I was recently given the opportunity to try out the pre-alpha build of an up and coming game called Perseus 230. The game is being built by 4 developers who have yet to name their studio, but from the looks of this game they better get incorporated soon because I predict big things for them.
From the name you might be thinking about mythological monsters and bad haircuts. But no it’s not that Perseus. Perseus 230 is an indie rails space shooter and after playing it for just the 15 minutes it took for me to complete the demo, I was hooked. This game takes me back to the good old days of StarFox64 and clearly references a number of other works such as Star Wars. It’s said to be inspired by “90’s anime and foxes.” As the trailer will show you, there’s even a spaceship piloting, fur covered animal. Based on what I’ve seen so far I totally endorse this game.
The graphics use a combination of 2D and 3D cel shaded art. A large part of the inspiration comes from a number of anime shows like Evangelion. It’s definitely a beautiful game. I wouldn’t say it looks overwhelmingly good like Mass Effect. But it definitely draws you in and looks the way a space shooter should. The ships look awesome and the moving parts and upgrades are to die for. As you upgrade your ship in the shop, the parts are added in real time so you can see how your decisions develop your ship’s performance and appearance.
There’s definitely a mixture of styles in this game. On one hand the enemy ships have a very crisp 3D Star Wars look to them, but at the same time when they blow up it looks very cartoony. It’s not a bad thing though. I really like the combination and I think it adds character to the game and appeals to a number of different audiences.
The backgrounds look excellent. The planets, stars, wormholes, and anything else you can imagine fit in very nicely with the game. The only thing that I think could look a little better are the planets you fly over in levels. It seems a little blurry to me in the demo. But technically that would make sense because you’re seeing it from a moving ship through the atmosphere, which is partially visible in the game. Personally I’d like the surfaces to look a bit smoother.
I quite like the text style used in this game. It’s a very simple, yet visually appealing block style that’s easy to read over the backgrounds. The talking in the game is straight out of StarFox but in greenish blue as if it’s a hologram communicator like you’d see in Star Wars. The pictures of the people talking even have lines running through them as if the connection is sort of unstable. Kudos for focusing on the little things.
Though they weren’t in the demo, there are a number of very impressive things in the trailer that look phenomenal. I knew I wanted to try it when I saw the giant worm in the original mini-trailer before the official trailer was even released. I’ll go as far as saying that even the credits in the demo really impressed me with their MadWorld, black and white style. Currently this mode will only be available as a reward for backers of their crowdfunding campaign. The point is it’s gonna be a really nice looking game when it’s done.
As far as gameplay is concerned it’s easiest to start off by saying it handles like StarFox64. And I mean that as a compliment. The game constantly works forward, giving you control of moving in a 2D plane. The game can be played with a keyboard, which is how I played it, but it will also be gamepad compatible. At this point the PC version of the demo supports the XBOX 360 gamepad and the MAC version supports the PS3 gamepad. I got through the whole demo with a keyboard, but trust me you’ll want to use a gamepad.
Movement is independent of firing, which is targeted with a crosshair. I’m not sure how it will be in the final build, but currently you have 3 separate types of weapons (main – blaster, secondary – laser and missiles) to upgrade, but they are all controlled by a single button. You can hold down the weapon button for continuous fire. If you hold down the firing button your blasters will continuously shoot, but your laser and missiles won’t. Those will only fire each time you press the fire button. I was comfortable with this, but I do believe that the controls would be better if these commands were separated so that you had a different button to fire the lasers and then another one for missiles.
Movement is very smooth and you can go anywhere on the screen. Even behind the HUD, a simple display, showing just your name, life/shield, and the objects acquired during play. Enemies have a similar HUD displayed at the bottom of the screen. Whichever enemy you are currently shooting will have their name and life bar shown. This was not consistent though. Sometimes the details do not appear for enemies, but it is not based on the type of enemy. I assume it’s still being worked out since the version I played was a pre-alpha build.
It may actually be more appropriate for each enemy to have a hovering life bar, but that would take away from the visuals so they definitely need to find a compromise of some sort to provide players with all the information they need. While many games don’t always give you the life bars of enemies except for bosses, it is appropriate here since enemies carry shields.
