Sunday, February 7, 2016

Distant Star: Revenant Fleet - 20/20 hours

Overall, I think I'm going to have to give this game a thumbs down. And the reason for this is a relatively simple one - the enemy waves scale to your fleet size. To me, that defies the central tenet of the roguelike social contract - the world will not give you any consideration.

Like, that's why I accept the permadeath and the stacked odds, because the game is relentlessly, terrifyingly fair. When I get to the last sector and find myself overwhelmed because the shops spawned shit-tier equipment and I got that one event that completely wiped my bank, I could, at least, console myself with the idea that had the RNG favored me, and I was running a fleet of powerful ships in the same situation, I would be able to crush it.

That is not the case, and Distant Star: Revenant Fleet isn't even subtle about it. My last runthrough was unusual, because I was able to field two capital ships for the first time, and when I did, hoo-boy. There was a whole new class of enemy that I'd never even seen before. These enemy capital ships had AoE bombs and huge shield and hull bars. Even focus-firing all my fleet weapons on them, I couldn't take one down before its shields regenerated.

I kind of felt betrayed. I'd been scrabbling along all this time thinking that if I ever got a run of good luck I'd be able to waltz over these exact same challenges that had been giving me trouble, but then the good luck comes and the game is all, "nah, we'll just make it harder." There's not caring if I win and then there's actively working to make me lose. And that's where I draw the line.

Anyway, I was eventually able to prevail, even despite the game's attempt at sabotage. And my reward for sticking it out was an ending video . . . which I couldn't understand because I turned off the game sound and apparently the cutscenes use the same volume control as the music or sound effects. I guess there's an "arc" or something, that is probably a valuable piece of extraterrestrial technology and the enemy faction was so afraid of the player faction opening it that they decided to use a planet-killing weapon on the player homeworld. But when you defeat the weapon, the A'kari go ahead and open it anyway, and . . . something happens. It's probably cool.

I actually kind of grew to hate the A'kari over the course of the game. In the various encounters, you're given a choice of how to respond, via these dialogue trees, and I've noticed that the available answers paint the A'kari as this honor-obsessed warrior culture with a well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness.

Maybe this is just a cultural disconnect between me and the science fiction/fantasy community at large, but I always find these sorts of "warrior cultures" to be hugely obnoxious. I'm just thoroughly unimpressed by "honor," especially when it's favored at the expense of empathy and compassion, and when characters brag about how good they are at killing, I actually just find it pathetic (which, ironically, makes me a big fan of those hyper-violent works where this is acknowledged - as much as the A'kari annoy me, I find Travis Touchdown hilarious).

I wonder if I did the right thing by winning the game. Sure, I save millions of lives by stopping the enemy planet-killer, but then the A'kari opened the arc, and I'm not convinced they can be trusted with whatever it turned out to be.

Oh well. It's not that big a deal. Darkness may have overcome the Distant Star: Revenant Fleet galaxy, but it's not like I'm going to be coming back any time soon. I mean, maybe I was a little hard on the game for its flagrant cheating, and I can see how it might appeal to some people, but its particular combination of challenges really isn't my cup of tea, so I don't see myself ever playing it again.

Still, it's nice to have closure for once.

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