The combat is the real gem of the game. It's been very nearly the only focus of development up to now, and it really shows. There's a variety of ships and weapons to play with, and each with it's own give and take.
You pilot a single ship arcade style and give high-level commands to your fleet. Starfarer eschews RTS conventions in favor of way points for things like attack, defend, and scout. You can also give commands on individual ships like escort and defend. Then the marvelous AI decides which ship to send on each mission.
Each ship's payload is customizable and can be tricked out with hull mods to suit your play style or address a ship's strengths and weaknesses. Each ship is also equipped with an active system, like flares or teleportation. Mastering the use of these systems is key to success.
There are missions to challenge you, and a small sandbox campaign. You start with a single frigate and work your way up to a full armada by raiding enemy fleets. The only aggressor in the beginning is the pirates, but you can make enemies of any of the various factions.
In a word, the game is brilliant. When you shoot an enemy the hull starts to fracture and glow. If you hit them really hard you'll see melty bits floating into space. When you disable a ship there's a very satisfying screen-whitening explosion. Everything has been crafted with a love that shows in every detail.
It's a steal at the pre-order price of $10, and you'll get access to all the preview builds, which usually come out every few months.
|The campaign map. Small fish in a big pond.|
|My small force. I'm piloting the more fragile of the two. : )|
|The tactical map. This is where you give the orders.|
|Victory! Though I'd have preferred to take out that other ship, boardable ships are always a nice bonus.|