I can’t remember the last time a space sim put me in the black leather space-boots of a conquering villain. Perhaps it was as far back as Lucasarts’ classic TIE Fighter? It’s hard to tell, but it was certainly a long, long time ago. In a genre that normally sees you as an escort, protector and defender, it was a glorious change of pace to be at the spearhead of a massive, destructive fleet. Enemy Starfighter - an upcoming space combat sim by ex-Bungie gameplay designer Mike Tipul – looks to be taking a long, hard look at the dark side. It might still be in the early prototype phase of development, but I like what I’m seeing already.
“Your mission is always simple: Jump ahead into a system where you will most certainly be outnumbered, cripple it, and pave the way for the Armada to hang in the skies above the enemy home world like storm clouds and offer terms: submit or be purified.”
Casting you as the leader of a fast-strike group working for a monolithic and malevolent empire, you and your forces are tasked with jumping into systems, blitzing the defensive forces and making your escape before the enemy heavies show up to the fight. With the area softened, other targets are left ripe for the picking, such as potentially-defenceless home-worlds. Split into two halves, the game has you manually plan out each raid from a strategic map that looks surprisingly similar to Blendo Games’ Flotilla at this point, and then lead the assault from the front as wing-leader of the primary strike squad.
I find your lack of faith… Disturbing
All of this is tied together with randomly generated missions and persistent progression. A well-managed force will become more experienced, and can requisition more and better ships over time, while a poorly organized squad will slowly dwindle in size and face destruction with each successive battle. It’s an exciting combination, and the gameplay footage so far, while graphically simplistic (flat-shaded placeholder models are order of the day so far), looks exciting. Especially so in the most recently released video, where the developer has been toying with the concept of much faster, but more fragile starfighters, leading to more spectacular, manoeuvring-focused dogfights.
You can see the first released gameplay video below, and just beneath it is an example of the faster, deadlier combat. There’s no set dates on anything here yet, other than a vague ‘Operations Begin: 2013′, so we’ll just have to sit tight and wait to see how this one shapes up. Personally, I have a really good feeling about this one. The whirling dogfights of the second video look thrilling even with the current, rudimentary graphics, especially with the larger ships in the background trading massive blows throughout the battle. You can follow development of the game on the official site here and the developer’s Twitter feed here.