I really, really wanted to like Space Tales. The retro-futuristic art style, the vibrant, neon-coloured landscapes and curving monitor displays transported me to a bygone era of sci-fi. It was like stepping into an episode of The Jetsons merged with Team 17’s Worms.
The artistry behind Space Tales feels like a carefully crafted homage to the 1940s notion of what the future would be like. The attention to detail and design of each unit reminded me of old school games from my childhood (just rendered, this time, in full HD!). Saigon Dragon Studios have created a visual masterpiece that pays tribute to the retro-futuristic style.
In a world filled with generic and uninspired character models, Space Tales offered a delightful departure. The units were imaginative and distinctive with a charming personality. I hoped that the gameplay would match the promise of its visuals. The retro-futuristic charm of the art style had set my expectations high. I was hopeful of immersing myself in a world where strategy and storytelling combined to create a fun and unforgettable experience.
The demo provided by Saigon Dragon featured a survival mode with story mode ominously greyed out, denying me access to the anticipated narrative campaign I wanted to explore. To add to the initial disappointment, I discovered that there was no manual or tutorial to guide me through the gameplay. There was nothing in the way of tooltips. It was as though I had been handed the keys to a spaceship without a navigation system. Was I to just mash buttons until something happened?
I loaded the survival mode, hoping to get a taste of the strategic gameplay that Space Tales promised. However, as I ventured further into the game, I quickly found a steep learning curve. The absence of guidance meaning trial and error was the only way to experience Space Tales.
In the end I resorted to scouring YouTube videos to understand how to play the game effectively. Essentially, your task is to survive waves of enemies and build up your base to protect your central hub. There are a number of units available. A scout drone which you’re given at the start of the mission, recruits which appear to be the main defence units and a guardian – a fat amalgamation of Robby the Robot and Marvin the Paranoid Android – which can burrow and has a giant cannon emplaced upon it’s back. There are additional units, a hovering rocketship and a nurse, but these were unlocked too late in my playthrough to make much difference.
The obvious premise is to protect your central hub and expand your base to acquire more resources to build more units to expand further. There are just a couple of buildings available in the demo. A bootcamp for training the aforementioned recruits, a university, an industrial complex, and crucial to your success; the hub and resource extractors.
Hubs are used to expand your buildable area and form a chain for other hubs. They act a bit like Pylons in Starcraft, meaning that the Hub will generate a “power grid” on which the player could place buildings. Hubs can be converted into defensive turrets but you must consider this carefully as changing a hub to a turret terminates that energy chain so it can no longer be linked to additional hubs for expansion. Each hub creates an area around it where additional structure can be built and, crucially, increases your unit cap from the initial twenty. Twenty recruits, even with all the upgrades you can muster from the university, are not enough to survive passed the first or second wave.
Resources extractors can be placed outside of the hub generated power grid, but you must have line of sight to build; which is where your scout drone comes in. The resources which can be collected are concrete, metal and glass. Your resource collectors can be toggled between the three different resource options, so if you’re ever short of one, you can switch to that type to quickly build up a surplus. The use of resources is pleasantly simple. Concrete is used to construct buildings, metal is used to build units and glass is used to research upgrades. No-one ever said Space Tales was overly complex!
And that, in essence, is Space Tales. Create a network of hubs, train units to defend your base, expand, expand, expand. It’s a simple premise and strangely addictive. Once you get your head around what does what the learning curve flattens significantly. I would have preferred to see one of the missions from story mode in the demo provided by Saigon Dragon. I do not believe that Survival mode is doing Space Tales justice. The steam page outlines a “rich and immersive storyline, where you embody Xander, the son of a legendary I.P.E. General. Follow in your father’s footsteps and strive to become a recognized leader of the I.P.E. yourself. Travel in space, pacify planets, and prepare them for the arrival of new Human colonies.” None of this is present in the demo and Saigon Dragon risk not achieving their Kickstarter goal with such a bland taste of what could be a gem of a game.
If you wish to support Space Tales head on over to their Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/140482207/space-tales-rts-game