Supernova, the latest expansion for Galaxy on Fire 2 Full HD has been available for a while (via in-app purchase), and I’ve been busy ferrying space-goods, building Gamma Shields, and traversing the galaxy to find out if it’s a worthy addition.
The story sees a star on the verge of going supernova, in danger of consuming all nearby life in the process. Although it’s a reasonably interesting conceit, the script is dire. There’s always been a hint of misogyny in the Galaxy on Fire series but in the latest episode it seems to be trying to prove a point. By the mid-point of Supernova’s campaign, I was tired of the relationship between main character Keith T Maxwell and his sometimes girlfriend Carla. It seemed to have been scripted to bear as little similarity to an actual relationship as possible, accompanied by the usual low-quality voice acting.
But enough about that! What of the gameplay?
Supernova has a focus on defensive technology. You’ll be able to pick up things like a “transfusion beam”, which siphons enemies’ energy to replenish your shields, and sentry guns, up to 3 of which can be dropped somewhere in space and will automatically attack. These are certainly the best new additions to be found and introduce new playstyles.
There is a new mission type where you evacuate civilians, which is not particularly inspired, a hacking mini-game (essentially a sliding tiles puzzle), and another which requires you to ferry explosive materials, an exercise in frustration more than anything else, but it does at least force you to make use of the new kit. The new bounty hunting system is the strongest of the new missions, but you won’t unlock it until quite far into the expansion.
Not much fun is the new “radiation” mechanic, which kicks in during some story missions. You have a new meter under the health meter which will deplete steadily over time when close to the supernova. When the bar runs out, it’s game over. You can slow the depletion rate with new bits of equipment, but essentially it just means that these missions have a time limit. That’s fair enough, but for at least a couple of these missions, you literally only have time to ignore everything else and just boost to your destination, for a couple of minutes. I took the opportunity to reply to some emails whilst playing through those. Not a lot of fun, and seemingly indicative of the main aims of the 10-hour campaign: making you grind. There’s nothing quite as abhorrent as the “Kaamo Club” unlock requirements, but there’s far too much of flying to random space stations in the search for commodities to complete certain blueprints, and generally pointlessly travelling between systems. This is made worse by the plot missions no longer rewarding you with credits. Expect to ferry a lot of towels around or do a lot of mining (or resort to piracy).
I experienced some technical problems too. At one point you have to construct a “Gamma Shield II” but doing so doesn’t seem to actually put it into your cargo hold. It appears if you subsequently move something else into (or out of) your cargo hold, but it’s a silly bug and should get fixed.
The price point is also something of a concern, as it’s significantly more than Valkyrie (which you need to have played through before Supernova), without seeming to add much more in comparison. The real problem with Supernova though, is that many of the mechanics that seemed interesting and fresh at the start of the game feel tiresome after several hours of playing. Visiting space lounges looking for work becomes a chore, because there’s nothing to quickly indicate what work (if any) a given character will offer without clicking on… every… single… one.
What the original campaign got right was the Khador drive plot. Completing it rewarded you with equipment that removed some of the tedium (i.e. having to use warp gates and travel through systems in a linear fashion). This is what Supernova should have done, whether rewarding you with something that made finding specific commodities easier, or gave you a way to earn credits faster. Instead, it is content with adding a little variety into the mix, but sadly not enough to warrant the price tag.