Posted: March 10, 2014
This is the kind of game that, had it received proper financial support, marketing and translation back in the day - could now compete on the market with such titles as Grand Theft Auto and Sims. Or, at the very least - with X-com, for the top TBS. The reason is that the game is purely unique - not only in its gameplay that has no analogue, but also in the mixture of genres that together present a picture of indescribable detail. Sure, the game is pretty much old 2006 version(which was old even by that time), because that's the best fans and SNK can do with their resources, but its value is not in the shiny graphics. Well, what can it offer?
1. Turn-based RPG\Strategy Space combat. Advanced character development system, both focusing on polishing your ship and your skills: many ways to customize and affect your gameplay with acryn items, stimulants, artifacts, micromodules etc. Various settings to influence space environment - from total sandbox to hardcore survival. The only probable downside(which is also a "trademark" of the game) - is the reverse difficulty. Most RPG\Strategies give you an easy headstart. Enemies are simple, you just walk over them. Even if not all RPGs get difficult in the end, the case of Space Rangers is that the enemies and survivability is hardest in the beginning, and is gradually made easier as you advance. There are ways to balance it, either with custom settings or cheats, but for those who had troubles beginning or look for endgame diversity... you might be a little disappointed.
Edit: As noted in the late-written section below, there is now Advanced Adjustment, which does help you establish a harder and more intense gameplay. There are also new enemy ships to offer some challenge. But my point remains - the game isn't about "endgame grind and bossruns", for better and for worse.
2. Magnificent text quests. Yes, this is something of the Stone Age of PC\console gaming - the process of READING to entertain. And what's worse - with all due respect to translator team, they could only do so much. There is a a big gap between feeling the linguistic marvel of text quests in russian and english versions, and it is something that should've been worked on by translators from Blizzard. But nevertheless, translation is understandable, humor is interpreted - and for a person that doesn't get off on constant graphical action - adventuring through certain stories and solving quest puzzles will provide hours of relaxing and thrilling entertainment. Even if you take a break and return, it never gets old to drop laughing at something that got you unprepared some time in the past.
3. Real-time robot strategy battles. Although there are many guides and even basic strategies that allow to pretty much faceroll most battles, for a beginner that doesn't want his game spoiled, deciding how to outfit your robots and how to control their stupid-a** AI to win the *very rewarding* mission - will be something to put your nerve into. Graphics aren't catchy, but it's as much as needed for 3D gameplay, all the while keeping the game low-standard.
4. Arcade hyperspace battles. Now that's something even more "oldschool" than even text quests. If you are a battered veteran of arcade games of 80ies - this little game mode will be met at least as a pleasant surprise. For anyone else - it's totally optional and changeable in settings to make it easy as a cake if you so desire. However, for more hardcore blokes, especially previously mentioned veterans, there are many bonuses that can make or break the game as well as ways to utilize your weapon to survive even a certain death scenario. A properly adjusted arcade battle isn't one easy bite.
5. Record Table and hardcore replayability. There used to be a tremendously big russian forum dedicated to the game, with so much community, brainstorming and theorycrafting that could rival even those of Blizzard. Why do I say it? Well, because some people could never stop making strategies, finding shortcuts and exploits, glitches and tech. details of the system and code - and they needed a place to post it all. With system revamps and time, both many of such "glitches" and the forum are gone(archived), but the idea of hardcore replayability, as well as Record Table are still up. While it is still purely single player, if you can devote hundreds or thousands of hours of grinding in any other game - perhaps you will be interested in researching this game's nature to it's fullest.
What can be the downsides? Well, if you are a more casual PvE gamer, like me, who enjoys mostly boss-encounters and casual gameplay - you won't find that much endgame or replayability here. However, I've played this game for over a decade, from the very Space Rangers 1(which was fatefully introduced to me by a classmate) to this HD. And even if the game remained similar, this is the game that you will always remember and keep getting back to... just to submerge into this universe, a universe that could be as big as modern standards allow... but that is forced to remain Indie. Oh, and of course, if you don't prefer to pay for singleplayer games or just have too many friends to spend your time alone - this also isn't a game for you.
One thing I can say for sure: this game totally fulfils it's modest price of 25$, if you meet at least half of above-listed quotas. With all the beta accesses and indie game market, this isn't triple A. This is an old legend that has been released in HD for modern systems. It's a historical game that you are allowed to explore.
I'm glad that my zealous review has helped some people, and I've got a request to post differences from Reboot. So now I am addressing not only aspiring new players, who are not afraid to play indie games, but also english-speaking veterans, who had the opportunity to play Reboot back in the day.
Main difference, which is widely announced - is the introduction of pirates, a side-faction. What should be understood about them - is that they aren't a faction per se. They aren't quite the coalition that you can play. If Coalition loses, so do you, and they are unable to build certain bases. Their addition is virtually a different(or additional) path for you to advance in you space contest, and it comes with a vivid questline, taking players through various types of gameplay... and having quite spectacular rewards.
Another addition, which was patched in after the release - is reworked weapon customization. New weapons, brand new weapon effects - new ways to perform beautiful 2D combat. Hulls have received resistance types, so you'll have to be ready to adjust your choice of opponents.
What's more - there are new Dominator ships. Long have people asked for something really tough besides Brain Centers, so now you will have to think twice before rushing with AoE weaponry.
What can be better than that? Advanced game Adjustment! Want dominators to be even more aggressive and scale better? Want Coalition to hold to their undies for the majority of the war? Want pirates to be almost nonexistant? Or even want to skip all the technological progress and jump in the middle of high-tech galactical war? All that and much, much more. One downside, games with Advanced Adjustment are invalid for leaderboards.
To top that off, modding has been greatly expanded, thanks to Evilcoward, so enthusiasts can finally tweak the game for their own likes. Unfortunately, I don't know how modding works for english community, and I doubt that russian mods were localized, but SNK team knows English, they can at least get you in touch with russian modders and maybe think of something.
Of course, more planet battles, quests, government missions - that doesn't have to be mentioned.
Personally, I'd say the changes are worth a try, especially the Advanced Adjustment for those veterans, who always wanted harder endgame or even more intricate sandbox.