes, upgrades and difficulty levels. It has very polished graphics, easy to use touch controls and great sound. The OpenFeint support gives the game even more replay value. Space Station: Frontier is a must play title on the iPhone and iPod touch if you are into RTS games.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -5- Awesome graphics. Lots of eye candy pieces. Sound: - 4.5 - Space themed music and sound FX that work well with the game. Option to play your own music. Controls: - 5 - Excellent touch control design that makes building and upgrading everything easy even in a frantic real time fighting. Gameplay: - 4.5 - Solid engine, strong AI and lots of gameplay and replay in the game. It can slow down in a mass scale fight.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Upgrade your mining speed as soon as you can.
-Group different towers so that they can cover each other. It?s also easier for the repair drones to reach more towers when they are close.
-Upgrade ranges of the towers on the outer rim of your network. Some enemy ships like to lurk just beyond the range.