Space, The final frontier. At least it felt like it until recently where a resurgence in the theme seemed to take hold of the industry and we began seeing a far greater number of space orientated games. Fractured Space by Edge Case Games is trying to make an impact while going against a herd of space games including titles like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous, which seems like a hard thing to do. On top of that it’s also attempting a MOBA style of gameplay. It’s a tough sell that I wonder if they are going to be able to pull off. If you’re asking yourselves the same question, this Fractured Space review is the right place to be.
Ready for Launch
Fractured Space is officially releasing today after spending a little over two years in Early Access. It has been a reasonably long Early Access period that has seen numerous updates, changes and revisions to its systems that have changed the experience immensely. Rather large changes that have changed the structure and style as play, and the underlying mechanics. Because of this time and community input we have a title now that is more focused in its aim and what feels to be more refined gameplay that revolves around this arena format.
Instead of a single large playing field like its cousin Dreadnought, Fractured Space contains various lanes you aim to control, plus a specific objective to assault as a team of 5 large Battleships. It’s a theme that conjures a certain image and the gameplay exemplifies this feeling. Large hulking metal beasts slowing edging across the vastness of space towards each other. Sending off arcs of lasers, and flashes of cannon fire across at each other while slowing maneuvering to get the perfect shot or to disperse the fire against their own hulls. It plays out rather slowly but in the heat of battle with several ships moving around, activating skills and firing at each other it feels absolutely exhilarating.
The game is incredibly gorgeous as well. Built with the Unreal engine but polished to an absolute shine, the visuals highlight the best of space warfare between the diverse environments and intricate metal behemoths. It is a vibrant design that contains a lot of colour and depth. I am surprised just how well they were able to create such intense visuals that highlight the various obstacles and ships against the beautiful expanse of space. The amount of detail on each and every battleships is rather astounding as well. Each and every curve and conduit detailed. Lights and weapon systems blink and move around and so much more. It is a visual marvel.
You play out on an arena that is a little more simplified than the general MOBA; contesting corridors while attempting to attack the enemies’ base and defend you own. It has a PvE mode where you are able to face off against AI with or without others, as well as two PvP modes: Conquest and Frontline. It’s great that they have a PvE mode for those learning but right now it feels too unrewarding as you only gain experience and funds from playing PvP. It would have been nice to level up a little and maybe get one or two extra ships before venturing into the PvP first but I understand their wanting to focus the playerbase into the PvP mode.
The main mode is Conquest which sees you fight over two main corridors that each have a staging point for both teams and 3 mining stations in between. Controlling the mining stations helps your team to gain more experience over time, which in turn leads to your ships getting certain upgrades. Gain enough and you begin to specialize your ship for attack, defense, and utility. Controlling the enemies’ staging point then lets you begin to attack their home base which has its own defenses to be destroyed. In the middle of the map is the gamma outpost which activates a couple times over the course of the match and offers a huge buff to the controlling team.
This simple design does offer a lot of strategy as to how you, and your team attempt to attack and control the map that will change over time to counter the enemy and take advantage of these mechanics. However it doesn’t feel much like a MOBA while playing, more like the game consisted entirely of Jungling gameplay with the constant movement around a diverse, and rather open map while trying to surprise your enemy. It’s all about getting into the best position of attack while avoiding your enemy at the same time and the maps with their various obstacles, space stations, and design support this gameplay.
Strategy and Skill
The movement itself has obviously taken its cue from Naval Combat games with how slow turning and motion in general is, and how you line up your own firing arcs while avoiding the enemy. But with the added axis of movement and going up and down it adds a whole new level of tactical gameplay. Movement is incredibly important because of this. Knowing when and where to move as well as constantly changing your own movement styles to avoid incoming fire as well as taking advantage of the terrain is paramount to success and well, not sending off a shower of your own fiery debris into space.
The shooting feels just as slow and methodical as the movement in many ways but incredibly reliant on precision. Your main weapons are activated with the left and right mouse buttons, and each follow the cursor as to where they will fire. The problem is that the weapon systems often take time to catch up to where your cursor is depending on how fast it is moving. This is shown by a large circle and dot that follows the targeting reticule so slow, careful aiming is often required.
Each ship also has an armor component on the different parts of its hull, so aiming and continuing to hit one area begins to increase the amount of damage the enemy is taking. It’s a mechanic that rewards planned and thoughtful movement as well as maneuvering around the enemy in order to continue that damage in a specific area while avoiding too much damage in one part of your own hull. It is gameplay that exemplifies skillful, thoughtful play rather than absent-minded attacking.
Each ship also has a few skills they are able to activate in combat. Some of these are damaging skills as well, and mostly ones that lock on to the enemy like a missile barrage but there are also various utility style skills that buff your team while affecting the enemy, offer greater defensive capabilities, or various utility elements like uncovering cloaked ships or repairing your team. Each have a reasonable cooldown though, and while encounters between ships can last some time you only get a chance to use these skills a few times so carefully activating them to get the most impact is important.
The Customisation Crutch
There is a large amount of ships to choose from so far and each have their own specific weapons and skills to use and take advantage of. Each ship does feel relatively unique to use in combat due to the range of weapons available and the various specialties as well as factors like the range of attack, the style of play, and the utility skills they offer. Because of this each match and battle felt relatively unique as you were constantly having to react to different ships, situations and skills.
Each ship also offers a certain range of customisation to their weapons and systems that change their functionality to a certain extent and which you are able to switch between before a battle. It’s just small changes to what you already have, but enough to gain a little more control over the ship you’re using and the tactics you employ.
