At the top level, Star Command is a sci-fi simulation game that focuses on the real guts of an interstellar ship -- you know, the people, the facilities, and the technology that makes travel and battle possible. As far as feel goes, it's something of sci-fi slugfest where you find yourself limping out of every battle in a charred ship that's being staffed by a skeleton crew because everyone either (a) got sucked out of the hull, (b) got incinerated by phasers, or (c) died in a fire. I'm not really sure that this is the feel that creator War Balloon was ultimately looking for, but this is how it came across to us for the first couple of hours. And, spoiler, this is a pretty cool thing.

We didn't know this when we first booted it up, but Star Command is story-driven. You play as a commander of a ship in Star Command, a "Star Trek"-inspired Federation of sorts. In the opening moments, you're tasked with responding to various threats in our system under their watchful eye. After a brief tutorial, things get real when you discover a busted up ship which explodes as soon as you get there. Star Command gets on the honker and blames you for the explosion, saying you fired on the thing. From here, the adventure takes on a different tone entirely. You're now the commander of a rogue ship in a big galaxy with an assortment of alien species and various tricks, traps, rewards, and oddities.

The delivery of all this stuff comes from a "Hail" button, which is available directly on the UI. When you hit it, a static image pops up on the screen and you interact with whoever is on the other side of the intergalactic telephone. Interestingly, War Balloon has also added in a dialogue tree system that allows you to answer as a space jerk or a space hero or something in-between. These choices, we've discovered, actually matter: if you invite aliens onto your ship there's a real chance they'll set it on fire and then start blasting away at you. Bolstering this is Star Command's dark and humorous foes and allies; you're never quite sure what to make of anyone, but you'll end up laughing even if your ship gets blown up.

Positioning is, maybe, the most important strategic component of battle. Your first ship allows you to build two weapon rooms in addition to a shield generator and a commander's choice between a dodge battery or a healing room. On Earth, you can recruit folks to man these rooms. Interestingly, manning a room gives your dudes special abilities. Engineers that you use for, say, the dodge battery can also fix breaches and put out fires. Anyone in a weapons room automatically gains the ability to shoot at bad guys who board. Fights often start and end with massive fights on the deck, as enemies teleport into your ship and start shooting up rooms. Putting weapons guys in choke points is a smart play, and so is re-assigning non-essential staff to a weapons deck so they can get access to guns. The push and pull here is that any unmanned room isn't going to work. Pull a weapons guy out of his room and whatever gun he was controlling is now offline until he gets back.

Another wrinkle: some rooms require ammunition. Plasma cannons and the shield room do, for example. The people in the room build up the ammo, so you'll need to keep some folks in these rooms and doing their jobs if you've got any hope of winning a fight. As we've been playing, we've learned that an overstaffed ship is often the best; you want a ton of dudes who can fire and take the heat off important people. This might be on purpose -- gunners wear red shirts, after all.

When a gun is loaded and ready to fire, you pick the gun and then it auto-targets to the aggressive ship. There's no flying or moving about the ship in Star Command. When you do fire, a mini-game pops up. With the plasma gun, you match up two lines as they intersect on a random point on the enemy ship. It's easy, but in the heat of battle not so much.

Our video goes through a lot of this and also touches on the token system, which is just as important to your rooms (which can be upgraded) and your recruitment. Check it out so you can see it in action since it's a little touch to explain:

Simple clicks take care of all of the action, and it's probably important to note that most of the game functions in real-time. If you're slow with moving people around, the ship will suffer more than likely. It also bears mentioning again that fights are tough. In a second, a fully manned and slick ship can be thrown into a fiery chaotic existence. That's just the state being for the game it seems, which makes for some real nail biters.

Strategically, Star Command seems sound and the core loop -- moving around dudes, using ammo, and deploying strikes -- is definitely engaging and, well, pretty fun. As we move out of the first couple of hours, it'll be neat to see where the story goes. Is this a tale of redemption? Is it a revenge story? Also, how many more aliens will we vaporize for fear of trickery? It's been a lot so far!

Star Command is probably due out soon. We'll let you know when it hits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/svenvandeperre Sven Van de Perre

    Man, I really need this game. Been looking forward to it for SOOOOOO long. Please don't be anything less than amazing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.leder Chris Leder

    "Probably due out soon." Heh.

  • http://www.onebagtravel.com/ OneBagTravel

    Some more waiting won't kill us...

  • stoned

    I was loosing faith...
    Ty TA for sending the signs. I do belief! It does exist!

  • toxiccheese

    Looks so good! Please someone tell me that "probably due out soon" means this week! Even next week is fine!

  • rotopenguin

    Try for chestburster in elevator?