As you destroy enemies and objects like asteroids, you collect items. These can be a number of different things based on what you destroyed including scrap, food, and ore. When you destroy asteroids you get ore. The more things you destroy, the more objects you collect. At the end of each mission (level) all of the items you picked up are converted into money which can be used to buy upgrades.
There are 2 things about money in this game that I really liked. The first was that all pickups are automatically collected and the second was that when you die, at least in this version, the money you collected in that run is kept and can be used to upgrade your ship before you retry the mission. This means that, win or lose, you are always making progress towards maxing out your ship. Definitely my preference for these type of games.
Your life consists of an orange bar covered by a blue bar representing your shields. Shields are constantly replenishing when not taking damage, but life lowers permanently when you lose all your shields. You can get life back with collectable items though. In the demo there are no in-level continues, but that’s fine as levels aren’t really that long in the first place.
Not all levels have the same objectives. Some are about getting to the end and some have other tasks such as destroying a certain number of asteroids. In the demo, levels will not progress forward until the task is completed no matter how long it takes. So if you don’t shoot any asteroids, you’ll just keep circling around the planet until you destroy enough of them.
The map system is really good, too. There are main missions and extra missions. The extra missions are optional and all missions can be replayed to add to your money and contribute to ship/weapon upgrades.
One thing I’m really looking forward to in this game is the co-op. It’s claimed that you will be able to play locally with up to 3 people. The demo doesn’t allow co-op play, but it does include a portion where an NPC joins you and fights along with you for a few minutes. This was really cool and I imagine works just like the co-op. Ships can’t pass through each other like in some lazily coded games. When you bump into another ship, the NPC will move out of your way.
. . . you will be able to play locally with up to 3 people.
All in all, the gameplay is very solid for an early version. And did I mention barrel rolls. Lots and lots of barrel rolls. Why? Because you can.
The sound in this game is quite good as of right now. I was really happy with how clear each specific sound effect was. Adding parts to your ship, blowing things up, and the typing clicks for text during talking sequences. You can hear each individual shot from the ship’s main blaster. I especially liked, both visually and audibly, the hard turn sequences. Right out of Star Wars. The sound quality is good and the effects well chosen. Not really much more I can say on that at this point.
The music in the demo impressed me. There are a number of different tracks which add so much character to an already impressive game. The music isn’t repetitive or just a rehashing of similar tones. Also the lead developer told me that the game’s soundtrack will now be produced by an artist known as The Algorithm. He composed the music for the official trailer and it doesn’t disappoint. I’m predicting that what was already a good soundtrack will ultimately end up being better.
As far as plot goes, nothing has been revealed yet other than the fact that there are unknown drones as well as possibly pirates and smugglers as enemies. There are, however, multiple playable characters, each with a unique storyline and “an evolving galaxy full of strange alien races.” I can’t say for sure that it will be good, but the words “strange alien races” always gets me hot under the collar when choosing games. I can say that the map is quite large so there will definitely be a lot of levels and story to go with them. Fingers crossed for something epic and awesome.
Did I not say space shooter? By nature, any game in the genre has replay value. But Perseus 230 claims to be pushing the bar past that of even most AAAs. I’ve already said that there are multiple playable characters with individual stories, but the developers also claim that there are hundreds of weapons and mods to customize your ship. If that’s really the case, then assuming you can’t try them all out in 1 playthrough, we’re talking about a number of replays for the full experience.
Though it’s not discussed in the demo, the Kickstarter campaign makes a number of claims that will greatly add to the length of gameplay such as additional sectors and characters over time. Because of the game’s style it’s possible for it to be ever expanding, hopefully for an affordable price. And the game has up to 3 player local co-op with anytime in and out capability.
Perseus 230 will be $15 on Steam. For a game of this style and proposed size I think that’s fair. I’m confident you’ll get more than 15 hours of play out of it even without using the co-op.
I’m really excited for Perseus 230 and I look forward to seeing where it’s goes. Good gameplay, good graphics, good sound effects and music, lots of potential replay value, a playable animal pilot, and barrel rolls. What’s not to love?