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Flatspace

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Mark Sheeky

GAME DEVELOPER:Cornutopia

GAME PUBLISHER:Cornutopia

Copyright 2005, Cornutopia

One of the best space combat/trading games I have ever come across, Flatspace from Cornutopia Software is a stunning and addictive game that is well worth the $20 price tag, and fondly recalls the good old days of Privateer and Elite series. Excerpts from the excellent review at FRAGtopia.com says it all:

“There are a wide variety of missions and gameplay available, largely based on the career path you choose to pursue. You can be a trader and do risky cargo runs across the galaxy, sign up as a police officer, or be a pirate (arrrrr matey!) and prey on the aforementioned characters. If you so choose the game will also pick a class randomly for you. My personal favorite was the Bounty Hunter, as there’s nothing like hunting down scum and bringing them in dead or alive for the cold hard cash. In my case dead or alive often means dead, my favorite type of prisoner.

Space Stations that are scattered around will give you missions, ranging from courier and taxi jobs to bounty hunting and mining. There’s quite a variety even within mission types. For instance, some bounty missions require you to simply hunt down and kill a character, some require you to bring them back with you, alive. All of the AI controlled ships in the game actually exist and are actually playing the game as you do (more or less), and playing in a vast and living universe makes for a very interesting game indeed. Some ships will ignore you, some will help you in a fight, and some of them will try to kill you and loot your corpse. You can radio for help when you get jumped, and just like in real life: Sometimes you get the good guys, sometimes you get more sharks. As I mentioned a few sentances ago I’ve even sometimes died by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once I jumped into the middle of a huge firefight between police and pirates. I’d saved just before, and I was curious as how exactly the game engine worked… Was it really a living universe? I jumped in a few times to the same sector after waiting a few more minutes each time, and the situation I wandered into on the other end was different every time, as the battle progressed.

When on space stations you can also repair your ship, buy new ships, weapons and equipment (more on this later), and hire crew. You can also purchase trade items if you’re going to be working on the trading aspect of the game. Frankly I didn’t get into this part too much, as I was enjoying killing things too much.

There’s two different types of game to choose as well. If you want to get your name into the hall of fame, you must choose death is permanent. If you die, your save games are deleted. Undead characters may reload their save games on death, but are not allowed into the high score listing. Due to the fact that I die quite frequently in this game, especially when I first started playing, I have to be undead. All it takes is one small mistake in battle and you’re one dead SOB. An excellent example of this is me forgetting to buy more counter measures, and getting a missile launched at me in my next sortie into space. Woops. Dead.

Your initial ship is chosen for you based on your profession, and can be upgraded as you have the money. The Flatspace site claims that the game boasts over 100 different ships, and from what I’ve seen so far I believe it. The number of ships and equipment upgrades are simply mind blowing, from different types of laser/energy weapons and missiles to mines, counter measures, different types of engines, armor and even repair droids. (A REAL life saver when you’re out in the dark somewhere and you have an accident or have your engines shot out.) Just working on getting a bigger and badder ship could keep you occupied for weeks. The missions you can take on will depend quite heavily on how you’ve got your ship rigged out. A huge slow ship with lots of cargo space, but short on weapons isn’t a good choice for a bounty hunting mission for instance.

Combat is hectic, and it’s a darned good thing that there’s a training mode. Learn your keys, and practice in here until you can at least hold your own for a bit. Enemies are relentless in their pursuit of life and happiness, generally meaning they’re going to kill you, take your cargo and spend it on their happiness. The controls in the game will take a while to get used to, but once you learn what everything does they’re quite simple, just unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in a game. When you get attacked you won’t have much time, or room for mistakes, so some competance is good. ;)

One interesting thing about the ships in Flatspace is the ability to equip fighters and turrets to some of the larger ones. I haven’t managed to get myself a carrier yet, but I’ve been told that fights between turret and fighter equipped enemies can be quite tense.

At $20 you can’t beat Flatspace for value. It’s an addictive little game, with a unique type of gameplay. I’ve been playing it on and off for quite a while now, and I’m not even close to exploring the entire universe or getting bored. There are some very frustrating moments in the game, as the player is basically no better than the AI players in the game, and death sometimes seems a little too easy. It’s not as flashy as a high profile game from a larger developer, but the fun is certainly there. I would like to see more of a story, but when you do that you tend to cut down on the open endedness of a game. It’s an amazing accomplishment for one guy to come up with a game like this. Flatspace is a highly recommended game, and we’re going to be keeping an eye on Cornutopia to see what they come up with next.”



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