By Scott Parrino 03 Feb 2005 0


Usually gamers have one genre (or subgenre) that particularly captures their attention. I have found that while I may play a variety of games in multiple genres, and enjoy them, games in a certain genre always have a certain appeal that few other games possess. For me, the subgenre would have to be space simulations. Ever since playing the original Elite back in the 80?s, I?ve been hooked on games that put me in the cockpit of a space-borne fighter or the bridge of a mighty starship.

Unfortunately, like many subgenre?s of the simulation genre, space sims have been neglected of late. Gone are the days when game stores had copies of the latest Wing Commander, Freespace, or X-Wing game. Over the past couple of years, space sims have been few and far between. 

Thankfully, a space sim came out recently which not only shines a light on the genre, it gives a preview of where it might be headed. Starshatter was conceived and created mainly by one man, John DiCamillo. Finding space-operas like Wing Commander ?an evolutionary dead end,? Mr. DiCamillo decided to make his own space sim, and Starshatter was born.

Starshatter isn?t a typical space sim in some respects. There are no lengthy (and questionably acted) cut-scenes, no paltry voice acting, and no linearity. While there is a story, it?s told through briefings, intel updates, and emails. The main selling point of Starshatter is its openness, which takes many forms. 

On a fighter sweep.

Passing my home at the time, the carrier Archon.

Choices, Choices?

One of the big appeals to Starshatter is its bevy of options. The player can chose their flight model, mission, controls, and if they?re enterprising enough, can create their own missions, ships, planets, and so on. Before a prospective pilot even steps foot in the cockpit, several choices need to be made. The first should be the flight model, of which Starshatter offers three.

The first flight model is ?Arcade,? which any fan of Wing Commander or Freespace will be familiar with. The player points his ship in a direction and moves there instantly, no inertia or drag to worry about.

?Semi-Realistic? is halfway between pure arcade and pure realism. Anyone who has played Jumpgate, for example, will understand that while there is inertia, there?s also drag, which helps directional transitioning a bit. This could be a good midway for many pilots trying to move from Arcade to Realistic.

Speaking of which, ?Realistic? is akin to Terminus or Babylon 5. This is where full inertia and Newtonian physics comes into play. This is also the most difficult flight mode with which to master the game. I played the game using all three modes, but eventually stuck with Arcade because I found it the most fun, though other players? mileage may very depending on how real they like their space sims.

Once the options are set up, the player has created his virtual persona, it?s time to dive into the game itself. To help new and experienced pilots alike, the game includes not only a short tutorial campaign that covers the basics of fighter combat (planetary and space borne) and capital ship control, but a very well written manual in PDF format (as the game is only available via download, a paper manual isn?t an option at this time though players can opt to print the manual themselves or take the PDF file to a local copy shop and have it printed there).

Also, to give the player even more choice, Starshatter allows full modding and mission creation abilities. There are already some great mods and missions available, and more are on the way. The user is able to create new missions, mods, ships, or campaigns. This coupled with the dynamic campaigns gives the game nearly infinite replayability.

Once comfortable with the controls and the setup of the game, it?s time to jump into the massive dynamic campaigns. As stated, unlike most space sims with linear (or slightly-branching) campaigns, Starshatter?s campaigns are fully dynamic (akin to Falcon 4.0, Longbow 2, or Red Baron 3D).

Attacking the enemy frigate Kitts.

Escorting the freighter Endurance.



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