The mysteries of Redacted Space are many and wondrous indeed.
The mystery of what exactly Redacted Space is is still present, but now we have more shiny toys to blow whatever is in it. Particle Fleet: Emergence is Knuckle Cracker’s 4th installment, and takes a different approach from its previous titles. Instead of being terrestrial based, Particle Fleet dives into the inky depths of space with a whole new arsenal of destructive goodness. You play as CEO Tiron, working for a small corporation to acquire information that others gave their lives to learn. In story mode, you go mission to mission acquiring new blueprints of long forgotten technology and blueprints to fight particulate, a semi-autonomous blob that destroys anything it touches. Particle Fleet’s claim to fame is how adaptable Particulate is towards the player and how this creates a unique experience with each playthrough. We’ll get into that in a bit. At the time I am writing this, I have only played the Story Mode. Based on what I have read, the player-based content is the real pull of this game as it offers a complete suite of tools to the creator. For the purposes of this review, I’m going to focus on gameplay and what Knuckle Cracker offers rather than the creator’s tools.
Story mode is your bare bones strategy storyline, a useful cover to introduce more content and to show fancier ways to interact with Particulate. The absolute number one issue is the lack of any kind of tutorial, specifically why Mire is good or why you cannot construct/repair ships without energy or Mire saturation. There is a half-hearted attempt to give story explanations to why these things are the way they are, but it does little to actually explain what you are doing. Once you get around that (and lose enough ships figuring it out) the game becomes a breeze. You use ‘Lathe’ lasers to activate energy wells as well as several other things. The energy wells in turn power up other ships and enable the construction of other ships. More importantly, they keep your ships fed with energy to power their weapons. A big part of the game is managing your multiple ship’s energy levels as they venture outside the AoE of controlled energy wells. Your capital ship provides access to “Omnis”. These handy constructs land on floating masses and spread Mire, which beefs up your raw materials for construction while at the same time denying resources to the Particulate. Like your ships, Omnis require energy but once they have successfully landed require little attention. The minimal HUD gives you general information of the battlefield. The amount of Particulate and Mire is constantly updated so you have a general idea of the tide of battle.
So what exactly is Particulate?
Well as far as story goes, it is thought to be an inanimate substance that is highly destructive. The more you progress the more you learn about the truth of what Particulate and its differing forms are. But to put it into terms you can probably understand, think the Formid Swarm from Ender’s Game but with less direction. Particulate tends to clump together and is drawn to various power sources (i.e. energy wells and ships). Without an incentive, it tends to clump together forming massive walls of death that will spiral towards you if you aren’t careful. While it is true that Particulate is reactive and has a rudimentary AI, it seems more based on what the player does than acting of it’s own volition. By actions, I mean what ships and weapons you throw at it. Each weapon has a unique effect on Particulate, which in turn dictates how the Particulate will react to you. The end result is a strategy game that requires solid planning and the correct application of each weapon for each scenario. There seems to be 4 main types of weapons. Disrupters, lasers, a different white laser whos name I haven’t learned and missiles. Disrupters are single shots that destroy or break up Particulate. The projectiles are relatively slow and have a medium range, but are great for slowing down a charge. Lasers are short range and are at best a last resort weapon. Missiles are your greatest weapon as they have the longest range, fast travel time, and an AoE effect that completely breaks up Particulate’s momentum. The white laser’s sole purpose is to slow Particulate down and it is very effective, often slowing the Particulate down to a stop or even reversing its path. It is very fast firing and only on a select few ships, making them a high priority when you’re limited on resources. Once you have an effective setup the game practically plays itself. Kind of like those really intricate gifs that had a lot of animations, usually a bunch of people doing certain tasks, like loading a ball into a catapult, that allow the receiving end to load that ball into a conveyor belt. It just looks awesome. Speaking of looks, the animations are incredibly crisp and clean but the level of detail is really basic. The graphics aren’t anything impressive but this is definitely a boon for Particle Fleet. In later stages the maps can become so clogged with Particulate and weapons fire that lag is inevitable. This is just one of those games that leaves the gritty details to the imagination.
I know I said I wouldn’t touch on the content creator but I feel I have to, it’s just too big a part of the game to not. You’re able to create the entire game from the ground up. From scripting, to different types of ships, to creating your own campaign, Particle Fleet gives you the keys to the game and lets you go nuts. Being able to create stupid ships or levels and watch how successful they become is a lot of fun. The amount of player created content is unbelievable and is by far the biggest draw of the game. There really isn’t much to say other than it’s Mario Maker on steroids in space with a better level search engine. You can quote me.
Particle Fleet: Emergence is a well polished, strategy/tower defense geared towards player-created content. With its huge array of tools available, and a robust player base, Particle Fleet: Emergence is a great pick up for anyone looking for a game to sink multiple hours into.