Fractured Space Preview

Once upon a time, space sims were huge. Freespace, X-Wing (and it’s offshoots), Wing Commander, and others dominated store shelves and playtime, the genre has shrunk to a tiny fraction of what it was. While there are some popular titles (Star Citizen being notable), there aren’t that many options.

Fewer still are the options for real-time combat with large ships. Independence War is largely forgotten, but most space combat sims these days focus either on fighter-sized craft, or the slow tactical-style combat of Eve.

Fractured Space is sort of a 3rd person shooter, but with huge capital ships. It’s currently on Steam Early Access, so I had a look.

Steam Early Access, as the name suggests, lets you play a game during its development stages. In theory, you’re getting to scratch the itch to play a cool-looking game while simultaneously helping the developers test their code (and some cash to keep them going, always a good thing). Usually paying for early access also gets you some benefit in the final game, such as in-game cash, different rankings, flare, or whatever.

Fractured Space starts as you’d expect a combat game to start: choosing your ship. Currently a handful of ships are available, but developer Edge Case Games has lots of info on what other ships they want in the final game. Right now, the basic classes are there, well explained with simple sliders showing Offense, Defense, and Maneuverability. Generally, ships with lots of offense lack defense, and vice versa. Fast, maneuverable ships have less offense and defense.

Even with the few ships initially available, it seems pretty easy to find something that matches your playstyle.

The map is broken into sections, conquest-style. It’s a 5 on 5 match to capture bases, get resources, and destroy the enemy base.

The hook for FS is that you’re flying capital ships, and as you’d expect/hope, these are big, lumbering vessels. Slow to turn, accelerate, slow down… battleships and carriers, not Sea-Doos and fighters.

You control the ships with mouse and keyboard, like a normal shooter, and they work great. The stock layout is intuitive and easy to use. The number keys control your weapons and ship’s special abilities. You have total control in 3 axes, and can hide behind asteroids, planetoids, and the various stations for cover. If you get destroyed (and you will), you sit out for a few seconds, then respawn back at your main base.

The graphics are excellent, even this early on (the image above is in-game). The ships are beautiful, the weapon effects sparkly. As your ship takes damage, decks catch on fire. If I had one complaint, it’s that the camera can’t zoom in close enough, so you don’t really get the feeling of hugeness ships of this supposed size should have. Take Homeworld for example, the Mothership felt enormous compared to the other ships, and I didn’t get that feeling here. Maybe because the planetoids and stations were necessarily large as well.

Right now the main issue is a lack of players. Each time I went on I found one server with a few people, but it’s pretty desolate. Such is the nature of early access. Maybe Edge Case Games will add some AI soon to fill out the competition.

Bottom Line

If you want in now, it’s $10. When it’s finally launched, it will be free to play. That’s always a blessing and a curse, but it is what it is. Worth checking out (or keeping an eye out for the release) if you’re like me and love some capital-ship on capital-ship throwdowns.
Fractured Space on Steam