Spaceland is a turn-based tactical game taking heavy inspiration from classics of the genre, such as the XCOM Series or the less known Incubation, to give an idea of how it plays out. Developed by indie studio Tortuga Team, this title will narrate the events revolving around a duo of Space Rangers, stranded on a glacial planet after responding to a distress signal, where a routine mission turns into a struggle for survival.
The game plays out in a simpler manner compared to others of the same genre, for example all the management mechanics customary to XCOM are not present here, and also character development is rather limited, consisting only in upgrading gear and weapons, and also abilities in basic skill-trees. As for missions, other than a main objective of course, they have turn-based mechanics typical of this genre, such as each character having a set amount of AP per turn, usable for both movement and actions, a destructible cover system, distance-based damage falloff and precision reduction, and different damage types / resistances. Unusually, characters falling to the enemy cannot be revived, but instead stay KO until the mission ends.
Even without very complex mechanics, Spaceland manages to offer interesting gameplay choices, putting different objective types, new abilities or other variables in each mission, preventing the experience from becoming repetitive. The fact each level has secondary objectives, namely Secrets, Par Time and Heroes Alive, makes it worthwhile to replay a mission multiple times in order to get all those sweet extra upgrades and cash, certainly needed further on to not be under-powered.
This game also has some issues, two of which are most prominent: at the moment, extensive grinding of already cleared missions is mandatory to unlock late-game items, because even completing all side-tasks will not grant enough money to get top-grade gear, while a particular mission nearing the end of the game is currently extremely unbalanced and relies more on sheer luck / RNG rather than skill to be beaten.
Overall, Spaceland is a pretty good turn-based tactics game that gets the core elements of this genre right, offering a simpler experience than most competition, yet also manages to make it interesting and fresh enough to not be generic. It has some problems, but still in the end the positive sides overcome the bad ones by a good margin, and for the price of 15€, offering around 8-11 hours of content, is definitely a fair deal.
Pros & Cons
+ Solid base gameplay formula, united with new mechanics every few levels, make for an interesting experience.
+ Simple but pleasant, clean graphical style.
+ Overall adequate challenge level, becoming considerably more difficult in late-game stages.
+ Good weapon and skill balance, none of the characters stand out as under or over powered.
– Excessive grinding of already completed missions is required for having enough coin to unlock all late-game gear.
– A specific mission is currently extremely unbalanced and needs a rework.
– Storyline is rather uninteresting and not very involving for the player.
The gameplay of Spaceland branches into Team Management, Exploration and Combat.
Team Management consists in choosing the gear setup for each of the fighters, upgrading their abilities and items, and also deciding which ones of them are better suited for the current mission. Each team member can only use specific weapons and armors, divided into categories, while the same secondary weapons can be used by several characters: every once in a while some events will lead the squad to finding better weapons, armor, however putting them back into service condition requires coins, earned by completing missions, defeating enemies, and fulfilling secondary objectives. Skills are upgraded via chips, awarded almost only by secondary mission targets, in simple skill trees consisting of two skills per character, each upgrade making said abilities better in range, power or number of uses. At first players are unable to select party composition, a function only unlocked later on in the campaign. Each team member is completely restored between missions.
Exploration in mission levels is done in a turn-based fashion, with a fog of war mechanic barring unexplored areas into a grey mist that regenerates when a certain area is out of sight. On one side, exploring levels carefully leads to more ammo crates, health supplies and also secrets found, but on the other hand, especially in later missions, it is sometimes better to speed up the pace and not face every single enemy the game throws at you, as it can be very dangerous, not to mention time consuming in case you are going for the Par Time objective. In many levels, several doors are opened by activating a variety of terminals, power nodes and contraptions, forming up proper puzzles in some instances. Exploring can also trigger enemies to surface without warning, leaving your team members vulnerable, so being careful in exploring is a good idea.
Combat is as well turn-based, with characters having a set number of AP usable for both movement and firing. Each hero has a limited number of ammo and no spare magazines: to refill bullets, ammo crates are the primary means, completely regenerating munitions – they are however fairly sparse and need to be used with wisdom, as ammo conservation and damage efficiency are two fundamental mechanics of Spaceland’s combat. Secondary weapons have unlimited ammo, but also deal much lower damage, have less accuracy, or in some cases are melee only, so are better used for weak enemies or as last resort. Character abilities cost AP to use, have limited charges in some cases and are not refilled by any means, or instead some other ones depend on regular ammo to function, but have no charge limit.
Enemies generally are melee-based, with ranged foes becoming common only in late-game stages, and all of them hit pretty hard, only a few hits mean death for any hero especially early on – but the same goes for most enemies, except the toughest ones. A cover system is present as well, but only is viable against ranged enemies, which also can use it all the same against you – melee ignores cover completely however. Generally, the rule for successful combat in Spaceland is choosing the right heroes for the right missions, and using them effectively by learning their strengths and weaknesses.
The game presents no performance or technical problems, and runs without any issue in 1440p, 144hz [RTX 2080Ti, Ryzen 9 3900X, 32GB RAM]. Given the rather simple visuals and lack of any elaborate effect or other demanding graphical features, this game can safely run even on low-end systems without problems, especially if the target is [email protected]
Spaceland is an overall solid turn-based tactical game that manages to not be too generic thanks to varied gameplay mechanics and solid base concepts done well. Even with some issues, is still definitely a good one for this genre.
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