Ring Runner and the Space Genre

Space games and I are eternally locked in a lover's quarrel. It initially brought me to it's bosom with games like Freespace 2, Freelancer and Independence War 2. After getting to know her past, I managed to get to second base with Elite 2 and Wing Commander. Perhaps I was a bit too forward for her liking at that point, or expected too much, and we fell into a lull. Games like: X3, Infinite Space, the Evochron series, and Nexus were enough to get me intrigued but failed to deliver the same impact as our first dalliance. Sure there were space strategies in the 4x or regular varieties, but they weren't what I fell in love with.

Then something happened, a release which made me happier than it should of. Kerbal Space Program (alpha) may not of had the combat aspect, but it sure had the flight/exploration rubbing pleasingly along the decayed wanderlust portion of my frontal lobe. Every minor step you make it past your old benchmarks feels legitimately feels like an accomplishment. More seasoned KSP players will laugh, but my first Mun landing made me uncharacteristically proud of myself and the skills required to get there.

(Not pictured) My faithful re-enactment of NASA Mission Control after first REAL moon landing.

Space Pirates and Zombies was discovered not long after, and this was more of what was needed. Sure it wasn't in first person, but I controlled a ship myself, with wingmen, exploring the galaxy, blowing up multitudes of the aforementioned space pirates, and zombies. While the story was alright (even narrated by TotalBiscuit), it served as more of a framework for the meaty combat mechanics. It felt great, like my mistress was coyly peeking from behind a curtain.

Finally, Strike Suit Zero came out and it was like nothing happened between us. It was all zero gravity, hectic, complete freedom of movement, fast paced dogfighting action. In combat, I felt like a was a meaningful part of something massive. Some of the future releases promise a return to form (Star Citizen and X Rebirth), and I want to see a recent release get some love for doing the space genre right to continue this upward trend.

Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages is a release by Triple B Studios and is the product of five years of development. In the vein of SPaZ or Starsector, you control a ship from the overhead perspective through a multitude of levels, baddies and bosses. The ships (of which there are 60+) are all customizable with different parts you unlock and purchase through your adventures and can then be used in both the single and multiplayer modes. The six archetypes of ships offer a unique play style from one another and even within the same category the higher tier hybrid ships can offer a method of raining destruction unique to themselves. Combat is usually based on what class of ship you're flying. Tactical and measured for the rogues and casters; an all out brawl and slugfest for the arsenals and grapplers. There are minigames thrown in to throw in some variety and unlock abilities to use in combat. While they are obvious tributes to well known classics, the graphics are quite polished (Loving that mesh/net effect in the background).

It's like a chain chomp, but more awesome.

What really stood out though was the story. While the various plot critical elements (anchor drives, the circles/clipways, sages, and threads) seem at least plausible, they are all presented in such a way as to be congruent with the rest of the universe. Nothing seems to be shoehorned in that doesn't need to be there (I'm looking at you contrived romantic sub-plots). It's just you, a sentient AI in your head with a penchant for sugar, an unforgiving universe, and a man named Solipso. The various characters and factions you meet on your adventures around the universe are memorable. Whether it's the turret loving P.I.T.A, the determined dvorak salesmen, or the uniform CIR. I'm keeping it vague on purpose because a lot of joy can be derived by the interactions these factions and people have with both the player character and each other.

In the end, this small development team put together something wonderful, and it is a joy to experience. The few criticisms I could even muster (The music is alright, but nothing memorable. Wishing that the story would've continued on a little while after) are inconsequential when compared to the whole of the game. It's available on GoG.com, Desura, and is currently needing votes to pass Steam Greenlight. I recommend picking it up for $15 (as it has more than enough content to justify that price) and supporting a great indie release.

For those of us who need numbers. 4.5/5

Posted by fisk0

I'm really happy that it seems the space combat genre is about to come back. I just hope we'll get to see a new Homeworld (or Homeworld style) full on 3D RTS again. I'm not sure if Gearbox will be capable of doing that, but I just want someone to give it a try, without bringing it down to 2D like all the space RTSes we got after Homworld (Nexus, Haegemonia, Conquest, Starfleet Command and that stuff).

Posted by Mento

Heh, I got redirected here by the Notification system. This is supposed to be the updated Spotlight. Hopefully it means more traffic to this blog, because it's pretty good.

I have a fondness for space games but like yourself I've been left adrift in that I'm not entirely sure what I want from the genre, since each game I've tried tends to be a different ratio of action, strategy and simulation. I played X-Wing vs TIE Fighter back in the day (and Elite even further back in the day) and though those games took up a considerable amount of my time I've yet to find anything since then with the same gravitational pull, so to speak. The only space sim I've really found myself enjoying in semi-recent times is Star Control 2, and that's largely because it managed to scratch that exploration itch better than most. Helps it has a great story and characters too, which really go a long way into not making the cosmos feel as empty as it often does.

I'm always on the lookout for new games of this type to try though. They've grabbed me before and will again. Thanks for the heads-up on some of these.