Gangs of Space – First Look
Gangs of Space is a Rougelike Shoot-Em-Up with lofty ambitions. With roguelikes being known for permanent character death, and shoot-em-ups being known for near instantaneous death, Gangs of Space finds itself wedged between the concepts. So how does it feel in execution?
Gangs of space is an interesting blend of genres, but to fully understand I feel like I should give some context. For those of you who don’t know:
The term rogue-like is used to describe a style of game, usually in the RPG genre, that involves exploring procedurally generated dungeons. The genre is also notorious for featuring permanent character death; this means that once you lose your character, it and all its experience and equipment are also gone. These types of games encourage trial and error, as well as build experimentation.
A shoot-em-up, or shmup as they’re called, is a genre of shooting game. Shmups usually employ a top-down perspective and feature tons of enemies and projectiles on screen at once. This sea of projectiles which almost always cause instant death, is what earned the genre the nickname “bullet hell” shooters.
Gangs of Space is a fusion of these concepts as well as the MMORPG genre. Players build a starter ship and explore procedurally generated instances. Each instance has several regions, and each region contains several hotspots. Your goal is to liberate the regions and gain control of them for the Empire. To do this, you fly into a hotspot and stay within its bounds. A capture meter begins to fill, and once it’s full, you’ve liberated the hotspot, and you receive credits as a reward. The more time you spend and enemies you kill while you’re in the hotspot, the more credits you’ll receive.
Dying in Gangs of Space is permanent. Once you lose a ship, it’s gone forever. As a balance for this, you can build multiple ships that fill spots in your hangar. There are two classes of ship currently; an attacker class and a support ship. Each model and class has its own stats. Leveling up as you play further accentuates these stats with additional perks and crew members. You also receive random loot drops to add to your ship. These range from new guns to new shields and batteries. Ships use moba-style abilities which you can customize as you progress to help you deal with more and tougher enemies.
Visually, Gangs of Space doesn’t do much, but it really doesn’t need to. The game has nice particle and lighting effects on the bullets, and that’s most of what you’re going to see during play. The more simplified visuals also allow for more ships and bullets on screen at one time. This should really be the focus when you’re trying to create a shmup, and it’s executed well here.
Ships control well, and the game makes looted parts feel important. As you grow and gain better weapons, engines, and stat upgrades, you can feel the impact that it has on how the ship controls. Tighter and faster turning, better rate of fire and range, and bigger shields are all noticeably different as you upgrade them. This is super important as a sense of progression and differentiating playstyles is what makes the rogue-like genre fun. When one ship dies, it’s a chance to try a new build or a new ship. You build new ships with credits you win through gameplay. You can only build new ones though once you unlock the hangar slots for them by leveling up or fulfilling certain other requirements.
As you gain levels in Gangs of Space, you unlock new tiers of space. Each new tier contains more difficult enemies with new bullet patterns and larger health pools. You’ll want to team up with other players in each area to help you with anything in the third tier and beyond until your ship is boss ready. Even the most seasoned shmup players reported in chat losing multiple ships to bosses in the game in the same day.
The difficulty scaling in the game is a little strange, however. The first tier and a half is easy. Once you get into tier three, the game ramps from easy to very challenging. I haven’t reached a player level (or level of comfort, for that matter) to even try tier 4, though I unlocked the ability to go there at the end of my latest play session. This is, again, why teaming with other players is super important.
The game has no PVP modes. All the multiplayer content in the game focuses on cooperative play. Seizing enemy zones with others is not only fun, but makes the much harder tiers of the game more palatable for new players. There’s no need to worry about kill-stealing, either. If you damage an enemy, you’ll receive XP for its defeat. The game rewards credits for zones captured based on time spent in the zone and enemies killed while you’re there, so those who do the most work will receive the most rewards.
Gangs of Space’s only source of monetization is through founder’s packs, which support the further development of the game. Each earns you a ton of credits and exclusive ship skins. The more you spend on your founder’s packs, the more credits, ship skins, and additional hangar slots you receive. It’s a nice incentive for people who enjoy the game and want to support it, but there’s nothing in any of the packs that affects gameplay in a meaningful way.
Gangs of Space’s problems are few, but need some ironing out. For one, the AI in early zones sometimes stops working altogether for bursts of time. Ships will suddenly stop their flight path and quit shooting. This didn’t happen in tier three areas, but was an occasional occurrence in the first two sections of the game. Additionally the awkward difficulty curve can feel off-putting if you’re new to the shmup genre. The biggest flaw for Gangs of Space is in the pacing of the progression. XP gain is slow, and useful loot drops are rare. This can make gearing up for a new area feel like a massive grind. This won’t be an issue for you if you’re a huge fan of shmup gameplay, but I found it to be a drag after a while.
All in all, for a game developed by two people, Gangs of Space is impressive. It’s a quick, pick up and play rogue-like that capitalizes on the frantic and super-tense gameplay of Shmups and combines it with the huge raid-like structure and community of MMORPGS. If you’re a fan of arcade-style space shooters and hardcore RPGs, you’ll want to check it out right away.
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