Every so often a game tries to wear multiple hats at once. In a giant stack. Trying to merge many different genres together. Sometimes this works very well. Sometimes it doesn’t. Or sometimes it works, but not as well as you might like it to.
PROS: Engaging, deep game play. Challenge. Humor.
CONS: clichéd storyline. Poor explanations of inputs, and rules to the player.
STAR TREK: There are a lot of parallels to the franchise here. Fans may want to jump in.
Interstellaria has a lot of genre elements in it. Point & Click adventuring. Strategy gaming. Space simulation. It takes all of these elements, and attempts to make a really delicious video game stew with them. At face value, it comes off as a rousing success. In practice, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Interstellaria starts with a short series of cinema screens that move the basic plot around. It’s years after a world war, corporations have taken over, and mankind heads to the stars. Where the threat of interplanetary war looms.
You start out as a randomized character, in a building. Your roommate kicks you out of your apartment, and you have to go looking for a job. the hunt takes you to a job on a freighter, where your space adventures begin. From here the game takes on elements from very early home computer space sims, and bits of FTL’s ship building. The ships allow you to place weapons, sleep chambers, warp core engines, tactical computers, and navigational computers around them. You can assign a role to each member of your crew. Captain, Engineer, you name it. You can also rename any of your playable characters. You can give them friends’ or relatives’ names. You can stick with the zany names the game generates. It’s entirely up to you.
The game has a lot of things to keep an eye on. You have to make sure you have enough crew members for each important role. Someone to pilot the ship. Someone for weapons. Someone for engineering. Think of this as an unofficial Star Trek game, and you’ll start to see the potential. Like the show, Interstellaria has you exploring the cosmos looking for new worlds to explore. When you discover a world upon landing (or crashing) on it, you can move your characters about searching for resources to bring with you. You can meet new characters, recruit them, and build your crew. The game will have you spending hours doing this. Discovering planets, life, and giving you a lot to do.
You’ll also have a number of encounters in space. Sometimes a hostile race will come along to destroy your ship. Other times you can hail them, and attempt diplomacy. The game has a lot of amusing dialogue trees during these moments as they lampoon a number of its sci-fi influences. Throughout the game you can also find items to enhance the statistics of your crew members. Some may give them faster speed, but cost more food consumption. Or let them stay awake much longer at the cost of another stat. The ships you command work very much the same way, and you’ll spend a lot of the game micromanaging the status of your engines, weaponry, and navigational computers.
During space combat you’ll also pull up an overhead combat screen where you’ll move your cursor around attacking enemy ships, as well as moving your own ship. This is where some of the game’s flaws start to crop up though. The game has a way of overwhelming you with the amount of things you need to pay attention to, and not directing you on how. Or more accurately not directing you on how with proficiency. There are text boxes that will pop up telling you to turn on weapons before you try to shoot them. There are text boxes telling you to move a guy to navigation. But it isn’t obvious just on how to do that. Especially when you start playing it for the first time. Even if you’ve played a handful of times it isn’t always obvious.
This becomes less of a problem if you get invested in the game. But for a lot of people, that means a lot of game time spent on training yourself to go through some seemingly archaic interfaces, and menus. Which isn’t fun to do. So it has the problem of hooking people from the outset. The game also has a number of small bugs. Giving items to certain characters can crash the game. For instance giving a robot character an item that uses food points, causes the robot to get hungry. Since the robot cannot eat, the game confuses itself, and crashes. On the surface, someone may say, “Oh it requires food. Robots don’t eat food. I can’t use this.” In practice you’ll have players who like to experiment, or players who don’t pay attention, and inadvertently discover these glitches. No game is bug free, and these bugs don’t completely ruin the game. But some of them will make you groan if you find one after sinking a lot of time into the game. So do save often.
The game doesn’t have quite the level of randomness of space roguelikes such as FTL. The map is the same, the instances are in much the same order. But the battles are randomized. The drawback is once you’ve discovered all of the planets you’ve seen most of the exploration portion of the game. But you might keep coming back for the battles, and ship building. But even with that being the case, many of the old space sims it pays homage to worked the same way. If you’re looking for a campaign you can take at your own pace this will still appeal to you. If you’re going more for a randomized builder it still might, though not quite as much.
In spite of its shortcomings I still recommend checking the game out. Especially for Star Trek fans looking for something that captures the spirit of the shows. It manages to be fun, if sometimes frustrating when learning what you’re supposed to do. But once you get past the learning curve it can be a blast. You can also be forced to start over too through your own ineptitude. So it isn’t a foolproof run once you have a handle on the star map chart. Your entire crew can die in a battle leaving you with no other option. It’s a challenging game. It’s worth playing. It just has some issues that keep it from reaching top warp speed.
Final Score: 7 out of 10.