I don't usually hold two games up together in a straight comparison, But I have been struggling to separate the differences that can make PKSArena's Assault Vector [$0.99] shine out in contrast to Hoplite [$1.99]. I am a sucker for turn based strategy and I was not surprised that Assault Vector was a blast to play, but in the back of my mind I realized that a comparison would invariably shade my perspective. Although I was ultimately able to find a unique experience in Assault Vector, the depth of that difference is a tad shallow.
In Assault Vector, you take control of a ship and are tasked with conquering 15 levels of increasing difficulty. Each level houses a number of enemy spacecraft of various make, each with their own attack pattern. Successfully outwitting the enemy AI requires the ability to avoid getting hit while posiitoning your craft to launch offensive shots of your own. Every map that is fully cleared of enemies grants you the ability to fully heal, upgrade your max health, jump distance or cannon shot distance.
I am very hot and cold on the game's aesthetic. The asteroid laden background and individual ship graphics show commitment and detail that are lacking on the honeycomb inspired hexagon map tiles. The map you play on feels very flat and stagnant level after level. If the map tiles were updated to be less out of place I think I would find even more enjoyment in the elements that are individually solid. As it is, I don't have a problem advancing through the game, but it would be nice to stop and see visuals that make you pause and admire them.
Gameplay mechanically looks and feels much like a watered down version of Hoplite. You are placed upon a hex grid facing down a squadron of enemy fighters standing between you and the next level. Sound familiar? The similarities don't end there. You get a single shot ranged attack, have the ability to jump to distant hexagons, and getting into melee range is the standard way to dispatch enemies. This game does, however, offer a few new upgrades and does have a vibe of its own. While Hoplite has a wider variety of upgrades, Assault Vector definitely brings a higher magnitude. Jump distance and cannon range are up-gradable an unlimited amount times. Assault Vector in this way is much like checkers to the chess of Hoplite. It is less strategic and more arcade with a faster pace that doesn't require you to map out each move because there is pretty much always a safety net if you want to forego killing each enemy and just skip to the next map. From a gamer perspective this might be too overpowered, but the target audience is a little wider because of this difference.
Survival in Assault Vector becomes less of a gamble once you get the hang of the game, and this is currently one of the biggest ways the game distinguishes itself. The leaderboard is currently the biggest reason for replay and becomes the true challenge of the game. After an hour or two you will probably be able to advance to the final sector, but you have the option to continue playing in order to compile a higher score. Our forum thread has been buzzing recently with a deal of high scores chatter. I personally felt the pressure to be king of the hill, but much to my chagrin I was only able to place in the top five scores.
PKSArena has confirmed a number of future tweaks to increase challenge and gameplay options that will be forthcoming. A game like this could really gain traction with multiplayer support, either live or asynchronous. It's a lot to expect from an indie developer, but it would be a great way to distinguish itself among its peers. Other avenues I wouldn't mind seeing some exploration towards include more upgrades, more enemy variety(a boss would be awesome), and possibly a reduction in the slightly game breaking jump distance you can upgrade into. In the mean time, I am left wanting a little more from the game and hope that Assault Vector can separate itself from other titles to plot a course of its own.
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