I’ve wrote about the modern space game renaissance before and it’s still in full swing, with recent releases like No Man’s Sky and the latest versions of Elite Dangerous floating around in the black. Not every space game is going to be the next Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, though, with an infinite budget and infinite development time going into creating a huge AAA masterpiece. Sometimes you’ve got games like Defect, cute lil’ indie titles that just want to take the spaceship concept and do weird stuff with it.
Defect is a little reminiscent of the classic indie title Captain Forever – the first indie game I ever purchased, incidentally – in that it revolves around constructing your own ships. Put together something big and fancy! You’ve got plenty of options within a limited budget and each contributes to your ship’s performance; effective ship design is key to victory, and you’ll have to keep the actual functionality of your parts in mind. Placing all your guns on the side of the ship for broadsides while moving can be effective, for instance, but it’ll leave you defenseless to attacks from the front or back. That would be a pretty critical weakness, certainly something you’d want to avoid, but…
…well, you’re not always going to have that nice ship that you put together. At the end of each mission you’ll face a mutiny, so your beloved ride is going to be taken from you and you’ll have to face it later on. This means that you’re going to have to battle the best ship you could come up with as it’s being piloted against you, so you’ll have to improve your design and figure out a way to beat yourself.
It’s a nice idea and encourages you to build flaws into your vessel; knowing your own weaknesses is the best way to win this sort of fight, and that’s much easier if you created those openings yourself. You can’t make something that’s too weak, since you won’t be able to complete your upcoming mission, but putting together something vastly overpowered could come back to haunt you. You’re also best off not getting too attached to anything you build, since it won’t be yours for long.
Controlling your ships also plays out a bit like Captain Forever, though unlike that game your weapons are handled automatically once an opponent comes within range. This means that the game’s closest analogue is something like Asteroids. Skillful piloting can be difficult and is bound to take some getting used to, especially given that you’re meant to be designing flaws into your ships to ensure that you don’t accidentally build something unstoppable. I didn’t find this to be the end of the world, though, and despite some fumbling with the camera and ship controls early on I was eventually able to get the hang of things.
Defect has around 50 missions to play through, so you’re not going to be hurting for content, even if the majority of these amount to killing everything that moves. The real fun of the game is all about finding out how you fare against your old ship designs. You can build some pretty impressive vessels as the game proceeds…but do you really want to when you’re going to have to tame the beast you built a little down the line? As for the game’s presentation, it’s a fairly standard space game with some cute character designs here and there; don’t expect graphical splendor, but the game looks nice enough.
So long as you can avoid the pitfall of getting too emotional about your ships, you’ll probably enjoy the game’s unique blend of ship construction and, uh, self-flagellation. It’s an interesting idea that other games of this nature would be wise to iterate on. There are certainly some, uh, ‘defects’ here and there, but overall Defect is a space shooter that’s well worth a look.