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Orch Star Early Access Review

Orch Star is a future-fantasy RTS released into Steam Early Access on December 14th, 2017, and is the first release by the eponymous Orch Star Studios. In Orch Star, you assume the role of Wartusk, the chieftain of an Orch clan. Taken into interplanetary slavery by the human Mevorians, Wartusk seeks to unite the other Orch clans and rebel against his masters. The story is mostly told through the opening cutscene, but morsels of the narrative are also delivered through old-fashioned dialogue boxes that appear at the start of a mission. A fully fleshed-out version of the story lives on the developer's website, but very little of it has made it into the title so far.

In Orch Star's campaign, you take control of Wartusk's fleet, using it to capture planets from the likes of obsessive-compulsive goblins, magic elves, and other Orch clans.

The campaign presently spans twelve missions. The mission objectives vary, but most are achieved by capturing the handful of planets, asteroids, and space stations presented in the mission environments. You are provided with a number of ships at the start of each mission, and planets that you control will provide you with more ships. Five classes of  vessels are available. While each has strengths and weaknesses, they're hard to distinguish: some are slower than others, but firepower and survivability appear the same. More balancing between the ships is needed, because presently, the only effective strategy is to have more ships than your computer-controlled counterpart.

The mission environments and spaceships in Orch Star are a pleasure to look at. Suns burn bright and gas giants loom large on the small, vibrant maps. The generous zoom levels allow you see individual ships or the whole star system. You’re transported to dying stars and hazardous-looking asteroid belts full of floating debris and passing comets. The maps feel underutilized, though, as most objects are decoration. Once you realize how few objects are capable of interaction, the environments seem to shrink, as your focus shifts to gameplay and away from the scenery surrounding your four or five useful planets.

Orch Star's mechanics are pared down. Waaaaaaay down.

Orch Star's gameplay amounts to clicking your fleet, dragging its ships to a different planet, and watching them fly there and circle the planet until it’s captured or they all explode. Occasionally, you will also click on dialogue boxes or ability buttons. While the desire to create clean gameplay is noble, Orch Star appears to have taken the sentiment to the extreme, removing all but the most basic RTS elements. Other than moving portions of your fleet to different planets, there’s not much to do. Where other titles in the genre fill your time with resource management or base building, Orch Star is full of moments that are watched instead of played. The nature of the mechanics also make the gratuitous zoom levels useless, as there’s nothing for you to do that close to the individual planets. It’s possible that the developers intended you to ogle instead of operate, considering that the game was developed for VR as well as flat gaming, but the way Orch Star is played is — quite frankly — boring on a flat screen. No amount of appealing graphics is going to make up for that.

Orch Star is a well-made title. You won’t encounter many bugs, despite the Early Access sticker on the box, and the graphics are excellently rendered. If your only desire is to watch as a horde of betusked astronauts crush their enemies, this one is for you. Unfortunately, if your desire is to control a horde of betusked astronauts as they crush their enemies, then you will be left with little else to do but point and click.


The Verdict: OK

If you consider yourself an RTS purist, you may go mad with all the leisure time that Orch Star requires. The mobile-game-level mechanics are hard to overcome, and the lack of complexity dulls the environments, as well. This would lead you to believe that adding more to do during actual gameplay would require a complete tear-down of the title as it stands.

Written by
Tuesday, 13 February 2018 14:31
Published in Strategy



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