Star Conflict is a “Massively” Multiplayer Online (MMO) semi-open spaceship simulator that is focused mainly on the battles against aliens, pirates and other factions. Speaking of Factions you have 3 to choose from, each with its individual trait and special skills specific to its ships. The ships on the other hand are 3 different classes based on their size, speed and toughness each with its own 3 unique sub-classes. Interceptors are very mobile and fast but lack utility and proper toughness. Fighters are versatile but hard to reach top points in any stat while Frigates are slow but offer a lot of synergy and team play while being tanks in space. Destroyers however are on a completely different level. I will cover them more in the next segment.
Gameplay and Ship Balance
Without a doubt the most fun part of the game is the skirmishing but it is also the most frustrating at times. The ships are physically correct and by that I mean that mass is taken into consideration when accelerating and rotating which gives a big advantage to smaller ships in that aspect. However, it seems like the developers didn’t want glass cannons in the game so they made “Survivability” king among all the stats of a ship which usually means that a Frigate with 30k Survivability will be able to outlast an Interceptor that only has 8k despite the last being much more mobile. Fighters are very different as they try to be good at all of the things but are not best in any of them. There are a lot of utility in some of the fighters and they are usually used by more skilled players as more tactical thinking is required. Of course there are exceptions to the rules and you will see exceptional players beating the odds against much tougher opponents with way better ships and fits. Talking about Fits I have to mention that the modules which you can use in your ships made perfect sense and remind me a lot of EVE Online, despite the fact that you won’t have to load balance your Power output (for the most part) or CPU (doesn’t exist as a resource in the game). Frigates and fighters can hold drones and have some very unique skills that are essential in some situations in both PVP and PVE.
Remember how I mentioned that some frigates have more than 30 000 Survivability? Well Destroyers just blow that away with their 250 000+ on this stat and that is little concerning. Yes it is possible to kill them and some of the pilots roaming around in destroyers didn’t show promising skill in the game but still you will need a few allies and a lot of evasive maneuvers in order to get a destroyer into a corner. Free camera view and weapon modules on every side of a destroyer are already advantageous enough even without the range and damage they can output. But that’s not all, the destroyers can warp a few km away if they feel threatened on need to close the space to their target. While their modules behave differently and will start to fail when they take considerable amounts of damage they still are a huge treat and that is shown by the way battles turn when a destroyer joins. In PVP the side that has a destroyer or more destroyers than the enemy will usually win taking into consideration my observation in-game, while in PVE some missions are insanely hard without them and with them they feel like child’s play. Here I mentioned the rank 8 destroyers but with one of the latest patch Star Gem introduced rank 11 destroyers that are even better and have plans to release rank 14 destroyers by the looks of it.
And let me tell you – PVE missions are insane in this game. Especially for lower rank and not well fitted ships or bad ship compositions. General PVE missions include 4 players put against a scenario that in some cases defies all rational odds for winning. The missions as well as the PVP is bracketed so you will get a difficulty corresponding to your ship’s rank. One thing I didn’t like is that you will not be able to choose a bracket and will be put depending on your highest ship(s). The following situation occurred when I tried to get one of my friends to play with me: I had one very well fitted rank 3 ship and he also prepared a rank 3-4 ship of his own. However he forgot the rank 5 ship from his composition (3 slots for ships you can choose from and 4th if you pay for it) and we queue in the PVE section. Not paying attention he was in the other bracket while still being in the same match as me and was left with no ships to choose from as all of his ships were marked as unavailable. He had to sit the game out which was also bad for me and the other 2 players as we had to 3 man the scenario and his wings and plasma gun were missed in that fight.
