Fractured Space preview
Fractured Space is an incredibly fun game with an interesting array of controllable ships. For me, the enjoyment of the game comes from its simple yet effective gameplay. As I said the game doesn’t wave the MOBA flag, but its game modes are very much MOBA influenced. The primary game mode, Conquest, is about capturing the enemy’s home base before they capture yours. To capture the base you need to secure one of the two main sectors, alpha and beta, to secure a sector you need to capture an enemy’s forward station as capturing this station allows you to jump into their base and attempt to capture it. A lot of matches are very much a tug of war between both teams capturing and retaking forward stations, but while capturing an enemy’s forward station is key to winning a game, there is something else players need to do in each sector, capture mining stations. Capturing mining stations allow you to gain resources, which in turn ranks up your team and unlock upgrades. However, capturing mining stations aren’t the only additional activity as there is a third sector called Gamma. This gamma sector is an important part of the game as it contains a station that provides a short buff to all stats to the team that captures it, although teams can only fight for the buff at set times.
While conquest is Fractured Space’s main mode there is a second mode called Frontlines. This mode reduces the playing field to one sector and randomly selects a ship for you to pilot.
Moving away from the game modes, let’s talk about the ships. In Fractured Space, there are three ship manufacturers – United Space Research, Zarek Industrial, and Titan Defence Systems. Each manufacturer has their own assortment of ships for you to pilot and unlock, although at the start you have access to one ship from each manufacturer. The three ships that you can use straight away exist to help you choose your play style as each ship represents one of three ship classes – attack, defence and support. Once you have grown accustomed to one ship you can work then on unlocking new ships, to unlock a new ship you require a certain amount of manufacturer experience and credits. To gain manufacturer experience you simply need to use a ship in battle, so if you want a particular ship, for example, an Interceptor than you need to use ships made by Titan Defence Systems until gaining enough experience with the company. As for credits, this is simple as you gain them by taking part in matches, although you can get around the need for credits by using the game’s premium currency platinum.
Now as I said there are three ship classes – attack, defence and support, but what makes them so different. Well, attack ships focus on dealing damage to ships and structures, defence ships focus on tanking damage and capturing, and finally support ships focus on healing and buffing their allies. For those curious, the classes aren’t locked behind one ship manufacturer as the manufacturers exist to offer players different visual styles and abilities.
In terms of ability usage the game uses the MOBA formula of six abilities, and a left and right mouse attack. Abilities 1-3 are ship specific skills. Ability 4 activates your point defence, which helps destroy incoming missiles. Abilities 5-6 are simple jump abilities, these allow you to move sector or make an emergency jump home.
While choosing a manufacturer, ship and class are important, there is something else you need to keep an eye on, your crew. Hiring crew members is another key component of the game as crew members provide passive buffs to different areas of your ship this includes damage inflicted and hull strength. In total there are nine crew types, each providing their own buffs, but while there are nine you can only equip five crew members, which means you have to choose what you want to buff and what you don’t.
Now, I’ve talked about modes and ships let’s talk gameplay. The gameplay is where Fractured Space shines as each ship regardless of the class has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Reaper, which is an attack class ship focuses on a head on engagements as its secondary attack can only fire forward and its primary attack is at its most effective when fired forward, although you can fire it from any angle. The types and styles of weapons are what makes the gameplay interesting as it lends towards a tactical approach to combat as you spend a lot of matches learning and exploiting an enemy’s weakness.
The tactical nature of the gameplay isn’t just limited to ship to ship combat, the modes you play in- in particular conquest mode – has an emphasis on tactical play and it is done in a way that doesn’t feel forced. For example, when Gamma station is online you and your team can choose to contest it with the opposing team, but you can also choose to ignore Gamma and work on capturing mining and forward stations. Essentially what makes the gameplay fun is how it can change from moment to moment and match to match.
Another feature I feel needs mentioning is something small yet effective, and it is a feature that the developer’s call “OK”. OK is basically a way to get a description of your HUD via the O key and checking your key bindings with the K key. OK is essentially a feature that allows people to refresh their knowledge on the fly, which is extremely helpful for both new players and those who return after not playing for a while.
Now I think it is time to address the elephant in the room, Fractured Space’s business model. Currently to access Fractured Space you need to buy one of three Early Access Packs that cost €9.99, €19.99 and €36.99. The items available in the packs include skins, XP and credit boosters, permanent XP and credit bonuses for you and teammates and some platinum, the game’s premium currency. Now while you have to currently pay a minimum of €9.99 to play Fractured Space, Edge Case Games has stated that when the game eventually leaves Early Access (has been in Early Access since November 2014) it will be free to play with the game primarily making money from micro-transactions.
So as the game is going to rely on micro-transactions what are they like? Micro-transactions in their current form revolve around ship skins, and XP and credit boosters. After leaving Early Access premium ships may be added to the store. To buy the micro-transaction items you need to use the game’s premium currency, platinum, which cost from €4.99 for 1,000 to €99.99 for 25,000. Currently, the items on the micro-transaction store cost from 2,900 platinum for a legendary skin to 60 platinum for one credit booster.
Now since Fractured Space is in Early Access the game is obviously not ready for launch, so what are the problems holding the game back? For me, the most obvious problem is the server stability as I’ve experience timeouts and games were not loading properly (for example when I load my home base attacks me). Following the issues with the servers, two other problems I’ve noted were the inability to cancels jumps, and the
fact you can’t read the description of your ship’s abilities during a match, this issue becomes prevalent during the Frontlines mode as you are provided a ship at random (Update: You can apparently read them during a match, you just need to tab and mouse over the ability).
While I won’t get into technical details regarding the graphics and audio, I will say the game is amazingly optimised. Fractured Space makes great use of the Unreal 4 engine as my relatively old AMD Radeon HD 8570D graphics card had no trouble running the game at a stable 30 fps on low settings.
In regards to the audio, I didn’t notice any standout issues, although I did like the audio indicators for enemy attacks.
Fractured Space is an interesting team-based space combat MOBA that offers incredibly fun gameplay and some impressive looking and unique capital ships.
For more information on Fractured Space, visit https://www.fracturedspace.com/.