TheIndieJar: Strike Suit Zero Preview
I’ve never really paid any attention to Kickstarter in the past, I’m vaguely aware of what it does, but that’s about it. I’ve certainly never examined any of the games making use of the service, so when I put my hand up in the virtual Game Jar staff room for the Strike Suit Zero preview, I had no idea what to expect. I scurried off to Born Ready’s Kickstarter page to find out what I’d said yes to, and was pleasantly surprised that I’d be playing a space combat game. Naturally I had a read through the pitch, and one paragraph in particular had me licking my lips in anticipation; “Strike Suit Zero is a PC game that offers fast and frantic space-combat, putting you in the middle of massive fleet battles where the fate of Earth relies on your dogfighting skills. You’ll take to the cockpit of a powerful transforming craft known as the Strike Suit, where – at the tap of a button – your craft will transform from a traditional fighter, to a hulking suit of space armour.” Well now, that does indeed sound awesome, but can Born Ready pull it off? I slipped on my space hero suit and prepared to blast off.
After a neat little loading screen that doubles as a computerized personnel file I dropped into the mission select screen. In this preview version of the game, seven mission were unlocked, mostly in chronological order, so I should get a good idea of what the story is about. For each mission I had a selection of three craft to choose from; the Strike Suit, an Apex Fighter, and a Scythe Interceptor. Each craft has different attributes based on their role, the Interceptor is the fastest for example, the Apex has the most armour. The Strike Suit has a more rounded set of attributes, and compensates for its lack of specialisation by being able to transform into it’s Strike form. Not a bad trade-off. There’s an empty fourth ship slot too, which I can only assume is for the bomber mentioned in the Kickstarter pitch.
One thing did occur to me at this point; considering the Strike Suit also transforms into a giant cool-ass flying Mecha robot, I’m not entirely sure why you’d pick the other craft, but it’s nice to see there’s some tactical depth here. Your next step (after viewing you ship stats and installed upgrades) is to choose your weaponry. The Strike Suit has two gun slots and two missile slots, and again there’s a nice selection to choose from. At this point I was starting feel a little overwhelmed by all the choices, so I played safe stuck with the default fitting; Medium Plasma Gun/Light Machine Gun and Fighter Missile MK I/Rocket Pods.
With craft and weaponry choices made, I dived into the game. You play as Adams, a space pilot assigned to an orbital defence platform, and undergoing a flight assessment to judge your fitness to return to duty. As is usual in most games, the first mission is also the game’s tutorial, and after short cut scene explaining how Humanity has conquered the stars, you take control of your vessel for the first time. Your first objective is to fly towards and inspect a deep space freighter before it departs. Whilst still in Pursuit mode, the game takes you through the basic key-binds; W increases your speed, S slows you down, and A and D barrel roll you left and right. With the inspection done you move on to the shooting range for some target practice, and to go over the weapon controls.
The mouse cursor becomes a targeting reticule, with the Left Click firing your guns, and the Right Click firing missiles. Moving the mouse cursor also controls the direction of flight; move the cursor up and you fly up, move it right and you fly right. It’s really quite intuitive, and I got to grips with them fairly quickly. With the basics covered, it’s time to head back to base, but not before some enemy fighters turn up to make your first day back on the job a lot more interesting. After rescuing the freighter you just said goodbye to, and defending your Orbital Defence Platform, you’re passed fit for duty and reassigned to the Earth Fleet.
With the story established the game sets about making sure that you know that when it promised “massive fleet battles where the fate of Earth relies on your dogfighting skills”, it really meant it. You’re soon thrown into battles with larger enemy fleets that have a more advanced tactical composition than the ones found in the opening couple of missions. By the time the game has taken you through how to fly the suit in Strike mode, the combat has been dialled up to eleven, enemy missiles are coming in, flak cannons are firing at you, and the fighters are everywhere. The space combat is glorious, it really is. If you ever watched the space battle scene in Return of the Jedi, and said to yourself “I wanna play that game!”, look no further, Born Ready have got you covered.
The real star of the show though is the Strike Suit itself. As a fighter in pursuit mode it’s an agile ship capable of keeping up with the faster enemy craft, but it’s not what makes it cool. In Mecha or Strike Mode it’s an awesome robot of death that dodges around in every direction whilst melting anyone that dares to cross it’s path. Born Ready have been careful about doling out the good stuff though, a depleting energy called Flux ensures that you can’t just switch to Strike Mode and sweep all before you. Skilful piloting requires knowing when to switch between modes for best effect.
How does it look graphically? I believe my first words were “Oh my God, it’s a pretty game.” I love space games anyway, but Born Ready have added a sweet anime twist to the already high quality visuals, and it really puts it over the edge in my opinion. Every now and again, when you glance up from the frenetic space combat, you get a little hint of what it would be like to actually play your favourite space anime film. I loved it’s looks.
The good looks didn’t stop with the chosen art style either, Strike Suit Zero had a buttery smooth framerate on my machine which really added to the sense of speed. Part of me did feel slightly guilty at using the first person camera view so much, doing so means not being able to see the Strike Suit while it’s in Pursuit Mode, but I felt more immersed in the action when I did, and part of me even wished I could do the same with the Mecha mode. When this game gets in to it’s stride and starts throwing space debris, engine trails, and enemy fighters at you, it really feels spectacular in first person, and I’d quite like to see Born Ready do a little more with it by maybe adding a glass canopy look, so it really feels like you’re inside the Strike Suit.
As my time with Strike Suit Zero came to an end, I couldn’t help but feel that I wanted more time with the game. I wanted to fully test out the other ships, work out what my favourite weapon fittings were, find all the game’s little secrets. Alas, time was against me, and I had to stop playing and start writing. I really liked Strike Suit Zero, I was pleased to see that the game wasn’t all about lush visuals, and that it had some tactical depth to it. If I were to change anything? I think the tutorial could use a little refinement, as I said earlier, I think there’s a little too much choice in ship and weaponry right from the get go. Also, I personally would have liked to be able to move the HUD to the bottom of the screen. I just find things like that easier to keep an eye on when down the bottom. Apart from that though, I thoroughly enjoyed it. From now on I’ll be keeping an eye on this game, and if you like space combat shooters, you should too.