grumbel's Evochron Mercenary (PC) review

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Despite some short comings and overall fun space exploration game

Evochron: Mercenary follows rather directly into Elite's footsteps, you get to play as a mercenary/trader kind of guy flying around with your ship from space station to space station, trading stuff, doing some missions all all that other stuff.

On the graphic side of things the game is simplistic, but still nice to look at. What it lacks in pretty textures and model geometry it makes up with having a proper 3D cockpit, seamless planet landings and nice lighting. The music also does a good job to give the game a good "space exploration" mood.

Where the game falls a little short is in it's gameplay. Station docking is simplistic and easy compared to the original Elite. The Newtonian flight model makes dog fights a rather boring, as you end up just zipping past each other, turning around and then zipping past each other again. There is no real trailing an enemy and the ability to turn out without changing flight direction also isn't all that useful in practice aside from some sightseeing.

The trading and mission offers also fall short and feel grossly imbalanced. Many missions don't even pay enough to pay for the fuel you need, let alone the missiles you might use and there are only a handful types of missions. I also never got into proper trading of goods, as the space stations never have nearly enough minerals to make it worthwhile. The way I did make most money was by mining. Mining is an easy low risk activity that consists of little more then parking your spaceship infront of an astroid and using your mining beam and then there are ways to convert the collected minerals into better goods. It is a little monotone, but pays far better then regular trading. Trading did made a comeback for me later in the game, as then you can start trading weapon upgrades for you ship and those tend to pay really well, but at that point one has essentially broken the economy and access to infinite cash. The game only has a single multi-mission quest that acts as tutorial, there are no other missions that work in a larger story context from what I can tell.

The navigation map is also worth to mention, it is rather convoluted and makes it hard to make precise jumps or enter proper coordinates that you might have heard in a radio call. You kind of get used to it, but it feels far more convoluted then it should be.

The game also allows you to build new space station and deploy some other utilities, but these come only into play later in the game and I couldn't really figure out the point of them.

Overall, however despite many faults, imbalances and the overall simplicity, I enjoyed the game a good bit. There are enough system you can toy around with and the space exploration feel the game manages to establish is really well done. It was good fun for the 25 hours or so I played it.

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