By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Fractured Space is an interesting beast. It is a MOBA involving humongous starships, and is reminiscent of games that aren’t really even out yet, like Dreadnought. It’s a concept I love because I love science fiction, huge spaceships and lots of variety in my ways to obliterate my foes. It’s free to play, and this fueled the big fears I had going in: Is this going to be an endless, hate-filled grind where my sodium levels hit peaks I’ve never since suffered? Is it going to be reasonably easy to acquire ships, or am I going to wind up being a sentient rage-cloud? It’s a little of both to be totally honest. The long and the short of it is this: the gameplay is terrific. The ships look great, the combat is fantastic, and while it has no “creep” or minions/tinier starships to blow up to help you progress, it does have lanes, objectives, and bases to destroy. So it is still a MOBA. But I am afraid that while I love the concept, the climb is going to be a whole lot like Sisyphus endlessly pushing a boulder up a hill, unless you play and win frequently. Not to mention, RNG being on your side, that will help too. With that in mind, let’s get to know Fractured Space a little better!
The tutorial is fantastic. You are required to play it if you want to go anywhere in this game, and that’s a great idea. This isn’t an incredibly complicated game, but it’s not League, SMITE, or even Heroes of Newerth. This is Fractured Space, and commanding a starship is much different from playing Tryndamere [though it might not really feel like it]. And you can press O or K to get the variety of buttons you’re going to utilize in this game. And boy howdy, are there a lot of buttons. Movement is pretty simple, WASD, Space to elevate yourself, control to lower the ship on the 3rd dimension. You have a mound of buttons for different attacks, shift to Warp Jump to other parts of the map, and so much more. It’s much easier to just play the tutorial and get a feel for how everything works. The only awkward part I really had with the button layout was using the CTRL button to lower. It didn’t seem to like my Right CTRL for whatever reason. Not game breaking, just a little annoying.
The gameplay is fun, that’s not something I can deny. But there is something to mention: at the outset, this game has no story mode. You can play vs/with bots, play Conquest, play Frontline, or play Ranked. Those are the only modes and I have not seen more than one map so far, just the same asteroid field over and over again. That worries me. While it doesn’t need tons of different maps, just maybe some randomization in space to make it feel different, I don’t want to stare at the same thing every match. That’s important. Otherwise, no matter how great the game feels, I’m going to get bored. And boredom = uninstalling. Combat is sharp, though. You have two major weapons [LMB/RMB] and can scope in using middle mouse button.
Gameplay for the main mode [Conquest] is pretty simple, and the game gives you the guided tour. You have two lanes, Alpha and Beta Quadrants, separated by the Gamma Quadrant in the middle. Each quadrant has, for lack of a better word, a point on the map where you can warp to. Your bases are in their own separate areas, which also have to be warped to. There’s a cooldown on the warp and you’re not invincible during it, so while you can use it to get out of a jam, you might not survive if you’re too low. They are the teardrop shaped objects on the mini map, so they stand out well enough. However, it is important to be aware that you cannot warp from Alpha to Beta. You have to either go to Gamma first or go back to your base/enemies base. The recall has a pretty long cooldown, though, so it all boils down to how bad you need it. Your end game is to destroy the enemy base to claim victory. You can’t just fly in and start shooting at their base, oh no! You have to capture the base at the end of Alpha/Beta to be able to warp into the enemy HQ. It’s a nice, simple concept which becomes more and more complicated with tactics and strategy added to the mix. That’s the real key: Can you think ahead of the other team? Just bulldozing a lane is rarely going to get you wins.
There are Mining Stations in the middle of the Alpha/Beta sections [smaller circles, compared to the bigger circle] which help you gain levels via resource farming and serve as tactical points to fight over. You heal at the larger stations in the Alpha/Beta sections, and that’s also where you upgrade your Attack/Defense/Utility stats of your ship at certain levels [3/6/9]. You can increase Offense/Defense/Utility which is a much-needed boost. But just because you have access to an upgrade doesn’t mean you should just flee a fight! Be aware of the situation around you in every match.
The Gamma Section is for Fractured Space’s version of the Baron/Fire Giant buff from other MOBAs. It offers a ton of power and absolutely must be contested. Each of these types of areas has a large colored aura or sphere around them that begins conquering once you enter. The buff of Gamma comes up at intervals, and will disappear if you die, so make sure you get out safe and sound.
There’s also a more streamlined, faster mode called Frontline. It only has one sector to explore, three Mining Stations, but there’s a catch! Sure, you have to capture the enemy base, but after 12 minutes, repairs and respawns vanish. It becomes an intense, interstellar Sudden Death match, which I love as someone who mains support because I can be the last person still healing! However, your ships are randomized. This could be a great way to figure out what you want to do in the game as the main role. Ranked is on the way as well, but I have not had access to that mode just yet. Speaking of which, let’s get down to ships and such.
There are three corporations, each with their own design philosophy, weapon/armor tendencies, and builds. There are so many damn ships. So many! You can spend Platinum [real money currency] or Credits, and there’s quite a gap between the two. The average I noticed on Platinum was 100-600, and 100,000-600,000 Credits. Whew. Though in one sitting I managed to make around 100k credits simply by winning matches, it’s still a grind. A hellish grind. This is a Free-to-play game, and I do fear it’s going to fall into that trap that many games of this style have already fallen into. While there are tons of amazing premium ships, they’re going to need Platinum to really make them viable to acquire. You do start with three decent Starter Ships, and to their credit, you can try out starships in the Firing Range against other AI controlled ships. It will let you test the ship so you know if it’s going to be something you are interested in buying. Nothing is worse than spending days farming or spending real money on something that turns out to suck for you!