    WoohooaauuughhhhHHHH

  • btutterrow

    "Check it out so you can see it in action since it's a little touch to explain". I think you mean "tough to explain". Your spell check learned the word "touch" TOO well!

    Thanks for the impressions.

  • MaverickX12

    Man, it seems like we've been waiting for this forever...hopefully the fact that you guys played it means it's coming within the next few weeks!

  • cuw

    Looks a bit like FTL and if it ends up like FTL well then it will be one of the best iOS games. Iirc FTL was making an iPad version since the iPhone one was unwieldy but I think it will just make it to android and set loose since its packaged a ton of humble bundles on the PC side.

  • Bloodangel

    They said its been submitted to apple.
    Also it's not sand box and is scripted.

  • Bloodangel

    Preview copies was sent out yesterday and today so they could get feedback and tweak it and submit it to apple either tues or wed

  • Bloodangel

    How long it take for a release to get in our hands once submitted to apple?

    • http://www.facebook.com/rinceart Gergely Kovacs

      The average wait time is about 6 days. But they work faster on prestigious projects. Let's hope this falls under that category!

  • Mojorising

    Space boobs equals instant buy, yeah?

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      Uh oh, this reminds me of my fav (in person) scifi RPG where we all decided that anything from today could exist in the future if you add "space" in front, thus;
      space pudding,
      space condoms,
      space athlete's foot powder,
      space video tape,
      etc.
      It's funniest when you reference tech that would obv have been long gone, like "where's my space gasoline?" etc.

  • Jo.

    Let me guess Touch Arcade, it gets 5 stars out of 5 right?

    • mconeone

      What do you mean by that?

      • Skullinton

        He's implying that TA as become a corporate b*tch handing out 5 star ratings out like cookies...

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp
      • Skullinton

        This isn't my opinion, i was just interpreting what he said... I actually think that your reviews are great and this is why I mostly relie on you guys for app news.

      • Skullinton

        And i also understand this... Especially after the Christmas lists in which people were screaming; WHERE IS MY FAVORITE GAME?!

      • wafflestirrup

        These links cannot be clicked on from your mobile application, FYI.

      • Skullinton

        Go on the browser site from your mobile, that's how I did :p

      • http://www.facebook.com/justincoombsart Justin Coombs

        Warballoon is only 3 dudes in a basement.

      • Skullinton

        I am not saying that this company is a corporate either, I'm saying that people say that TA is biased but it isn't.

  • Zdgames

    The guy in the main picture almost looks turian lol commander zack shepherd and the Normandy are about to make a return f u saren and all you reapers I kill you!!!

  • http://twitter.com/jakewastaken jakewastaken

    I saw some overwhelmingly negative reviews from other sources, but I've always put more faith in touch arcade. Hopefully this means it won't be the train wreck that I was starting to fear. This game took so long to come out that I was frankly disillusioned and almost cheerleading its demise. I'd still love an amazing game, but we got so jerked around over time that I also wouldn't mind watching these guys get torn apart by the community they blueballed so hard.

    • Skullinton

      Blueballed? Which do you prefer; a polished and complete game or one that is rushed and incomplete (in other word a quick cash grab)? I wont mind the wait if it's worth it.

      • Skullinton

        Sorry not if it's worth it... I'll never mind the wait because it's almost always worth it.

      • http://twitter.com/jakewastaken jakewastaken

        Have you been following this debacle since the start? Multiple kickstarters, changing the focus from ios to pc. Repeatedly telling us false release expectations. If they never claimed it was just around the corner, and more importantly didn't move the goalpost like 9 times, you might have more of a point. They have lost a ton of people who were at one point excited for this release. Now some of those people would actually be happier watching these people completely fail. I am on the extremely mild side of disappointed.

      • Skullinton

        It is part of the development process, it's extremely hard to get money (especially for small companies), and think of it that way, each time they moved the release date isn't to make people mad (you'd be stupid to do that), it was to improve the game.

      • Gabriel.Voyager

        200.000$ in 2 kickstarter.... Yes is very difficult make money, just promise the moon and then give a simple game with three shallow mini games in it ;)

      • Skullinton

        I'm not necessairly talking about this company, my point is that companies don't move their release to troll their buyers, they do it to improve the game and give a better final product... All in all, I think people shouldn't be mad if a game's release is pushed later.

      • http://twitter.com/jakewastaken jakewastaken

        Just because they didn't troll doesn't mean they get a free pass for their behavior. We weren't ever mad about the release date, it was everything else that they did.

      • http://twitter.com/jakewastaken jakewastaken

        This company will end up serving as a cautionary tale of what not to do. They did not improve the game over time. They made it worse and lost sight of their original ideas and goals. They have stated all of this.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        Haters gotta hate.
        Creators gotta create.
        Pick a side, go for a ride,
        You choose your own fate.

