Strategists rejoice: SpaceCom has arrived, and with it, the core elements of real-time strategy and 4x genres that everyone knows and loves. But that's about it.
Generally, RTS games come with attractive graphics, detailed units (for identities sake), some interesting battle effects, and maybe even map customization. With SpaceCom, this is not the case. All of the flashy animations have been stripped away, and what you are left with is cold, hard strategy. If you are a more visual creature, an imagination is almost a requirement to enjoy this game. However, if you are a hardcore strategist and "true" RTS fan, you will appreciate what SpaceCom and its developer, Flow Combine, are trying to achieve.
All of your units, whether they be siege ships or singular battle ships, are triangles. The only way to discern the types of units they are is the location of the identifying blue stripe on the unit's sprite. If the tip is shaded, you have yourself a battle ship. If the middle is shaded, siege. If the end of your triangle is shaded, it is an invasion unit. These are the only three types of ships in the game and really the only three you are going to need. The battle units are solely for enemy engagement, whereas the invasion units are focused on territory capture, and siege units' sole purpose being destroying said territory.
The simplicity of SpaceCom is really quite attractive, and the map layout is no exception, being no more or less simple than the battle sprites. Set in the same setting for every match, you play on a simple 2D grid with a star field backdrop. Destinations are clusters of orbiting dots around what appears to be a nucleus, taking on a very atomic structure. The orbiting dots are enemy ground units, with the amount of units directly correlating to the amount of dots you see. Paths that are able to be traversed are simple lines connecting from one destination to another, linking the entire system together, each map resembling complex chemistry elements.
These destinations are more than just that, however, each of them having a purpose and a role during gameplay. Some of them repair ships, some produce new units, and some produce materials to build those units. You are also able to defend yourself, using ground units or shields you can install during battle.
The entire system is meant to tell you all the information you need to know in an "at-a-glace" minimalistic way. No need to roam the map searching for your units, trying to discern if you are winning that battle or not. SpaceCom will tell you, using a status bar, that you are either "winning slightly" or "losing somewhat". Battles that are currently raging are shown as a red ring around a given destination. A simple click on that destination will show you the health and status of your engaging ships, as well as the enemies'. You can also speed up the entire scene by clicking fast forward or fast fast forward. There is no pause button.
The main goal is to protect your headquarters and, at the same time, capture or destroy the enemies' headquarters–all the while roaming from one point to another, destroying/capturing along the way. As the game progresses and you capture more territories, you can increase the size of your battle fleet by utilizing various point's build features. You only get three types of units, so being able to discern what to build, when, and which waypoint you want to station it can easily turn the tide of any battle. Battling in SpaceCom is simple, but effective.
Not only is there a campaign mode, but a multiplayer as well, allowing up to four players to compete against each other in a harrowing battle to control the universe–or rather, your very own cluster of orbiting dots! Imagination people. Use it. Multiplayer plays very different from the story mode, with real human opponents being much more unpredictable than your average AI. The rules of engagement still apply, however.
Bottom line: Some players find the minimalistic design endearing and practical, whereas the rest would find it boring and uninteresting. SpaceCom is a "you either love it or you hate it" type of game, catering to a very specific type of RTS fan. Personally, I like to see the spoils of my labor in a very graphic and violent way. Just merely seeing status messages and informative status bars are not enough to hold my interest for very long. If you are more strategically inclined, SpaceCom is very fun and easy to pick up. It has a very loose hold on my attention span, as it can be too simplistic. SpaceCom is a very catered-to experience and takes a special individual to appreciate. So if the idea of an especially minimal and simple RTS sounds interesting, SpaceCom definitely deserves a play through.
Elle T. is a contributor for Front Towards Gamer who loves RPGs or anything with mashable buttons. She enjoys long walks in the moonlight through Hyrule and is sitll waiting for her Chraizard to fly her to Hogwarts.