In recent years, it seems that RTS games have been replaced with either MMO base building strategy games or MOBAs. According to Why Aren’t There More MMORTS Games, this appears to be the evolution of the RTS into the MMO scene, since ideas like cash shops and permanent bonuses don’t mix well with the RTS ideology. This new breed of MMO strategy game allows players to act in a persistent world, that can generally be accessed any time via smartphone or computer, and often offers access to perks or bonuses for a fee. Initially popping up as a Kickstarter, Astro Lords: Oort Cloud is a niche space exploration MMO strategy game combining a persistent world, exploration, base building and RTS style PvP.
Similar to games such as Astro Empires and Clash of Clans, Astro Lords: Oort Cloud puts players on a mobile asteroid that they can use to build weapons, harvest resources, train generals and research new technologies. Players can capture new asteroids and have to defend their own by upgrading their StarBase. A few things that really seem to separate Astro Lords from the competition are the real-time combat, cross platform access (PC, Android and iOS devices) and the mobile base design. Once a player completes the tutorial, and researches the “piloting an asteroid” science, they can move their asteroid throughout the Oort Cloud and interact with other players and computer controlled aliens.
A STEP ABOVE THE REST
Compared with many other MMORTS style games for PC and mobile devices, Astro Lords already feel superior in terms of visuals and game mechanics. While the Unity 3D engine doesn’t produce mind-shattering graphics, it is a nice change of pace from the usual cookie-cutter 2D graphics that similar mobile games in this genre often posses. Simply being able to spin my asteroid around to get a better view of my colony and watch my Cyborgs do their thing is a really neat touch as opposed to watching a grid of numbers or lifeless buildings.
Once in the Oort Cloud players have an immense amount of freedom and can interact with other players in a number of ways. Each player has the ability to change their style based on how they see fit. They can make friends by creating alliances, become infamous by robbing and raiding their neighbors’ asteroids, or explore the unknown depths of space. The combat also requires more direct input and a skilled play can win battles that the AI might normally not. Players can conduct raids with up to six ships, five of them AI controlled, and bring five more allies along for the ride. Even though players only control a single ship, they can choose the loadouts for the other five which can drastically affect their role on the battlefield.
NOT QUITE PERFECT
Just because Astro Lords looks prettier and has better combat than many similar games doesn’t make without gaping flaws. Initially the game seems quite straight forward, but things get complicated rather quickly and the potential for a gap between players is huge. The tutorial does provide a good idea about how to build your asteroid and the basics of combat, but it doesn’t go as far in depth as to fighting alien bosses or how to find new asteroids to capture. Due to the slow, methodical pace of the game a few wrong turns in the beginning can set the pace for weeks; this stress is compiled with having only one server for multiple platforms.
Secondly, one of the more toxic issues with mobile games has continued with Astro Lords, and that is the game is essentially pay to win. Within a week of playing I had already spent 25,000 Deuterium, the premium currency and equivalent to $150. Most of it was spent increasing build time, training generals, and increasing the efficiency of my asteroid. A small portion of my Deuterium went toward unique weapons in the store and a couple of officers/runes to give me an edge in battle, but everything I bought gave me some sort of direct advantage in game. This means that over a few months it will be possible to spend thousands of dollars and have an obvious advantage over players who have spent less. Being able to increase the strength generals while players sleep and build more structures while they’re away are just a few of the perks that can be purchased with premium currency; there are even a few science skills that require it to conclude the research. Conversely it is possible to obtain the currency through quests and missions but the accumulation is comparatively slow.
A GOOD IDEA BUT STILL NEEDS WORK
Astro Lords truly does show a lot of promise and improves upon a relatively niche genre, but it still needs some more thought put into it. Having only one server and one Oort Cloud for players to interact in sounds like fun at first, but the longer the game exists the more new players will feel overwhelmed and alienated. A good way to fix this would be to incorporate new servers after a given amount of time or separate Oort Clouds based on player strength or time since their account was created.
Additionally, more emphasis should be put on player interaction. During my time in the beta I was only able to make contact with a few players in the Oort Cloud and even less in the Battle Arena. Player interaction appears to be a key component of Astro Lords, so it should be easier to actually find and communicate with them. Finally, the payment model should really be looked at. Small monthly fees that provide specific benefits are usually less intrusive than an endless supply of bonuses for cash. Allowing players to buy an essentially limitless amount of power could turn the player base into a few small groups of elites instead of a large, fairly streamlined population.
- Great visuals for a mobile game
- Interactive combat system
- Expansive player environment
- Needs more direction
- Pay to win
Trailer:Related: Astro Lords, Preview, RTS