However, there is something about the ship design and weapon naming conventions that make the whole customisation system far more confusing and enigmatic than it really should be. The various elements of space jargon used isn’t that helpful and while it does offer you the statistics of the weapon systems and an overview of the difference, that isn’t enough to help you understand how the changes will play and feel in combat.
It is also a system that makes it a lot harder to gauge your enemy when in combat. With the other MOBAs like LoL and DotA, the defined design of characters and animations make it far easier to learn and understand your enemies and be able to play with and counter them effectively. It helps you to be able to choose characters with more certainty and work towards your own particular interests and ability. With Fractured Space it feels more like a collection of faceless metal husks and I have a hard time distinguishing the difference between them. Especially when you are trying to understand your enemy from a much larger distance.
The skills aren’t as easily observable from a distance either. Some have an obvious animation like missiles and torpedos but others are far too obscure to notice and react to effectively. They do have the icons for skills over enemy ships too, but only after you are able to lock on and these don’t seem very unique or intuitive either. Just bland mono colored lines. With not being able differentiate between ships effectively it’s hard to know what you are looking for, and have to react to in combat. While you would be able to learn this over time it would take much longer and feels too frustrating and overwhelming as a new player in the meantime.
There is a crew system as well. A set of cards that indicate various people in your employ that affect the ship in various ways related to their position. You have slots for 5 positions on your bridge crew with each offering 3 bonuses related to the position; such as a Navigator giving bonuses to movement and speed.
There are nine different roles as well with each having a specific focus that allow you to specialize your ships and focus and it’s relatively easy to create and save specific sets and then switch between them. The one problem I have is that it feels like there is too little differentiation within a specific role so once you have one particular set you like, there is very little reason to change. You also don’t get many extra officers while playing either, and saving currency seems to take way too long.
Fractured Space is a free to play title so you can expect some limitations regarding your options and gameplay but mostly it doesn’t feel too restrictive. In the beginning you are offered a choice between 3 ships with different play styles that are effective enough in combat although, once you begin playing against others that have perfected the play on restricted ships it makes you feel a little like a second class citizen. It showcases the haves and have nots as you battle against what appear like superior ships with more interesting weapons and abilities, that easily tear through your own. This may be a little imagined but I also think there are certain balance issues between ships that magnify this.
You do earn money for each win and loss in the PvP modes, a small but probably reasonable amount as you can earn another ship after a few hours play, and continue to earn them. The newer ships though are incredibly expensive and will take a lot more time to gain. You can also spend money to earn these ships with the price ranging from $5 to $10 which is a comparable price to other games but one in which is a tough sell in such a crowded market, and for a game that is trying to gain players. There are also cosmetic skins to purchase around the same price and currency booster that can be bought individually, for several days, or a month.
Fractured Space perfectly plays into the design and theme of these space hulks with combat that feels impactful, and rewards planned, strategic play. It uses the mechanics and design of space to create engaging, rich environments that encourage movement. The laning and control mechanics create gameplay with a surprising amount of depth.
It isn’t exactly trying anything new with its Battleship gameplay, and it feels like something I’ve seen and played many times before. Its MOBA mechanics feel like a tired trend the industry needs to get over as well but Fractured space does refine and utilise these mechanics reasonably well to create gameplay that feels unique to it.
The community is generally not very communicative from what I’ve seen, for good or bad although when they are it is generally supportive which is good to see. I was going to say that the playerbase wasn’t large enough to support the game as I had experienced large wait times but the closer it gets to release the less this becomes a problem
I would also like to point out that the game plays out extremely well under the strain of larger ping so picking different regions to play with isn’t much of an issue and does improve wait times. After disconnecting once (my computer’s fault), after reloading I was able to reconnect straight back into the match and in place of the AI that took over.
It is a gorgeous game with a wonderful vibrant map design that epitomises the best of space, and the map design is well planned and executed too with the various obstacles around the map to use as cover. The level of detail on the ships is just incredible as well.
The sound design is reasonably spot on with engine noises and gun fire booming around the battlefield. The static discharge of skills and the hum of lasers scratching at the hull create the illusion in your mind of the epic battle playing out before you. The music isn’t exactly enticing but nor is it annoying; just a certain overarching hum that plays it in the background.
Value for Money 7/10
Well it is free to play and I would consider it well worth your time to download and get to know the game a little. The gameplay will keep you hooked initially with just the basics alone. The price for ships is comparable to other games although for a product like this it could be considered a little high; but apart from the credit boosters there really is no usual free-to-play tricks within so it can be overlooked. There are a couple packs you are able to purchase as well that unlock skins, ships, and credits that are reasonably priced although there have been recent 50% off sales so keep that in mind.
Overall Fractured space is an interesting mix of naval warfare combined with the aesthetic of space that highlights the importance of movement and taking advantage of the diverse map design. Its simplified MOBA mechanics offer a surprising amount of depth as to how you maneuver and attack, as well as coordinate with the team to take control points, get experience and assault the enemy base. Unfortunately due to it’s theme and aesthetic it’s just not a design that feels intuitive, and as easily understood as its MOBA cousins which hurts my own enjoyment. It obscures how much you are able to understand in combat, and the level of strategy you can employ while learning and this may hurt short-term interest. The playerbase is also rather small at the moment too which due to its multiplayer focus, and unrewarding PvE mode may result in issues later on after release.
+Detailed and beautiful visuals
+Tactical movement and shooting
+Inherent strategy with territory control
-Lack of cues and understanding regarding ships and abilities
-Lacking customisation options with ships and crew