Space games have never particularly captured my attention… While my friends were blowing things up in EVE Online, I stuck to the swords and sorcery of World of Warcraft. Sci-fi is a terrific genre, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll take blasting aliens over drifting aimlessly through a nebula any day of the week. A few games have gotten me hooked, Faster Than Light being at the top of the list… But I always felt something was missing from the formula. There is action in FTL, but you observe the ships as two separate, but stationary, objects. This always made me feel as though something was missing, what happened to swinging through the void of space, avoiding asteroids and enemy missles while you mangle your opponents with a giant flamethrower? There’s not even any oxygen in space! This game is so tasty that it actually defies the friggin’ laws of nature. Starship Rubicon is like FTL, Asteroids, and Luftrausers all got busy inside of a wool sleeping bag. I’m talking some hot and sweaty action. This game seems to be the perfect mix for my palette, but are there any unsavory bits? Let’s take a deeper look at Starship Rubicon.
As you start the game, you’ll be greeted with some of the most crunchy electro tunes I’ve heard in a long time. Soundtrack is courtesy of Beatscribe, and he brings it like it should be brought. To go with the smooth tunes are some smooth physics, that make turning your nemesis into shrapnel even more satisfying. Starship Rubicon does a fine job of tightening up those Asteroid-like movement physics enough to let you dodge bullets, but still feel like you’re drifting through space. Firing your weapon keeps your shields from regenerating, much like Luftrausers, and I think it’s a beautiful addition. Balancing between keeping enemies off the screen and keeping your shields up for the inevitable stray bullet is also engaging as hell. The overworld map path is a lot more linear than I’m used to, but being given a choice of where you go and what you fight makes this spaceship roguelike pretty user-friendly. It still won’t hold your hand, you will be pummeled into submission… But at least you’ll know exactly what to expect during said pummeling.
All hope is not lost though, as the game gives you a fighting chance… You can outfit your ship as you please with parts that are found after battles, and even restore your hull with the scrap you’ve collected between fights. It is a difficult decision though, as the total scrap you have when you die is added to a collective total that can be used to unlock some really neat stuff, like new ships and parts. Sometimes you will even come across allies that will join your fleet and help engage the enemy. The game offers all sorts of different playstyles, from an armor-covered flame-tank to a teleporting scout-ship… And can even be customized beyond that by any parts that are found. Need more armor for your beam-wielding scout-ship, perhaps you’d like your flame tank to move a little faster? Well then, as Captain Jean Luc-Picard said so many times… Make it so.
There isn’t too much I can say negatively about this game. The thing that spring to the forefront of my mind is the simple fact that parts don’t seem to be craftable, which can sometimes cause frustration if you have a run of bad luck. The difficulty curve is steep, but it does a good job of not slamming you in the face immediately, which also serves to get you invested in the welfare of your little ship. The bosses are an intense challenge, but it only makes victory sweeter. I could mention how unnecessary it is to boost through the portal in order to complete the level, but since it references Starfox, I figured it’s OK to let it slide. The humor is light, but the great references to every kind of sci-fi just shows how much love went into this game. The aesthetic fits together well, the gameplay is phenomenal, and it is all brought together with a jaw-dropping soundtrack. While crafting would be a great addition, this game is already a 10/10 in my book. Great job Cheerful Ghost studios, I hope to see much more from you guys in the future.
Summary: Top-down spaceship rogue-like with a great difficulty curve and an indescribably good soundtrack.
Final Score: 10/10 for aesthetic, gameplay, replayability, and soundtrack.
Starship Rubicon is not yet on Steam. But it damn well should be.
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