Playing Star Nomad has made me realize something about myself. A few things, actually. One is that I have absolutely nothing against trading flesh dolls – robots made to do the nasty with – and delivering high-end food at the same time. Or illegal contraband, for that matter. Especially if it means upgrading my ship. Nothing against it at all. It also makes me realize that I am glad I will most likely be dead by the time we truly reach space. It is like the ocean for me: I want to know what is out there in its unknowns, but I don’t want to be the one in it. And if Star Nomad is right, then space will be filled with a lot of seedy people, sketchy trades, and people that want to blow you up for no reason.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I found myself getting eaten quite a bit. I did some eating myself, don’t get me wrong, but for my first few hours into this foray, I was nothing more than a confused little kid on his first day of school. Everything was new and I knew no one, plus there is this strange blonde woman telling me things that I need to do. Things were going well, for a little bit. Trading goods here and there, getting my ship upgraded and saving to buy a new model of ship, and just when I started to get comfortable – cocky – I came across some space pirates and realized just how pathetic I was.
This was all within my first hour of playing Star Nomad. It is a game that is not scared to put you in your place and show you just how unprepared for everything you truly are. You have to work for your success, and I mean that. If you want to continue onward and be something other than a glass ship just waiting to be shattered into a million pieces, then you will have to earn that. That may entail trading things, or carrying out various missions to earn credits so that you can continue to improve your ship. It is a system that does not hand things to you, but for those that put forth the diligence and hard work, they will find themselves rewarded in some fashion.
Star Nomad is a grand game with plenty of places to visit, and a lot of things to learn. When it comes to trading, you need to know what location has the highest demand for what. You have to think as a businessman at all times, while also ready to fight, or run, for your life. In truth, Star Nomad can be a lot like taking care of a second life, albeit one that you can put on pause whenever need be. This is something that may turn some people away from it, if they don’t have the time needed to put forth. Playing in small bursts usually feels as though nothing is being accomplished.
Halfgeek Studios has also managed to take a surprisingly complex game and present it to the player in a very minimalist style. Controls are easy, all you need to do is point and click. Entering stations is handled by a mere click, activating such attacks are handled by clicking on the icon. It’s super simple, and much appreciated, seeing as how you have plenty of other things to learn and master, so there’s no need for the controls to get in the way. Most of this is probably thanks to the fact that the game was first designed for Android devices, but this does not hinder anything in the PC build of the game.
It was easy for me to get sidetracked and stray away from the story, not because it is bad, but because of the amount of things I had available for me to do. I mean, those flesh dolls aren’t going to deliver themselves. Then tack on the fact that I had quests available, and the continuous urge to locate a higher paying location for the goods I was carrying, and the hours seemed to melt away. Disappointingly, while there is a story and ultimately a side to be chosen, it takes a backseat to the gameplay; so at the same time, if it were not included at all I would not have missed it.
There is also an insane feeling of “other things going on” in Star Nomad. There is usually some sort of contact going on, be it patrol ships checking in on you, other pilots warning of space pirates that have been spotted, and the countless ships zipping by and going on about their business. It feels like a populated world and in some ways borderline MMO, just from the sheer amounts of activity that occur onscreen.
The graphics are a bit strange at times, mainly through character profile pictures. Some look proportioned and solid, while others don’t. One of the first you will encounter looks like Sailor Moon with a head stricken with elephantiasis. They are also bright and colorful, and very, very anime-ish, and at times didn’t feel like they lended themselves to the subject matter at hand. Ship designs look great, however, and even have a bit of a retro vibe working for them. The background images are almost the equivalent of googling the word “space,” or “galaxy,” and then browsing through the image results. At the same time, they did properly show me that my current location was space.
Star Nomad is one of those games where, if I am not careful, I will find myself sitting in front of my computer at four in the morning. It’s addictive and can have a steep learning curve, but it is simple enough that nearly anyone could approach it and not feel intimidated. There are a few shortcomings here and there, such as the time that one may have to put forth to feel accomplishment, but those that do put forth the effort will find it rewarding. While the story can bring forth some rather epic fights, it isn’t needed to enjoy the game. Most of my fondest moments with Star Nomad come from the times that I would simply sit down and do whatever I wanted.
The game also costs $2.95, and I have gotten more hours out of it than I have many games that I’ve dropped $60 on.
Star Nomad is currently available for Android devices, Windows, Mac, and will be coming to iOS devices at a later date. The PC version can be found over at Indie Game Stand for only $2.95, and the Android version can be downloaded from the Google Play Store at no cost.