Reviewed with an AMD Powercolor R9 290
Star Conflict is a free to play space combat game from the makers of War Thunder. In principle it controls in much the same way, you steer your craft with the mouse and lock onto targets and shoot them down when you’re in range. Unlike War Thunder you have a lot of auxiliary controls like shield management, alternative ways of moving around and hotkeyed special weapons that add a little flavour to the combat.
In terms of mechanics and visuals, Star Conflict is an absolute treat. Space looks superb and the array of lasers and missiles streaking across the black sky at any one time is consistently impressive. It’s an easy game to access as even the starter ships are in some way viable due to their small size and high speed. You might not be able to take down larger frigates single handedly but you can definitely help out or capture points while the heavy hitters take on the brunt of the opponent’s force.
At the end of each game you gain experience and currency which can be spent on modules or new ships and over time you slowly research new parts and craft with the experience as a way of levelling up. There are three different factions with their own styles of ships and you unlock everything at such a steady rate there’s always an incentive to play one more game.
All of this focuses around PvP which is definitely the meat of the game. Thankfully the community is incredibly forgiving and welcoming, helping new players out wherever they can and somehow avoiding the toxicity that plagues other free to play games. You’ll definitely be outclassed and outgunned regularly but it’s rare that a fight feels completely unfair. Everything is so precise and exact that it’s hard to feel hard done by when things go wrong. Strategies are even deeper than War Thunder as you can hide behind asteroids or wreckage and move in ways impossible in any kind of aircraft. The fighting regularly makes use of every direction and attacking enemies from what appears to be ‘beneath’ is surprisingly effective against newer players who struggle to get their heads around it.
For a free to play game, this is an immensely fun title. When you start paying for things it’s a little more blurry. You can spend money on new ships, modules, customisation options or boosts to experience or currency income. If you accelerate the progression the cracks begin to show. Many of the ships play in a very similar way, there’s little difference between the highest end ships and some of the second tier ships in terms of actual gameplay. Some of them serve as status symbols to be sure, but people have been playing Star Conflict for so long that nearly everyone who cares has what they want already. If you buy your way through the game you’re likely to get bored of it quickly unless you can join an organised clan or get competitive in which case the game has some legs. Unfortunately it’s not a particularly spectator-friendly game so it’s unlikely to gain any traction as an e-sport, but there’s definitely competition out there for those who want to rise through the ranks.
For the more casual players you can always dip into a quick pvp game or two (they generally don’t last very long) or you can try out the new pve mode, invasion, which lets you fly around in freedom between colonies taking out AI controlled ships and earning experience. It’s not particularly deep but with some friends you can definitely have a laugh as you scoot about blowing stuff up.
All in all Star Conflict is an excellent free to play game, but whether it has any legs depends on how well you can pace yourself or care about progression. It’s a shame there aren’t more spectacular ships to buy or earth-shattering weapons to earn but we get the feeling they were omitted for the sake of maintaining balance, which has been achieved for the most part.