Starport Delta Review: Hurry Up and Wait
One thing that is clear when you spend some time with Starport Delta is that it's a game made with a lot of love. Built by a two-man studio, it looks great for the manpower available. Unfortunately, that small size is also all too telling in the final product, as it's a game that feels more like the start of a project than a ready-for-market release.
Starport Delta is a real-time strategy game that places you in the role of a starport commander, sent to a series of stations in the solar system to assist the commanders of those stations. The game features a pair of tutorials, an eight-mission campaign, sandbox modes, and rotating challenge scenarios.
While the game tries hard and has some decent ideas, it ultimately falls flat in too many ways. The most notable flaw is the blurred lines between those first two modes.
While the tutorial is ostensibly only two brief missions that teach you the basics of the game, in reality, it extends for most of the campaign. Each new mission simply introduces a new mechanic to your repertoire. While this is a structure that exists in many games, when you begin with so few missions, it means you spend more time learning to play the game than playing the game.
Starport Delta Review: Hurry Up and Wait
Speaking of time you spend playing the game, this is where Starport Delta struggles the most. Often, time seems to drag on interminably as you find yourself with a net-positive economy but insufficient funds to expand. You are largely left to wait for the days to pass. Others, when a series of catastrophes seem to arrive one after the other, it's a frantic dash to beat back destruction.
The game does include a mechanic to earn extra materials and cash in the form of security scans, but this too suffers from underdevelopment. New tasks only generate daily, and there's no guarantee they will offer the resource you need.
The scans themselves are also unsatisfying, with the minimal variety of types all resolving in the same manner. You click on the buildings possibly affected by the noted alert, find the icon that is different, then choose to rescue or airlock the culprit, not that those two options always make thematic sense.
Representation Problems Abound
Plot in Starport Delta is light, provided in the form of short vignettes where the playable character is given his orders for the next mission and introduced to the commander they will be assisting. Often, it is the same failson screw-up who keeps erring his way up the command chain like any good nepotism beneficiary.
At its best, these segments are groan-inducing comedy sketches. At their worst, they're something more troubling. The representation of women and Asians is poorly managed to say the least.
The most notable issue is the voice acting choices made for two Asian characters introduced in these vignettes. Both speak with what can generously be described as a poor rendition of an Asian accent by a non-native speaker. Neither would seem out of place in a raunchy 80's comedy.
Women similarly struggle for fairness in the game's campaign. It is nearly the last mission in the campaign before a female commander is introduced, and only after running through a trio of missteps. From the Asian-stereotype second in command to the cookie-cutter floozie girlfriend character to the generic female AI, Starport Delta spends the majority of your playtime treating female characters with, at best, minimal regard.
Responsive Efforts Offer Some Hope
One upside to be found in Starport Delta is the eager responsive nature of its developers. They are active on their discord channel, and within a couple of days had already released a first patch that made some significant changes.
Unfortunately, even there it felt like putting a bandaid on a blaster wound. A major issue I had in my first playthrough of the game was difficulty making out the delineation of different buildings, particularly on some darker levels. While improved visuals were noted in the release notes and noticeable in gameplay, I still found that things could have been much clearer, particularly with larger stations where a pulled back view was required.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of Starport Delta is how arbitrary it all seems. Finances in the game show your overall net-spend, however, it is not all allocated at once at the start of a day. This means that even a station in the daily green can go in the red if you spend too close to zero at the wrong time.
Starport Delta Review — The Bottom Line
- Strong character models and visuals
- Responsive development promises potential improvement
- Groan-worthy and sometimes offensive dialog
- Slow tempo grinds the game to a halt
- Lack of depth
In one mission, I bought a building I should not have. While I thought my buffer was alright, apparently, I was due for a big outlay before any new money and it caused me to go into the red. When this happens, a random building is sold. My sold building was crucial to the running of several other key buildings.
My entire economy imploded and an entire effort fell apart because I wanted to build one more residence just to speed up my progression to the required resident count. I'd completed all other mission objectives and was bored, and the punishment was death.
In another stage, my goal was to survive a pirate onslaught. With many days to go, everything went to hell, and my entire station fell apart. You can see the dire state of things above.
With my defenses taken out and my economy shot, all that was left to do was wait for death from wave after wave of pirate attacks. Only it didn't come, because the three buildings left when I reached my target date, all disconnected from each other and useless, constituted a win. Hooray.
Nothing I did ever felt meaningful or worthwhile, and that is my big takeaway from Starport Delta.
[Note: A copy of Starport Delta was provided by Cloudfire Studios for the purpose of this review.]