I remember the days when dogfighting space shooters were often over-complicated resource hogs that my computer would never run properly. Wing Commanders, Star Treks and Star Wars games flooded the niche market and they all seemed so very cool…but still unattainable on my budget. With more recent games like No Man’s Sky, Everspace and Star Citizen, it’s proof the genre will always be relevant to a certain subset of the gaming community.
What games like those do well, to a fault, is simulation. Unless you’ve got the bank account of Elon Musk chances are most of us will never get to explore the universe, so having a realistic approximation of what a pilot might do amongst the stars is a handy – and cheaper – alternative. For some, more details means more experience, even if that means fiddling with every possible variation meant less time flying through space. This is like catnip for simulation fans, but almost a deterrent for those just wanting to suit up and shoot at things that are shooting back.
Subdivision Infinity DX aims to be a more arcade-style shooter than most of its brethren. You play an expert pilot trying to investigate a mining facility that recently went dark. After being attacked, you start to realize that there’s more going on than you initially first thought. Only, what’s there isn’t particularly engaging as you just see your character primarily talking to a droid, talking head style, in a very boiler-plate manner. The lack of voice acting, ironically, works in the game’s favor as hearing the wooden dialogue would’ve been torture. Remember: in space, no one can hear you scream.
But that’s okay! Subdivision knows your not really here for the story or simulations; you’re here to blow stuff up and kill things, both of which it does just fine. Most interesting is how the game sets up its levels and stages. Instead of giving you a level after level progression, instead you’re given a level with multiple different stages per level you’re required to finish in order to progress to the next bit.
For instance, you’ll get one stage that requires you to take down some turrets. Once you do a bit of dialogue helps progress you to the next stage, presenting another challenge to complete. After you move to the next level, you’re able to return in an explorative capacity as you’re now able to mine – for crafting purposes – and explore the maps at your own pace.
This helps add a bit of quickplay action to the game as a whole. Instead of being overloaded with banal prepwork to get into blowing up stuff, you’re instead given the ability to just hop right into the action.
The shooting itself feels real solid, especially with the mouse and keyboard on the PC version. The free-aiming of the mouse feels like you’re actually flying and fighting. Switching over to the controller felt a little too arcadey and a tad clunky as there’s a bit of an overkill on the auto-aim and locking feature that took away from the fun of aiming. The game is already quite shallow as a whole so removing the most engaging part of the combat seems like a waste.
Combat always feels kinetic and exciting when it comes to fighting other ships in your class, but prepare to be a bit more easily overwhelmed when it comes to the bigger ships or turrets as they can take you down a lot quicker than you’d think. Death isn’t a big deal on most attempts, but whenever you die in the middle of a long stage you’re required to go back to the start and that can be a huge bummer on stages that are multi tiered.
This is especially true on one particular mission where I died around 3 times because I didn’t realize I was running right into a dangerous minefield toward the very end of the stage. The first time it happened, I thought I’d crashed into an asteroid or another ship. The second time I met death was genuinely confusing. It was only during a third run that I noticed the glowing red field.
I’m better than this! I know I am. The reason I didn’t notice is because Subdivision does a poor job at letting the player know what’s what (and sometimes where). Generally, critical waypoints and enemies are marked as clear as day but any mines or miscellaneous waypoints to things you need to destroy are normally denoted by itty-bitty little white boxes that blend too easy on the black and white background, an awkward color combo that makes it extremely difficult to see. I died far more by accident or poor labelling than actually falling victim to dogfights.
On that note, the actual dogfighting is pretty solid but there were a handful of times when I watched an enemy ship turn behind an asteroid and then get stuck. I’d be sitting there waiting for him to come veering around from behind it, but their icon doesn’t move. So I’d fly on over and he’d be just chilling, unsure what to do next. This happened a lot but maybe it’s just some super complex pilot maneuver that I’m just not privy to?
Beyond the combat there’s also some pre-level stuff that you can set up and prepare for by crafting with materials you’ve collected for completing missions or mining asteroids. This is basic fare like new ships, new weapons as well as upgrades for those new additions. None of these are groundbreaking additions but they do add some much-needed variety from mission to mission.
Subdivision Infinity DX offers an engaging way to dive right into interstellar space combat right out of the gate for players craving instant arcade-style action. Truthfully, there’s not much substance to the story aspect, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the overall combat and customization. This is also a very pretty game, though one that probably could have used better contrasting, especially given its limited color palette. While it never quite approaches the instant thrills of something like StarFox, the instant-satisfaction of Subdivision’s combat will likely keep players engaged throughout.