Friday, 17 July 2009

'Light of Altair' review for Game-Debate

Light of Altair is a Science Fiction management sim produced by Independent games studio SaintXi. The game mainly consists of building colony's on other worlds while trying not only to make them profitable but keeping your citizens happy. In some scenarios you'll also need to carefully plan battle strategy as you're drawn into wars with other factions competing for influence throughout the galaxy after the usual Nuclear war on earth in the not to distant future.

Competition for resources led the nations on earth to war and in Light of Altair you fill the role of a commander in charge of building colonies throughout the solar system and beyond.

There are a number of different factions in competition for resources and power. These factions are based on regions of the world, which certainly have a '1984' Orwellian feeling about them. Throughout the different scenarios you'll be playing as or competing with all of these factions. SaintXi have managed to make an ever so simple idea into a very absorbing and addictive game.

Light of Altair appears to have taken much influence from games like the Civilization series. It's a point and click affair in which your canvas isn't one large flat surface, but a spherical planet (or planets) with limited space. It's therefore crucial to choose a good spot with enough space and resources to build up each colony if they're to be successful. You point and click where to build solar panels or power stations to provide energy, Hydrophonics or farms to provide food for your people and then there's the more advanced structures like star ports, industrial centres and research centres. All of these pop up instantly in beautiful 3D on the planets surface – it's very satisfying to see your planet (or moon) go from a featureless rock, or at least one without any buildings, to a thriving colony.

In order to this not only do you have to compete for space with other factions, you also have to secure a balance between making your colonies profitable and keeping your citizens happy. Not only do happy citizens pay more taxes but they'll also *ahem* do the horizontal space mash and increase your population. That's assuming you don't make citizens unhappy by building too many industrial buildings or by not providing enough food supplies. As you progress further into the game, you can spend hours thinking about what to put where and completely lose track of time.

It's therefore probably a good thing that Light of Altair follows a series of missions. Each scenario is based around various economic and military goals. For example, in one mission you're first task as commander is to make sure your population reaches a certain number before another faction. On another mission your first task is to research the power stations. Basically each mission moves forward as certain goals are completed.

As you get further into Light of Altair the missions get more complicated, especially when war with other factions is involved. There are two basic ship classes – attack and defence. Attack for well...attacking other worlds and defence for...er well defending your own. You can't create an unlimited amount of ships – you can only power as many as you have the fuel for. The amount of fuel you have depends on how many 'Fuelsynth stations' you have throughout your colonies. Sounds simple enough, but these stations drain power and make citizens unhappy – so war isn't completely removed from the economics. I've digressed....but this is purely because everything in the game is interlinked and will keep you thinking. Anyway back to the war...

You get to design your ships by choosing it's attack and defensive capabilities. However once you've sent them to do your bidding all control is handed over to the game. You'll be briefly taken out of the colony building mode into a cinematic galactic battle. Unfortunately you don't have any control over the battle which is a shame – while playing Light of Altair you're in control of most other things so it's a shame this isn't mirrored in the combat. On the plus side this means you can focus your attentions on your goals.

There are 16 missions in total,and depending on your strategy each can take up to two or three hours – an amazing life span especially when you consider this is an independent production and the guys at SaintXi should really be applauded for this. With this much game time the price tag of £11.99 on Steam really makes Light of Altair a bargain - You won't have to feel guilty about spending money on computer games during the recession! It's a quirky management game that's easy to get into and incredibly addictive. If you're a fan of the management or strategy genres, you really should own Light of Altair.

(Orginally written and published for Game-Debate on June 21 2009)

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