  • Greyskull

    Pics and description remind me a bit of the Starflight series...man I loved those games.

  • Greyskull

    I wish you would have mentioned at what point in the video the token system is explained...we don't all have time to sit through a 20 minute video. If it is just an iap that isn't integrated into the gameplay, I'll pass. If it makes sense within the gameworld, like mining planets in Starflight, trading in open world space sims, etc, then I'll buy it. Simple as that. But just the term "tokens" has me wary. Sounds like a tacked-on gameplay element. And don't anyone tell me what is and what is not acceptable in a mobile game. i'm an adult, have legally been one for about 15 years, and am perfectly capable of deciding for myself what I expect for my money.

    • Blake Thurston

      It's not at any one place in the video, all throughout the video the tokens are both used and acquired. Seems like you get at least 4 per mission, no IAP needed for that. New rooms take 3 tokens, upgrading about 2, crew members one. So you get enough tokens to hire 4 new people each mission, or buy or upgrade a room and hire 1 or 2 guys. I agree "tokens" is an odd name for it. Perhaps it should have instead been resources like metal, credits, crystals, etc. But then it sounds like there are many types of tokens in 3 different colors, so having a unique name for each combination would be confusing i suppose.

    • Lostpop21

      They have clearly mentioned thousands of times there will be no IAP other than possible expansions (ie: New Ships etc.)

      • Greyskull

        Thanks...it was the word "Tokens" more than anything that had me wary. If they were call Galactic Gargleblasters

      • Greyskull

        Accidentally hit the post button. Anyway, if they were named something nonsensical I probably wouldn't have blinked.

  • the fish

    I really want to play this game. Following almost since day one. But the token system kind of turns me off. Why don't just make it recourses?

    • Jacob Gehman

      Semantics?

  • MrSHakerEsq

    Everybody is pumped for this. Day 1 full price purchase.

  • Lostpop21

    According to their FB page, the gamE will be submitted either this week or last week. HURRY UP APPLE.

  • Eidaven

    This look pretty good. I hope they go for more of a premium price rather than an IAP model. We need more solid premium games on the App Store.

    • http://www.facebook.com/justincoombsart Justin Coombs

      it is 2.99 for everything. no IAP for advancement (they are considering adding cosmetic goodies, that are also earnable with IAP as a fast-track)

    • Gabriel.Voyager

      And SC is a solid premium game?! Wow a shallow collection of mini games with no plot and no exploration?

  • grits

    So there are zero IAP? Kind of weird that they didn't know that. I would assume that a Kickstarter game wouldn't be free to play but these days who knows.

    • http://www.facebook.com/justincoombsart Justin Coombs

      no IAP

  • araczynski

    the one thing that i kept hearing about this game everywhere (including from the devs) was that the difficulty was a bit on the high side (from beta testers). which i think they said they either toned down or were going to. if there's one thing i detest in gaming its hard games, since i play to relax/unwind at the end of the day, not go home and get pissy at something i paid moneybucks for. i guess i'll ghost the forums a bit after release to get a sense of where this falls.

  • Benson

    How's it play on iPhone vs iPad? I tend to play more games on my iPhone 5 than my iPad, so I was hoping it will be okay. Also, do saves transfer between the two (via iCloud or another method)?

  • grits

    If there's one thing I love it's very hard games like dark souls. So I'm on the other side of that fence. if the game is super challenging I'll probably like it a lot more.

  • MartianLM

    Instabuy for me, probably one of the first times I've ever said that about an app. Pleasedontsuckpleasedontsuck...

  • jForsythe

    What I find bad is that they want us to pay for the app and then charge us for the tokens ingame. IAP's were the worse thing ever invented

    • Schutzenegger

      Did you watch the video or read any of the comments?
      If you had, you might have noticed that the tokens aren't IAP.

  • ThisIsAUsername

    Wait.. "Antorians"? That sounds familiar :p

  • Karzay

    Couldn't they pixelate the backgrounds? Oh well, I'll still be happy to take it as is. Still looks like fun!

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      I guess they couldn't, b/c so many gamers were complaining. Not me, though. (And I don't really care if the backgrounds look higher rez.)

  • Harley James

    This better be good...

  • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave Metzener

    Yep, I agree with CUW that this looks like FTL. Now to be fair, I'm guessing that Star Command was around way before FTL, but I feel that FTL is a better game than SC.

    FTL is a random game that you can play over and over again and each time it will be different. FTL is also a much faster game as far as each sector goes. I've never spent more than about 2 minutes in any battle.

    • Hard_Squirrel

      Can you tell me what FTL stands for please? Sounds like its better than Star Command will be. Thanks

      • WoeOfAftermath

        Faster Than Light

  • Christian Heidarson

    Shut up and take my money!