Another day, another Kickstarter. This time it’s Born Ready Games and their first foray into the space combat genre with single-player-fighter-turns-into-mech game: Strike Suit Zero. Raising $174,804 with the goal of $100,000 and achieving the stretch goal of mod tools, Strike Suit Zero is another shining example of what crowd funding can do for small time developers. Strike Suit Zero—or SSZ—is a space combat game similar to classics like Tie Fighter and the Wing Commander series, but with one big caveat: you can turn your fighter into an anime styled mech.
You take on the role of Adams, a faceless, voiceless pilot who has apparently fallen out of favor with his superiors. You have to earn the trust of your commanders and comrades in order to be allowed to take the helm of a fighter again. You know, a real rebel story, where you’re Starbuck and everyone else is completely incompetent. The story hinges on some cliché elements, like a woman fused with an AI construct, a commander searching for his white whale, and Adams being the chosen one, all of which are totally mismanaged and telegraphed from the get-go.
You spend most of the game with your wingman and commanding officer, Reynolds. She’s a fiery, but effective, leader who will deliver such witty monotone one-liners as, “You know the drill, Adams” and “I’ve got your back.” It’s unfortunate that the voice actor seems as if she’s taken twelve Ambien and just wanted to go sleep instead of offering a moderately appealing performance. That seems par for the course when it comes to all the voice acting in the game. There was plenty of opportunity to use the voice work tactfully, but for some reason the best mechanical use is, “They’re going after Adams.” This line is repeated constantly with no context and sometimes no real reason other than to fill quiet time. It’s unfortunate that Born Ready Games didn’t seize more opportunities to use voice chatter as a mechanic rather than ambiance that breaks immersion and falls flat.
Mechanically, the game is pretty simple: cycle targets, shoot targets, win the game. It’s fun for a while, but becomes repetitive. Missions are long and don’t vary much. You’ve got the typical escort, kill, bombing run, and capital ship battles that are tried and true tropes of the genre. You can unlock new weapons by earning medals and special objectives, but you really don’t need to grind in order to progress. There’s nothing really new or earth shattering, either. The controls work well, but you’ll likely find a flight stick or gamepad better-suited to gameplay than a mouse and keyboard.
The defining disappointment though, is the very thing that separates the game from the rest of the genre. The mech—also known as Strike Suit—is incredibly underwhelming and mostly boring to use. You gain a resource called Flux, which powers the fighter’s Strike Suit mode by dealing damage to enemies, thrusting, or taking damage. Think of it as a rage meter from World of Warcraft. You use Flux each time you shoot or fire rockets from Strike Suit mode. You can gain Flux while meched out, but the amount is reduced greatly in order to get you to use it more strategically. It just feels like the mech could use more unique abilities beyond shooting and firing rockets to make it more appealing.
If there is one thing SSZ does well, it’s visuals. The space-boxes are beautiful and do a great job of immersing you in the universe. You really feel like you’re in space, dog fighting, looping, and bombing. The ships are all nicely rendered and have a distinct visual style inspired by countless space operas and animes.
If you’re into future-tech animes and flight combat games, you should have plenty of fun playing SSZ. If you like the idea of a fighter that transforms into a mech and expect to get something out of that, you’ll be disappointed. Only around one third of the thirteen missions feature the Strike Suit, which you don’t even use in the first couple of hours. There’s about 5-6 hours of content though, so you will get decent bang for your buck. If that’s not enough for you, there’s always Freespace 2 and the mass of mods being made to this very day.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version of Strike Suit Zero developed by Born Ready Games