Captain’s Log, Stardate 43125.8. First contact with the game known as Stardrop encountered. Hailing frequencies open. Alright, I’ll stop with my Patrick Stewart impersonation now, and yes, in the greater debate, Picard beats Kirk. But that’s for another time. For anyone that grew up watching Star Trek, when you first launch Stardrop the parallels will be very noticeable. From the theme music, right down to the way the ‘episodes’ open with panoramic shots of your vessel flying through space, the game has a very Star Trek feel to it.
The Trekiness the game exudes should clue players into the type of game this is going to be. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sci-fi shooter or horror; this is a game where combat doesn’t even take place. You play as Aryn Vance, a female salvager who, accompanied by her co-worker John, begins missions to investigate potential wrecks for salvage opportunities. The game currently offers two modes of play, the main story mode, as well as ‘SRO Missions’ for you to whet your appetite with. The ‘SRO Missions’ appear to be small, one-off, standalone missions which like the main game are narrative driven.
Delving into Stardrop
One Christmas themed mission was very heart-warming in its conclusion and delivered exceptionally well through the dialogue between Aryn and John. The quality of the voice acting as well as the expertly written, although sometimes cheesy, dialogue makes their relationship a very believable one. Of important note, is that this is a small-team development project and the game’s lead developer, Joure Visser, lists his inspiration as titles such as Portal and Alien: Isolation. Very high standards to set, especially without the AAA budgets those games had to support them.
Graphically, the game has the fidelity you would expect from a game built in Unreal Engine 4. The space stations you explore all shine and glisten as the light bounces off their metallic surfaces, or they have the gloomy, dull look of a station without power. Even without full video options available, the game isn’t lackluster in its appearance. Accompanying this is a soundtrack that always matches the mood, whether it is a sense of accomplishment or one of urgency that goes with attempting to stop malfunctioning androids.
The gameplay itself consists of a series of puzzles and problems that need to be solved. The missions available in the demo offered only a linear experience and a single solution, which for a demo is perfectly acceptable, and it will be interesting to see if the full game offers a choice and adds a layer of complexity upon release. The level design is very atmospheric and really hones in on the solitude of space. Exploring a disused space station becomes a slightly haunting experience when the only other human contact is by voice, and thus John’s humor becomes a welcomed interruption.
StarTrek meets Firewatch
This is where the beauty of the game can truly be found. For anyone that played 2016’s excellent narrative driven experience Firewatch, you are in for a similar treat here. Finding out the real story, uncovering all the mysteries and wanting to know more about John and Aryn are what will keep players moving forward.
Stardrop is shaping up to be a release well worth keeping an eye on. There is a release date penciled in for November 2017 on Windows, but the developer has indicated the possibility of OSX and Linux releases in the future as well. In its current state, the game offers an intriguing experience, where I am left wanting to know more but having to patiently wait. For anyone interested in having a taste of what the game will offer, there is a demo available here. The game will also be available on itch.io once released in Oct.2017.