Wednesday, 01 June 2016 00:00

ASTROKILL Early Access Review

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Astrokill: In Space, No One Can Hear You Explode (And That’s A Damn Shame)

Never has blowing stuff up been so supremely satisfying. I don’t play spaceship shooting games very often. I swear, if I hear “rogue-like space shooter” one more time, I think I'll... continue to review games. But man, if space is the final frontier in gaming, everyone can go home because it has been THOROUGHLY explored… least, so I thought.

Along comes Astrokill, which blows everything away. Developed by DoomsDay Games (comprised of one programmer, one 3-D artist, and one musician), AstroKill is “a space-shooter that combines intense dogfighting with realistic, zero-G physics. Space, bullets, explosions, and Newton's first law are on full display. Battles are fast-paced and cutthroat”.

So what sets AstroKill apart from the rest?

For one, the ships. They are S-L-I-C-K! There was a great deal of effort put into the modeling of each ship, and each one looks unique and interesting. Often the ship is just the vessel for the bullets to come out of, and little attention is paid to them. AstroKill turns this notion completely on its head and focuses more on the ships and less on the bullets.

And speaking of bullets…

There is a finite amount of ammo per round. If you’ve wasted all your space bullets and need to reload, you have to go to your mothership and fly through the hangar. It doesn’t take long, but the fact that it has to be done is...fascinating? Annoying? I haven’t decided yet, but one thing I am positive about is that it’s most definitely uncommon (in a good way).

The movements of the ships were mesmerizing. I don’t know how else to put it - I felt captivated just by watching the ships move. The game’s Steam page mentions that this is all in realistic, zero-G physics and, after watching the space battleships duke it out, I have to say that I’m going to take their word for it because I wouldn’t be able to tell otherwise. I think that mechanic added a lot of value to the title, though, because I could literally just watch the ships move and not do anything else and still have a good time.

The weapons also felt extremely realistic. The angle of the shot would impact the damage each hit did. There also weren’t any cheesy, cartoony sound effects to communicate to the player that there was a hit. Instead, they were replaced with more realistic sound effects that added to the overall atmosphere. It was almost like being in an actual space battle... for those of us that can suspend disbelief long enough.

My favorite part?

The explosions. Oh man, those sure were beautiful. I can’t put my finger on what specifically was so gorgeous about them except for that watching them literally gave me pleasure. They were so perfectly animated and designed that it was a joy to blow stuff up.

Perhaps something a little morbid is that you can actually shoot free-floating pilots after their ship has been destroyed. I suppose you’re putting them out of their misery, but at the same time it makes it... too real? Do those pilots have families? Maybe one of them has like a sick kid to take care of? Do they have life insurance? Would there have been a chance for them to survive long enough to get back to their ship? I guess it wouldn’t matter anyway since I’m blowing up their mothership too, right?

AstroKill, askin’ the real questions.

In my playthrough, I didn’t feel like the controls were a burden or too complicated to grasp. It does help that it supports a controller, but controls and mechanics can make or break a game, and AstroKill’s smooth controls cleared this hurdle with flying colors.

I don’t really have any complaints other than I suppose other than, despite being as realistic as humanly possible, there wasn’t a lot of “newness” in the levels. There’s a big ship, so go destroy it. There are little ships, so go destroy them. What “newness” could a space shooter bring? I have absolutely no idea, but I know for certain that if anyone can pull something like that off, it’s these guys.


The Verdict

At the moment, AstroKill is going for $10.00 on Steam. That’s a steal for this gem of a space shooter, and you’re talking to the girl that doesn’t even really like space shooters. AstroKill reminds us that the universe is a pretty big place, and it still has room for a few good space games. AstroKill snagged a prime spot of real estate - not only in a far off corner of the galaxy, but in our hearts - because MAN, those explosions really do get the adrenaline going.

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Heather Johnson

Heather has been playing video games ever since she can remember. Starting off as a PC gamer at age 2 with edutainment games and progressing to the NES and beyond, she has always had a love for everything gaming, PC and console. She’s carried a hand-held console in her back pocket (now purse) since the 3rd grade and is probably the only person in her mid-twenties that still enjoys street-passing. She lives in Los Angeles and currently works for Bandai in the marketing department – she doesn’t make toys, she just makes toys look good. Right now she is actively avoiding planning her upcoming wedding by playing Skyrim. Other hobbies include trying to go to the gym, watching documentaries, sleeping, and tormenting (see: showering with affection) her beloved Maine Coon, King Henry VIII. Favorite games include FFX, Katamari Damacy, Saints Row IV, Skyrim, Catherine, and Phoenix Wright. She has her phone surgically attached to her hand and is happy to help whenever possible.