By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Fractured Space is a Steam Early Access team-based space game. You will take control of massive ships in space and do battle with teams of five versus five. Currently, gameplay is similar to most MOBAs – two lanes, five person teams, and a home base that must be attacked. The combat in the game is done in such a way that you’re always in the midst of an intense battle, where strategy and tactics are key. So far, in my over twenty of hours of gameplay, I have to say that Fractured Space is my favorite space battle game to date.
The graphics in Fractured Space were superb. You expect epic space battles between massive capital ships to look a certain way and this game definitely delivers on that. The amount of detail put into each ship is what really brings the game home for me. The fact that I can look around my ship and it’s designed to be practical – not some sleek designer yacht with guns – is fantastic. If your ship is fighter capable, you may notice that you have some kind of port or runway on your ship for those fighters. When you activate your point-defense system your ship’s hull lights up with tons of little turrets going to work to take down enemy fighters and missile attacks. Stuff like this just make the experience so much more real, which is important to me in games like this.
There are some minor control glitches, though the game is still in alpha so it’s to be expected. Usually, these are related to the aiming mechanics, such as when you’re zoomed. There was a bug where activating your drones wouldn’t work, but that issue was cleared up quick enough. Other than those two, I can’t think of any other issues. In general, the controls in Fractured Space are quite solid for an alpha test.
The community seems to be growing strong and dedicated. The free weekend really helped, with a peak of about 4,000 players from what I’ve seen. Now that the free weekend is over, there aren’t so many people in-game, but I’ve yet to have to wait longer than a couple of minutes to find a match. During peak hours it’s instant. Personally, my biggest gripe with team based games is when it takes too long to find a match, and it seems that isn’t going to be a problem here any time soon. Judging by the popularity it received during just one free weekend, I have faith that the community will continue to grow.
Right now, most of the ship names aren’t very creative. I’m not sure if that’ll continue to be the norm, though. Stuff like the Hunter, Flagship, Assassin, Sniper… basically they name the ships with the role they’ll be playing in the match. So far, my favorites have been the Brawler and the Sniper. The Sniper is fairly self-explanatory, but the Brawler is a ship that has a harpoon system installed. That means that I can harpoon an enemy ship and pull them to me, doing more and more damage to them as they get closer. Most ships have some sort of “gimmick” like the harpoon system in the Brawler to help make their gameplay unique.
Tech Trees and Loadouts
Ships are unlocked from the tech tree. Once a ship is unlocked, you can further unlock various components to help customize the ship. In the alpha, so far, this isn’t so apparent as there aren’t many components available for purchase and a decent amount of them shown in the Loadout menu aren’t actually available yet. But you do get an idea of the system the Devs want to make use of for the game. In the match your ship can be upgraded, though you have no control over how the upgrade happens… just as your team levels up as a whole you can return to base to receive an automatic upgrade. Personally, I like this as I hate having to worry about loadouts once I’m in a match.
As you read, you might realize that Fractured Space sounds a lot like a Space MOBA. That isn’t entirely true, though it does have similar elements. The lane system, for example, is present in Fractured Space. There are outposts to take over, forward bases to capture, and there is a home base to take if you want to win the match. Battles happen frequently along the way, but there are no NPCs so it’s non-stop PVP action.
Right now there is only one game mode to play, but perhaps in the future more game modes will be added. This game mode plays, in my opinion, very similar to MOBAs. You have two primary lanes, plus a “middle lane” that also acts as the primary boss of the map that gives your team an advantage. You will capture small outposts along the way as you try to take over the forward bases to gain access to your enemies’ base to capture. The composition usually ends up with two ships going down one lane and three others going down the other, though the “meta” for the game is still being developed and you’ll more often see a whole team focus a single lane.
The map is split into five zones. There are the two home zones, where ships spawn and the home bases reside. Then there’s Alpha and Beta, where most of the combat will take place, acting as the two “side lanes.” Then there’s Gamma, home of a massive station that can only be captured every four minutes or so and provides a “Gas Powered” buff that will help your team have an edge over the enemy. Most of the large battles I’ve seen happen in Gamma, as both teams want it as it can mean the difference between a victory or a lose. When Gamma is locked down, though, it is usually used as a sort of travel lane between Beta and Alpha.
The ships fall into various archetypes which are usually represented by the faction/corporation the ship is from but not always. I imagine that will become less and less true as more ships are added. For example, United Space Research (USR) has very large vessels such as the Flagship and Destroyer that can take a lot of damage and deal it from a distance, too. They’re slow, however, so suffer greatly when a more maneuverable ship gets close. USR is, so far, the most developed faction in the game with the largest tech tree that covers a wide variety of play styles. I mentioned earlier that the Brawler and Sniper were my favorite ships, which both happen to be among the USR branch.
As I said, the combat in the game is one where strategy is key, but intense action is found in every encounter. No matter your ship, if you go in guns-a-blazin’ without any idea what you’re doing, you’re going to die fast. Some ships do great damage, but only when enemies are within a certain distance so they have a harpoon or teleport system. Other ships can only do decent damage under special circumstances, such as when the Assassin uses its Ambush ability. The Sniper does great damage at a distance, but is essentially a sitting duck otherwise. Each ship has one or more attached strategies that let it fulfill what it was designed for, and the game requires that you know and understand those strategies or you’ll have a bad time.
There is an armor system in the game, to help provide some variety to combat. If you’re intelligent about it, you can move your ship in such a way that the enemy won’t be able to focus on one side of your armor. For example, if you’re trying to run away from an enemy ship it can focus on your rear and as it hits you, your rear armor will deteriorate. The further your armor deteriorates, the more damage hits to the rear will cause. To help counter-act that, you could turn to the side. Of course, because the game takes place in space, the play area is three dimensional – you can go up and down as well as turn, which provides a lot of opportunity for ambush or escape.
When there’s a battle between four ships, things begin to become a bit hectic. When that number increases to the maximum of ten ships in battle – which often happens around Gamma station, the center control point that offers a buff if captured – your team is going to have to be in harmony because an ‘Ace’ in Fractured space can be just as devastating as in other MOBA-style games. With lasers, missiles, and tiny fighters swarming everywhere, it’s very likely that you’ll get confused during your first few matches. It’s that mayhem that makes the battles so intense and fun for me – I love big space battles and with the massive capital ships in Fractured Space, that’s exactly what you get.
Right now, Fractured Space is available on Steam Early Access for $10. This is one of those games where I can say that, if you like Space games, you won’t regret the purchase. Despite being in alpha, the game is still playable and, like I’ve said several times, quite fun. Perhaps if you’ve been waiting for Dreadnought, Fractured Space can be the game to hold you over. Personally, I plan to follow Fractured Space closely and continue to play it as it develops.