Lower rank missions are easy but after rank 4 they become harder mainly as the enemies and especially bosses do very good damage. Don’t even get me started on “Turtles”. They are one of the most annoying enemies for slower ships and also if you are the only one left trying to clutch the game. Turtles project a big energy shield in front of them that absorbs all of the damage, they are quite fast and will even damage you by just bumping you with their shield. If you are alone you have almost no chance of winning but if there is another player near you can agro them and he can shoot from behind or a side killing them fast without their shields being able to protect them. More maneuverable ships and good players can do crazy stunts in order to get away from them and kill them or you can just pray they bug out (happened to me a few times) and then shoot them while they stay motionless. If there was a statistic of how many games those guys have ruined it would most likely be the majority of the PVE games played in the lower tiers. Some PVE scenarios are really hard and you will need a destroyer or a very good player to beat them and that is just so punishing when you are constantly matched with randoms that have no idea of some mechanics although they fly rank 7-8 ships. It happened a lot of times that I managed to get more points than the other 3 players combined even with a lower rank ship and rank gives some pretty good advantages such as more slots for modules and more stats.
Special ops are the PVE on steroids for this game. The one that I played was for 12 players and limited at 7-10 rank ships that is available for 2 hours before it is rotated with the 10-15 rank bracket. The mission involved killing a huge ass alien ship that has loads of weapons, rocket launchers, a gravitron that generates attraction to it and lasers that auto find you and try to murder you. Everything about this enemy is screaming death. The first time I played against it I had an interceptor which it seems was a bad idea as I wasn’t even able to reverse throttle against his gravitational pull meaning that even when I was holding the back arrow I was still going forward at about 45m/s towards that beast of a ship. Long range frigates armed with a disintegrator (sniper like mode that gives very big range) were able to do considerable damage and I was almost convinced it was impossible to kill the boss with a lighter ship when a player in “Nyx” managed to single handedly get the enemy from 50% HP to killing it split second before it escaped and providing me and the rest of his team the victory and epic loot. The Nyx is a rank 9 paid interceptor which you can get if you buy one of the DLC packages but that is a story for another paragraph.
Crafting or as it is called in Star Conflict – Manufacturing is very simplistic system which can help you with obtaining better munitions, ship modules and Destroyers. Luckily you won’t have to look for rare recopies or special NPCs that offer manufacturing services. You can craft at any time if you have the proper materials. You can find most of them in Open Space or by doing missions and skirmishes with a rank 8 maximum level synergy ship or higher. Of course you can also receive the rarest ones if you buy mystery boxes with Gold Standards.
The storyline is barely noticeable and generally you will need to read the info of characters on your own accord to get a picture of what the story is about. It is a “fight pirates, aliens and other players” game in its core and there is nothing wrong with that.
As previously mentioned I witnessed a few instances where the AI was confused or just straight up freeze in place allowing you to kill it. Other than that the AI was for the most part behaving as it should and you will even be able to use the allied AI forces in order to win battles against tougher aliens in open space.
The game engine is now a few years old but the game still brings joy with its good looking graphics and detailed ship models. As the space is actually closed in a sandbox map style at some point you will see asteroids and planets in the background to which you will never be able to fly to which is kind of sad. But this game does not try to be like EVE online in that aspect or even the now in development Star Citizen. Graphic intensity can be a bit of a pain when you are dealing with a lot of effects going on the screen but for the most part it is still part of the game which gives it that special vibe.
The game is really good in presenting itself to the player and sucking him into the action. You will feel fear when another player is chasing you between asteroids in a PVP skirmish and joy when you actually manage to get to a Space Station (docking station) after a big “Open Space” adventure with only 2% fuel and cargo bay filled with rich minerals and expensive modules.
In Star Conflict you have all of your standard modifications as well as some more specific HUD customization that will allow you to better see your enemies and objectives or change your crosshair type and color if you so desire. The game is also optimized for the Oculus Rift which is a nice addition and will certainly increase the longevity of the game once the Oculus becomes more used.
Server Stability and Bug fixing
During my playtime the servers were stable and despite the occasional 1-2 second queue to get in the game there weren’t instances of the server getting down. One time I received a compensation considering a Server outage that other players experienced during the day but luckily I wasn’t gaming at that time and only got to enjoy the positive side of things (5x bonus of first wins in PVP and PVE).
Star Conflict is actually quite well supported. With little balance and design tweaks almost every day you might come to a totally different game after weeks of inactivity. Events are run almost every month and bonus synergy and loyal points weekends are very helpful for farming players.
I had absolutely no problems with the game and the way it performed. I registered no frame drop or freezes and had the game load and close fast. For more information about the setup I’m using you can check my Setup section.
Underwater Rocks (CONS)
The biggest flaw on which I have to absolutely stress on is the Pay to Progress (P2P) part of the game. Notice how I said Pay to Progress and not Pay to Win (P2W) as you can absolutely win if you put enough time into the game. The issue is mostly due to the grindy nature of the game as you will need progressively more Synergy (resource) in order to upgrade your ships and open new ones. You will also have to farm credits as your modules will cost more and faction loyalty points (vouchers). The fact that some module upgrades can also be bought with Galactic Standards (GS) (and even specific modules exclusive for power users) which is the in-game currency that you can buy with real money.
And the fact that there are ships which you can only buy with GS or via a DLC purchase and which are fully upgraded to the last Synergy level really throws off the balance between Paying and non-paying users. Luckily as I have made my registration around game launch time in 2013 I have somehow accumulated over 3000 GS (probably due to compensations or gift bonuses for the holidays) and despite the fact that I spend them on useless in-game items and a cooler avatar I managed to buy two rank 3 ships with them. The fighter which I got was the Tiger-M15A3 and it proved to be very useful in the early game. That ship still has over 250 000 Ship Synergy which I have no intention on switching to Free Synergy as it costs too much GS to do so. Instead I am now saving GS which you get from completing achievements and I will probably buy a rank 9 ship with them.
My general opinion is that Grinding can be fun if done correctly, but in this game I felt kind of bored by it at around the time I got my first destroyer. And I only hear how bad it is at the higher ranks. Maybe more ways to farm synergy would have made more players go through the process of getting all the ships and actually progress to the final ship ranks. On the other side of the coin we have the P2P which is not as bad as P2W but still makes it tedious for different users to progress with the same pace. Paying for taunts, avatars and custom painting and logos on your ship is totally fine and encouraged. Completely different ship skins would have made the Studio even more revenue and diversify the game but for now it is just a missed opportunity.
The bad thing here is that all of this desensitize new players from progressing more than a few ranks before they feel overwhelmed by the already experienced and armed to the teeth user-base.
Tips and Tricks
- Dodging turrets and missile launchers is easy if you quickly change directions in the right moment when the projectile is already in the air. Using this method you can dodge any number of missiles as long as they are not seeking ones launched by a player.
- You can get a lot of points during PVE missions if you go for the NPC turrets and killable structures. Actually you will get way more points this way than killing NPC ships, but don’t get too greedy or you will get overwhelmed, get killed and feel like a beginner again.
- Never rush enemies unless you are absolutely sure you have the upper hand. This is especially true for PVP where more advanced members will usually set up ambushes in order to get the edge in battle.
- Fit weapons that suit your play style and feel comfortable to use. Don’t just pick a weapon because someone told you that it is the best one even if that someone is your Guild’s Master. A true master of a low rank and DPS weapon can do much more damage than an inexperienced player with the best weapon in the game.
- Think ahead! PVP battles are won by those who can come up with better strategy, especially the beacon scenario ones. You can turn entire games by switching your position 5 second earlier or going for the yet not active beacon if your team cannot take the one already occupied by the enemy.
- Daily quests are independent for each faction. If you want to get more loyal points for the weapon upgrade you have been saving for the last week, just switch the station and do the daily quests for the other 2 factions. It will cost you some credits but it is worth it as credits are way easier to obtain than loyal points.
Experience and stats
I managed to rack quite a lot of synergy, credits and loyal points for the short time I played Star Conflict. Below you can find a few screenshots of my progress. Due note that most of them have been captured some time ago thus I have advanced even more in the ranks from that point as I now have around 25 hours battle time.
Some of the medals are extremely hard to get while others are obtainable during certain events in the game and a new player will never be able to get them in his playtime.
I’ve always enjoyed PVP more than PVE so getting in the top 10 000 wasn’t that hard. Note that there are several hundred thousand players in the Leaderboards and effectiveness rating drops with 10% every 24 hours, so you will need to play quite seriously in order to obtain a spot among the best.
In conclusion, Star Conflict has a very thrilling gameplay to offer but grinding your way to the end-game is a burden that can remove the joy from playing it. It is a mostly free game so you should definitely try it out but staying in it for too long is a bit of a challenge.