Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy Review

Posted Jun 6, 2015
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  • Developer/Publisher: Black Lab Games/Slitherine Ltd.
  • Platform: PC
  • Review code provided by the publisher.

We’re in a golden age of space based sci-fi video games. A revival is happening in all genres across video gaming, and we all benefit from that renewed interest in exploration of the unknown through visual media such as games. The strategy genre is no exception to this rule. Plenty of options surely exist to whet your whistle and challenge your space naval skills, but few offer such a unique package and feel as Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy.

One of the most compelling turn-based strategy space games for a long time.

The tutorial alone is well thought out and walks you through the sheer breadth of options available to you. And it does so gently, without throwing too much at you at once. The tutorial is an excellent example in how to slowly introduce players to a new game. Even if you have no experience with 3D tactical space battle strategy games, the complete and easily followed tutorial can get you indoctrinated in no time at all. It’s an example that should be emulated.

Take command of a growing fleet of ships as you engage the enemy and complete up to 60 well thought out missions. It has the fantastic turn-based strategic element where you can pause and take your time to plan each move in your tactical plan precisely. Then the action is played out in real time, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. While in a mission, you’ve got plenty of options and a whole battleground at your disposal. As long as you’re completing the missions, then you can use any method that comes to mind. Want to try hiding behind asteroids to surprise the enemy as they come around, or over, or under? Why not. You can also meet the aggression head on, flying straight into the fray.

You can have as many ships as your command points allow you to, starting with just three. You also have the ability to add crew-members to your fleet, which give you passive boosts, either an increase in engine, weapons or shield efficiency. And they aren’t generic, either, a great level of detail has been put into each character here. The art for each individual character is also very inspired, further invoking a sense of depth to it.

Graphical Prowess

The graphics and effects aren’t groundbreaking by any means, but the ship designs are all very well done and quite artistic and unique. The level of detail put into the individual components is actually quite stunning to see. Zooming in reveals a lot of work spent making these ships looking great, and realistic. Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy uses Unity 5 as its engine, and it’s been done very well. It works without any issues thus far. Nothing horrible to report.

If you’re looking for a campaign that has believable characters and even character development, then this is it. While most of the dialogue seems immaterial, if you actually read and pay attention, there’s a very complex story at work here.

But you don’t have to pay attention to the story if you don’t want to, and I’m sure that a lot of players will do precisely that, skip straight to the well done combat sequences. This is where you spend the majority of your time and where the magic happens. The transition from turn based to real time action is smooth enough and the UI offers a great deal of actions you can choose from. Send out repair drones if your hull is a bit low, target specific enemies for a greater chance of hitting, set your ship to auto target or generally control the movement within the 3D plane. Watch out for asteroids, though. I ended up ramming a small ship into one, and it didn’t go over too well… Kudos to the level designers for incorporating so much into the strategy you have to choose. Crucially, that UI is very intuitive and also unobtrusive, staying out of the way of the bulk of the action.

That action itself doesn’t seem rushed, though there’s a certain urgency about your actions. Theoretically, you could leave up the window all day as you decide what to do, but the running dialogue in the corner plus the mission objectives help to urge you towards action. And it’s fun. It’s incredibly fun to roam around the battlefield and think about what needs to be done and how to do it. This is a tactical space strategy game, and it does indeed require thinking to accomplish your objectives. As a strategy game, it excels immensely.

During battles you’re greeted with a fairly competent AI that will challenge you if you aren’t ready for it. They don’t just fly at you and shoot, either, but try to come in from behind and prevent you from defending yourself. It can be frustrating at times, though. But we play strategy games for the challenge, don’t we? I know I do.

Anything wrong with it?

The soundtrack is mostly good, though some tracks can be repetitive and a bit generic. The AI does get a bit hard at times, and requires a lot of pre-planning, which is both good and bad, depending on your perspective.

Instead of being able to have a ship target and move towards that enemy on their own, you have to constantly adjust their course, as there is no auto-pilot in combat available. That’s a bit annoying, though it does add to the challenge and command and control aspect. You may not enjoy that much control, however.

Also a small niggling aspect is that I can’t seem to find the option to invert the mouse for looking around. It might exist, and I might be a bit of a blockhead because I can’t figure it out. It isn’t a deal-breaker, though.

Conclusions

If you’re looking for a great space combat strategy game that offers both a great story and fantastic combat elements with a level of control that isn’t found in any game at the moment, then this is it. Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy provides a unique strategic experience unlike anything I’ve played in a long time. I’m not nearly done with the missions (25) and it’s still just as engaging as when I started. The level of detail present might not be for everyone, but for those that really like to get into the nitty gritty, this is a good game.

In fact, this type of game might not be for everyone, but if it is, you’ll really enjoy it.

Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy can be found on Steam for $19.99, though right now it’s 10% off in honor of the release.

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