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TGS 2015: Hands-On With ‘Lightning Raiders’, A Mash-Up Of Base-Builders And Shoot-Em-Ups

If you can’t beat them, join them, the saying goes. It seems to be the path that Taiwanese developer Uwan Studio is setting upon. Known mostly for their shooter series Lightning Fighter ($0.99), they’ve decided to try something a little different for their newest game, but without leaving behind the idea that brought them to the dance. Lightning Raiders was described to me as a shoot-em-up crossed with Boom Beach (Free), and it works a lot better than you might think.

First off, let me make it clear – this game is as free-to-play as the day is long. So there are things like premium currencies, building timers, and so on. The base building portion of the game works exactly as it does in the many other free-to-play games that offer this feature. You set up buildings that harvest resources, use those resources to build defenses, research technologies, train troops, and so on. As you level up your structures and open new types of buildings, you’ll become more powerful, but things start scaling up in cost and time to build, too. You can attack other players, and they can attack you right back.

It’s when you go on the attack that the game shows its developer’s roots. You control a master ship which you can use to fire on the enemy base, but it’s not really strong enough to defeat much on its own. You’ll need to call on the aid of other fighters, who will join in the fray, auto-attacking targets. You can also deploy special attacks such as missiles and bombs from your master ship, provided you’ve got the ammo to do so. You basically need to send out your squad, support them with cover fire, and make sure you’re dodging incoming enemy bullets yourself. It’s not nearly as action-heavy as a regular shoot-em-up, and it’s obviously aimed at a broader audience, but it’s still a lot more active and enjoyable than the combat in many of these base-builder games tends to be.

Personally, I’m not really into games like Boom Beach or Clash Of Clans (Free), but I am a big fan of shoot-em-ups, so it was kind of neat to see that genre applied in a slightly different way than I’m used to. It reminded me a little of the Genesis classic Herzog Zwei, if only in concept. Still, it’s kind of neat to be building the base that someone’s scrappy ship is going to have to take down piece by piece. Of course, this was a special version of the game, so I didn’t have to deal with the realities of its free-to-play nature. How the balancing ends up tilting will make all the difference with this game, I think.

Lightning Raiders is still a ways off, as they haven’t even completely nailed down their final art design for the game. It looks pretty good considering how early it is, though it’s obviously pulling some assets from Lightning Fighter 2 (Free). I really like the idea of the game itself, though, and I can appreciate a developer willing to try to leverage their strengths in a new genre. Uwan Studio hopes to release the game worldwide next year, so if this sounds like an interesting mix to you, keep your eyes peeled in 2016, and we’ll bring you more when we hear it.