It’s a long way to the top…
Its Always a difficult question for any Indie game developer: When do I let the world see my game? Though labeling something Early access has given developers a commercially acceptable tool to release unfinished products, there still has to be a point when the developer makes the decision to let the world in on their secrets. I would never arguer against delay a project, however, there is something to be said for releasing something too early, before a full vision has been fleshed out. Unfortunately, this feels like the case with Starcaster. A nostalgic pixelated journey of a little blue wizard and his deep sleeves of spells.
This is about all the information I can really give, as Starcaster reveals little more than that even after completing nearly a third of it. It opens up on a very Germanic hillside scenery that is ubiquitous with this sub-genre of fantasy, It’s pleasant on the eye, though not on the ears. The music was a bit too dated for my liking. I can see how they are trying to use this to add to the feel of the game, however the sound feels too unsophisticated to be taken seriously.
Starcaster, the little wizard that could?
So with my own ‘Sunday chill’ playlist on the go, we set off with our little blue wizard and no less than 8 different element based spells. The idea is simple enough for an indie game, traverse across a side scrolling platformer style level using your spells to kill anything in your path. There are a variety of different enemies that attack you, from bees and frogs to green globs and giant earth worms flying between hills.
Nothing too crazy or that a good spamming of my rolling rock spell can’t handle with ease, this very quickly becomes a walking simulator as some of your magic is very OP in these early levels. This all changes as soon as you reach world three, the difficulty level suddenly takes a great leap as you move into a desert like scenery with skeletons and return fire in the form of yellow energy ball like spells.
Suddenly my Rocks are no match and I am very quickly decimated by a constant barrage of enemy magic. Though I’m sure there is a trick to overcoming this learning curve I felt no desire to return and try again, I wasn’t even sure what the actual objective was, with no indication of a princess in need or a kingdom in ruins.
After releasing the initial review, the developers got in touch explaining that much of this was due to an unidentified bug. Playing the patched version of the game we began with only the first spell unlocked and a levelling system unlocking the rest. This obviously had a huge impact on the early levels as you slowly build up your acrobatic gymnastics, while being forced to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each spell. A thoroughly more enjoyable experience overall and I would love to see a mobile version.
Perhaps the little wizard that one day would.
I must say, Starcaster was not an unpleasant experience in the least. There are definitely foundations of an enjoyable experience here, but its still too early. More time needs to be spent on the content and the balancing of game mechanics. Most importantly what it needs is a purpose, throughout the entire time that I played it I kept finding myself asking, why am I bothering?
There is nothing driving the player to beat each level, to overcome the first real obstacle and to experiment with the mechanics. There is however enough to keep me curious in this early stage indie game, i’m left wanting to see future developments as I do feel like the developers have a vision that they are working towards.