The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn’t necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable “best" thing. Instead, it’s more just us picking out the single game out of the week’s releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.
These picks might be controversial, and that’s OK. If you disagree with what we’ve chosen, let’s try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.
Without further ado…
Space Pioneer (Free) from Vivid Games has been on my radar for nearly a year, ever since it first soft-launched last July under the original name Outer Pioneer. Something about the art style just really clicked with me, and I love top-down shooters. I dabbled with that soft-launch version way back when, and more recently, we were able to get a hands-on demo of Space Pioneer during GDC this past March. Now after that lengthy soft-launch period, Space Pioneer has finally officially launched worldwide this week, and boy has it not only met my expectations but exceeded them in every way.
As mentioned this is a top-down shooter, sort of a mobile-ized spin on the PlayStation game Helldivers from a few years ago, but not exactly a dual-stick shooter. A virtual analog stick is used for movement, and a fire button allows you to shoot your weapon with aiming being automatic. There are also additional buttons for tossing grenades, setting up a turret, using medkits, and more. The auto-aiming will be hit or miss with most players, but even as someone who generally enjoys manually aiming I’ve grown to really like the auto-aiming in Space Pioneer, as generally the action is so hectic you’ll have plenty enough to handle without needing to worry about aiming anyway.
So the basic combat in Space Pioneer is solid, but the real treat here is everything built around it. Missions are randomly generated and are bite-sized, meaning it’s easy to pop in and finish a mission or two even if you only have a spare few minutes. The variety of missions is great too, as you’ll be defending territories, capturing bases, fending off waves of enemies, and taking on gigantic boss fights. Despite being randomly generated, there is an actual structure to the campaign in Space Pioneer and it’s a real joy to play through.
The major hook though is the loot and upgrade system. Practically everything you do in Space Pioneer results in some sort of loot, including new weapons, new AI bot companions, new gear, or just plain old coins. Everything can be upgraded and it becomes addicting finishing missions to see what you’ve earned, then going in and seeing how much stuff you can unlock or upgrade. Basically, Space Pioneer has one of the most satisfying gameplay loops I’ve seen in some time, and I tend to just daydream about playing it whenever I’m stuck doing something that’s not playing it.
Space Pioneer is free to play, but it actually plays right into the huge upgrade system. There’s no energy mechanic so there’s no limit to how much you can play, which is really the biggest concern to me with free to play games. Rather, certain loot boxes or upgrades are tied to timers, so unless you’re massively impatient there should never be any reason you HAVE to spend money in the game. More likely, you’ll want to spend money simply because you’re having a good time. There are forced ads, but any purchase will remove them, and if you give Space Pioneer just 20 minutes to see if you like it, I’d suggest jumping on one of the limited time introductory offers, as that way you’ll get rid of those ads and get a little something to get you going in terms of your upgrading.
No matter how you approach the pay model, at least give the free download of Space Pioneer a shot, and give our glowing review a read too, as this is definitely one of our favorite releases of the year.