What kinds of ships are there in Fractured Space?
- Assault: Light, Medium, Heavy. Do you want badass guns and lots of them? This is the ship for you! They are packing serious manly firepower and come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are weak but have tons of burst, cloaking devices, and body doubles. Some are just corvettes that like bombarding people with tremendous lasers.
- Defense: Tankier ships, also Light, Medium Heavy. These are the more utility/helpful tank ships. Bodyblocking, and in general, being a nuisance. Most of the time I like being a tank, but I didn’t quite enjoy it the same way in Fractured Space. But they are powerful. Heavy Defense ships can take a beating and still dole out very impressive damage. And few things are more annoying than a Light Support tagging along with a Medium to Heavy Defense Cruiser.
- Support: Light/Medium/Heavy supports have it all! They can use Smart/Homing technology, healing beams, healing waves, defensive barriers, and my personal favorite, disabling! Being able to disable the offensive or defensive options of your foe can make a fight for Gamma very very fast.
These ships aren’t stock, though. You can buy new weapons and switch loadouts as you need. They cost Platinum or Credits, but the Platinum cost is very low [seems to be about 80 Platinum on average]. Speaking of loadouts, you can also have a Crew on your ship which further boosts the stats of your rig. There are lots of options too, but only five slots so once you start collecting them, set up several teams for whichever ships you want to run. You get them from successfully completing missions [play x games, etc], or from a purchase at the store, which will randomly roll one for you. The Mission rewards might give you a new crew member or they might give you credits, a booster, or something better. You can have a Captain as well as four others, each filling a particular but vital role on the ship. They work sort of like Runes/Masteries do in other games, in that each crewmember affects a few different things. They also speak in matches, which entertained me endlessly.
There is, however, a caveat, an unfortunate one that returns to the F2P beast. How do you get these characters? You get the card that they are on, and you spend DNA to bring them to life and into your service. How do you get DNA? Other than the Captain/Commanders packs, you can convert credits into DNA, but boy howdy is that price steep. And these packs you get commanders in are randomly drawn. You’re going to be playing [and hopefully winning] a lot in order to hire these people. Or you can spend money on the Starter Packs to start with better ships, better resources, skins, etc. Would I do that right out of the gate? Absolutely not. I’d try the game first and see if it can hold your interest.
I want to stress that this is a team game. In many MOBAs, there are characters that can just walk onto a map, 1v5 the other team and just carry the game on their shoulders. And sure, the assault ships will have the brunt of the kills, but they can’t just go in alone. You shouldn’t just pick whatever ships you want and fly out. This is a game of tactics and strategy. You can press the middle mouse button to enter “Sniper Mode”, where you zoom in and take better aim. You have a pretty large reticle to use, but since this is a game using starships, it’s all about skillshots. There are a few “smart” weapons, but for the most part? It’s all about how good you are. I find myself using the sniper mode almost exclusively when entering combat, and quickly scoping out when I’m not firing.
Build a balanced team, because it may be fun to have five Heavy Assault ships, it’s not necessarily going to win you matches. The cooldowns are long between respawning, and your skill cooldowns aren’t fast either. Are you about to die, and are a huge ship that’s going to explode? Try and position yourself near the enemy ships/dump your rockets if you have them. You can and will get kills post-mortem. You might be dead, but at least the enemy is too, and the more ships you have vs. theirs makes your push for a victory that much easier. There are tendencies I’ve noticed. Teams that are balanced and communicate win far more than teams that just do whatever-the-hell they want. It seems to me that many matches start off with teams on opposite sectors [Alpha or Beta], pushing it all the way to end, and then moving from there. If you can stay on the enemy base long enough without its guns not melting you, and destroy their defenses? You can make the game very short. I wouldn’t count on that being a thing that happens often.
Space . . . The Final Frontier? 3/5 Good
Honestly, this game is fun. The gameplay is incredibly sharp, there are so many damn ships, and each one is special. The skins are interesting, the variety of changes you can make to the weapons/utilities of your ships is manifold, and while you are playing as a fairly large ship, I didn’t feel like I was going nowhere fast. Controls are easy to get used to, and the matches don’t take forever. I don’t think I’ve had many that went past 15-20 minutes. No hour and twenty-minute matches that are drug on by petty, rude people. And if you want it faster still, play Frontline! However I am terrified of how grindy it’s going to be. I don’t want to spend a week playing in my off-time just to get one ship. At least I can try it to see what I think.
It’s a unique MOBA, and while there aren’t a lot of modes or maps just yet, I have a feeling it’s going to keep growing. I’d check it out, and if you decide you really want to play it, but don’t have the time to really spend, that’s where the Starter packs come in. Does that make it Pay to Win? Possibly. I had fun using the starter ships too though. Not pay to win, but certainly, pay to go faster. I don’t mind spending money on something I enjoy, but I don’t want to always have to spend money just to play.
+ Solid, sharp gameplay. Each ship type plays different, being able to zoom in and customize just makes it a blast.
+ Tons of different ships to unlock and more coming all of the time. There will literally be something for everyone.
+ A very visually appealing game. The ships are gorgeous, the areas you will/will not be in are very clearly defined.
– Vagueness: Other than the minimap, I had a hard time knowing if I had finished major objectives.
– The Grind is Real: Every crew member I’ve seen has cost 3k DNA to bring them to life. It’s 134k credits to get 1500 DNA. 7500 DNA is 674k credits. See where I’m going? A fucking slog. Having to choose between a crewmember or two and a goddamn ship is vexing. The prices are a trifle unreasonable.
– Not much in the way of game modes or variety in the terrain just yet.