Runner Duck and Curve Digital sent us back to World War II in their last release Bomber Crew, which tasked players with managing WWII bombers as they looked to bring down their enemies in frantic air battles. This time, we’re heading a little further afield, with successor Space Crew sending players across the galaxy as they look to vanquish a vicious alien threat. If you were a fan of Bomber Crew, you can expect more of the same challenging gameplay here… just with a Star Trek-like twist.
Space Crew tasks players with managing the role of every member of their delightful team and assigning them the tasks required of them in order to complete intergalactic objectives in micro-management-influenced strategic showdowns. You know how Captain Kirk, Picard, or Janeway (to name a few) would issue commands to get out of dire situations in Star Trek? That’ll be you. It turns out that being Captain isn’t an easy role either, and believe me, it’ll take some work adjusting to the constant cycle of being on top of your shields, your weapons, or repairing all different facets of your ship that find themselves damaged through each tricky encounter.
There are all sorts of different mission types to undertake in Space Crew, with each bringing with them varying risks, rewards, and objectives. Whilst the core mechanics of managing your ship don’t really vary up that much between these missions, there’s enough variety to be found with them to ensure that a repetitive cycle doesn’t kick in. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of killing of enemies and you can expect to be hefting a lot cargo across the galaxy or escorting other ships to safety, but each mission brings with it a little something to spice the experience up.
You’ll also have a lot of control over your crew, with the player able to recruit new members and level them up to unlock additional skills following successful missions. Want to make sure they have extra protection? You can also tool them up with protective gear and weaponry, ensuring their chances of survival are upped for each mission. That doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily survive a mission though – it was actually pretty heart-breaking when crew members I’d grown fond of (and invested some levelling-up into) perished on a mission gone wrong. Still, with plenty of eager new recruits to join your intergalactic expedition, there’s always room to experiment and hire new staff. And hey, who knows, maybe you’ll find someone better the next time around?
It’s worth mentioning that there’s a pretty steep difficulty curve in Space Crew and I found myself frustrated by my constant failures on more than a few occasions. Depending on your objective, you’ll often be hindered by what you can or can’t do on missions too, leaving you in some tricky situations where you can’t use all of tools at your disposal. It doesn’t take much for your ship to take critical damage either, with the game’s ‘easier’ missions even proving to be pretty challenging. Add to that the fact that using a controller as opposed to a mouse and keyboard can make the micro-management elements of Space Crew a little trickier to keep on top of and it’s clear that this is a game where the odds are stacked against the player. It just all feels a little harsh at times and there are moments where bad things happen and there’s not much that the player can do about it.
Despite this, there’s something mighty satisfying about nailing a mission and pulling off a string of well-managed commands to keep on top of your enemy. Making the right decisions at the right time such as activating the shields just before a deadly attack, purging your ship of any enemies who are on-board and releasing them into space, or getting a valuable crew member to get away from your destroyed ship in an escape pod in the nick of time, can be super exciting and make some of the game’s more strenuous elements feel worthwhile. Heck, even navigating space, shooting down enemies, or having your comms scan around you for any incoming threats brings with it a share of thrills, with the prep and planning that comes with each mission sure to satisfy the desires of any budding space commander.
I’ve got a lot of love for the game’s overall presentation too, with the top-notch cartoony-style from predecessor Bomber Crew present here, albeit with a fresh sci-fi (and definitely Star Trek-inspired) twist. It’s something you’ll especially appreciate when customising both your ship and your team, with plenty of cute options in place to make the spaceship of your dreams – it’s a lot of fun and fits the vibe of the game perfectly. The only real issue I did have with the presentation was that it could be a little difficult to make out some items of the menu when playing on the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode, but it’s nothing that you won’t get used to with experience (and maybe by squinting a little).
Space Crew offers an excitingly strategic sci-fi romp that has its share of tense moments, though a harsh difficulty can make it a little frustrating to play at times. Micro-managing your crew is certainly satisfying though, as is putting them together in the first place – there are plenty of different elements of your team to take into consideration, whilst the customisation options gives players plenty to tinker around with. The general mission design is decent too, even IF some have unfair difficulty spikes that the player can’t do much about.
It’s certainly a fun game that has plenty of exciting moments though and sci-fi strategy fans will have a good time with Space Crew once they get to grips with things. It does have its frustrating moments and the controls on console will take getting used to, but there’s certainly hours of entertainment to be had with this intergalactic escapade.
Developer: Runner Duck
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC