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Starport: Galactic Empires Column: Game Hopper Visits An Indie Gem

By William Murphy on December 28, 2011

This week, let’s dive into Starport: Galactic Empires for a look at a possible independent gem of an MMO. In this recurring column at MMORPG.com, our goal is to take turns giving you brief glimpses at some of the games which just don’t get enough coverage for any number of reasons.  Look at our Game List.  Many aren’t MMORPGs, but almost all are MMOs of one form or another.  Then count the number of reviews we have for them.  We’re addressing this, as quickly and as efficiently as we can, but the simple truth is that a lot of games fly under the radar.  So, with The Game Hopper, we plan on bringing you a new game every week that you might not know much about.  We’ll do some brief impressions and an overview on the game and then let you guys chime in with your own thoughts.

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What is Starport: Galactic Empires?

Starport is an independent F2P MMO from designer Aaron Hunter and developer PlayTechTonics.  It’s played almost entirely in an overhead view similar to classic space-shooters like Asteroids, but the visuals are marginally improved over that arcade classic (though still retain a 16-bit feel and aesthetic).  There are several different types of servers players can choose from, and your goal on any of these is to make a name for yourself, conquer and colonize planets, harvest resources, generate money, keep your crew happy and staffed, become a fierce pirate or a mercenary, and compete against other players for control of so much more.  It’s really a very deep game, disguised as a very simple one when it comes to visuals.

Sure the budget may be low, and the graphics might look like a budget SNES game, but the depth of what’s on offer may offset any visual shortcomings.  If you’re a strategist into Science Fiction, you’ll likely find a lot to love here and it’s nowhere near as new-user unfriendly as a game like EVE.  The first thing you’ll notice is the wide selection of servers.  There are Normal servers which allow combat between two players at once, Pax servers which are PVE entirely, and several types of games on each server from Permaservers that never reset or declare a “winner” to servers akin to A Tale in the Desert that have a starting and an ending.  Your best bet is to read up on the game’s official site before choosing.

How Does it Play?

I’ve only dabbled in the title for a little bit, but I’ll admit to finding a whole lot I could get addicted to here.  There’s a huge sprawling galaxy to traverse with lots of little space stations to visit and receive missions from (usually of the escort variety).  There oodles of planets to land on, fight aliens on, and try to colonize.  The only real oddity I noticed was that there didn’t seem to be many players on any one server… something I hope this article will help remedy. 

I’ve not played long enough to full review Starport, but what I can say is that it’s presentation may be limited, but it’s depth and gameplay for fans of 4X games and over-head shooters might more than make up for this.  The quasi-realistic 2D physics of your ship and the easy piloting throughout the star systems is a dream… though it’s really odd when you literally crash into a planet that’s about as large as your ship and you merely bounce off it.  Ah, the limitations of an independent budget.   

In short Starport is about the details, not the looks.  You could get lost for hours in the colonization, exploration, and resource/economy game.  If you’re a fan of those sorts of things, and don’t mind the crude exterior you’ll likely find a lot to love in Galactic Empires.  I know I sure did.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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