Starblast may look like just another typical arcade space shooter, but it differs from other games of the same genre in many ways. First of all, it’s got online multiplayer. Now searching ‘arcade space shooter’ on Steam yields hundreds of results, and this is where it gets interesting. Add a filter for ‘online multiplayer’ and you get less than 20 results, one of them being Starblast, most of the rest being either a VR game, or a game in Early Access, so Starblast really does bring something new to the genre. By focusing on Online Multiplayer instead of a pure single player experience (there’s no story or campaign in this game) it does have a co-op mode though, we’ll get more into that later.
The game also distances itself from other space shooter games by focusing instead on the basic fundamentals of multiplayer gameplay; teamwork, objectives, and competition. Instead of purely going ballistic with just the PvP gameplay, it tries to add something fresh by introducing gems, which can be obtained by mining (shooting asteroids) and can be used for upgrades and to earn your team points in order to win. Basically everybody starts with a small ship, shoot some asteroids to blow them up, and they collect the gems. The gems are used for upgrading the ship’s performance, or even changing the ship to a higher tier, a total of 31 ships are in the game. Different ships have different attributes; weapons, fire rate, damage, shield, speed, agility, etc.
Playing as a killer is not out of the window though, as destroying other enemy ships will cause them to drop off their hard-earned gems, giving off easy loot. It gives you total freedom on what to do in order to win the game for your team, be a defender, a miner, or an attacker. Being a dedicated miner so you can earn your team gems as fast as possible, an attacker so you can hurt their mining operations while still earning gems, or a defender so you can secure your mines and not give easy gems to the opposing teams, or do a little bit of everything.
The game has some issues though. Joining a random online session that could have been running for hours already will not be very fun, as it is impossible to catch up to the higher tier ships, so you’d have no choice but to get bullied by the bigger ships while still farming, either avoid them or die trying. Farming isn’t easy either; you’ll spend a lot of time shooting asteroids to earn enough gems to get stronger, add that to the possibility of losing all your gems when you are killed and it can lead to some frustrating moments.
You can solve this by creating your own game and waiting for other players to join although this exposes another problem; the lack of players. The game currently suffers from a low player base, and with the game being free to play at https://starblast.io still doesn’t help. It needs to have more players in order to succeed at what it’s trying to do. Starblast started off small, with only one game mode, and eventually grew larger and attracted a decent fan base. You can also support the devs and the game by buying the ‘Elite Commanders Pass’ or ‘ECP’ version, which adds premium items like badges or ship skins but is generally the same game as the free one.
Team mode is not the only game mode though, as Starblast still offers three additional game modes. Another one is called Survival Mode, which is the original mode when the game initially released. Similar to Mitos.is or agar.io in a way, you start with a small ship, shoot some asteroids to earn gems to get stronger, now you can shoot bigger asteroids and smaller ships to earn more gems, continue doing it and you’ll get bigger and bigger. You can see the parallels here with those games, as you start at the bottom of the food chain, slowly gaining your way up, but again, it suffers from the ‘catching up’ issue. You join the game, and there’s already tons of bigger players. Agar.io didn’t suffer much from this issue because you can still avoid the biggies, getting that adrenaline rush as you try to escape, but in Starblast you will definitely be bullied by bigger, faster, and stronger ships.
Another game mode is called Invasion, this is the PvE mode of the game, and also the co-op part I was talking about earlier. Similar to the Survival game mode, but instead of going against other players, you now team up in order to fight up to ten waves of alien ships. This is the closest the gameplay could have gotten to your typical arcade space shooter, except that it has, again, online multiplayer.
The last game mode is called Pro Team Deathmatch, which is the PvP mode. No grinding for gems, no mining, just pure mindless shooting with other players and killing them to gain points. Starblast describes this game mode as the ‘Permanently running e-sport competition with leaderboards’, I found this the most fun to play, as you jump right into action, without any grinding or without having anything to lose.
The visuals are great, the graphics are decent for a web browser level game, they did not go overboard with the visual effects as opposed to most arcade shooters, instead they went with a simple approach, explosions are not over the top, missiles and projectile effects are also simple. They don’t fill the screen with all that flashy stuff that you usually get from these kinds of games.
- Great visuals
- Fun to play with groups of friends
- Offers something fresh for arcade space shooters
- Low player population
- Impossible to catch up when joining random team mode sessions