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Graphics: Galactic Command‘s graphics are pretty good. While they’re not on par with recent resource hogs like Crysis, they get the job done. Planets have atmospheres with some detail, and ships look colorful and technologically sophisticated. This title doesn’t utilize DirectX10, so Vista users should take heed: install the most recent version of DirectX 9 to ensure the game runs properly (which should be included with the game upon purchase).
Interface: It was hard to judge this criterion without having to take blood pressure medication. It’s unconscionable today, in the 21st century, to develop any action-orientated video game for the PC that doesn’t have configurable controls. In this title, it’s impossible to change the keybindings for anything. Adding insult to injury, some of the keyboard commands aren’t intuitive. For example, in most titles, the ESC key defaults to bringing up the game menu or a save/exit game function. Not in Galactic Command. In this title, the ESC key is used to issue commands in the tactical interface. Even worse, when using the mouse to fly, the mouse buttons aren’t configurable, either, so you’re stuck with a left mouse button that fires guns (good) a mouse wheel that selects missile type (good) and a right mouse button that switches you out of mouse flying mode and back to keyboard flying mode (bad, since I would want to fire missiles with it). Considering that the number of controls is so great that there are a number of commands requiring the use of ALT and CTRL, it’s no small issue that the keyboard controls aren’t configurable in any way. At least joysticks and gamepads are configurable, but that’s no substitute for hunting and pecking at the keyboard for the other commands.
There is a further problem that might affect some systems. Portions of the HUD are projected on the cockpit glass. It’s translucent so that you can see through it and not miss out on important details like enemy spacecraft attacking you. The problem is that when you’re flying toward large, bright objects, such as suns or planets, the data tends to get washed out by the brightness, making it difficult to read important information regarding shield strength. It’s possible to adjust the graphics settings to compensate to some extent, but I found it impossible to correct the problem completely.
Gameplay: Those familiar with other games from 3000AD, like the Battlecruiser series, take note: whether you loved or hated such games, the gameplay in this title isn’t the same. It has a tighter focus that makes full use of its military setting. The dog fights are entertaining and there’s enough strategic decision making to keep the game interesting.
Multiplayer: The multiplayer for this game is fairly entertaining. It has a complexity that goes beyond just shooting down enemy fighters and encourages teamwork. However, during my review there were few servers up. I suggest scheduling matches with your friends until more people purchase the game.
Sound FX: The sound effects are what you’d expect in a title like this. They provide the proper cues to your environment and the voice acting is pretty good.
Music: The music has a fast and exciting pace. Still, after some time, you’ll want to create your own space combat musical selection.
Difficulty: Galactic Command has an unnaturally steep learning curve due to the problems with the interface; also, there’s a design flaw with the tutorial that makes it even harder to learn to play the game. The tutorial, like most, has a sequence of tasks for the player to accomplish so that they get some hands-on training. The problem is that the tutorial continues to progress regardless of whether the player completes the task on time. As a result, if you mess up one part, the rest of the tutorial ends up being useless. Novice players will have to restart the tutorial several times before getting a handle on the gameplay.
Intelligence: The AI puts up a decent fight and your own wingmen are fairly competent at their jobs, as long as you give them some guidance. Also, Mother is quite good at flying your fighter for you while you issue instructions and decide on a strategy. She’s not a replacement for your own flying, but at least you don’t have to fear a fiery death while you take 15 seconds to direct friendly forces in the area.
Overall: There’s a good game lurking inside of Galactic Command: Echo Squad. Problems with the interface and the steep learning curve conspire to make this title less accessible to a large number of gamers, but if you can get past those problems, then you’ll experience a revitalization of the space combat genre.
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