A vast and characterful space adventure.
An open-world adventure where humanity has barely survived a nano-sized apocalypse and space is very much your backyard, 3030 Deathwar Redux can seem overwhelming at first. And the graphics, while they inspire a nostalgic ambience, won’t be to everyone’s taste. But if you put in the time, the game grows in dimension and scope, in new and interesting ways.
Take on the role John Falcon, a space-adventurer/scavenger who explores mysterious, dead, derelict ships, searching for hidden treasures and resources to sell in order to survive. When searching derelicts, 3030 Deathwar Redux is a 2D side-scroller, with basic up, down and side-to-side controls complemented by easily defeatable enemies. The exploration and discovery elements make you want to come back and delve within deeper, with rare resources and treasures that can be carted back to the many cantinas and space stations and sold for those sweet, sweet Credits.
You may even decide to go after the most lucrative derelict of them all, the Largo, carrying an enormous supply of gold. The challenge lies in the fact that this derelict is constantly on the move. You’ll need to focus on the radar and try to pick out, among the stationary derelicts, the one that is creeping along.
The story revolves around a post-apocalyptic world where the planets have been rendered uninhabitable by specialised nanomachines known as Cleaners. It’s the perfect environment for the development of space stations where the remains of humanity struggle to survive. As the game progresses, you’ll be treated to special cutscenes and missions, which you are able to tackle at your own pace, meaning that if you simply want to run courier jobs or complete bounties, that’s entirely up to you.
The story, however, is one you’ll want to explore – especially as it begins to deliver into the mysterious relationship between the Cleaners and the world around them, and the secret Taoist organisation that tries to fight them. With the dangerous colonies, shady organisations, a clear-cut light versus dadk and, of course, space, the Star Wars influence is clear. Plus John Falcon has a getup that is suspiciously like Indiana Jones, who was played by Harrison Ford, who also played Han Solo. Coincidence? Probably.
The story is unobtrusive, and doesn’t lock off equipment or items until you have progressed to a certain point. There are certain missions that require – say – a Tractor Beam, but assuming you have enough Credits you can get that right from the get-go. How do you become the richest space pirate/smuggler in the systems? Really, however you want to. 3030 Deathwar Redux’s willingness to let you carve your own path is one of its strongest assets.
The most common form of income generation is a series of constantly randomly generated side quests, which can vary from hunting down enemy pirates and other criminals, to passenger transport and good old-fashioned asteroid destruction. Credits and unique resources are the rewards for these jobs, and you can simply continue to pick them up from their access terminals at any space station of the many systems in 3030 Deathwar Redux.
Where it misses the opportunity to excel is in the space combat and ship customisation, which lead to sections of the game that feel bland and limited. There are many kinds of ships, each with their own advantages and drawbacks such the types of weapons that can be equipped. But that’s where the customisation ends.
It’s not that the game suffers because I can’t paint my favourite shades of purple on my chosen ship. But the lack of variety in customisation limits combat strategy. It means combat can at times seem like an intergalactic game of bumper cars with lasers. I spent a lot of my time in 3030 Deathwar Redux roaming in circles with my weapons on full throttle, strafing and hoping they blew up before I did.
Outside of combat and expiration, you’ll spend a lot of time commuting between jobs, which, even with the split-drive enabling cross-system travel, can take a while. Fortunately, the game’s soundtrack is amazing, and nowhere do you hear that more than in the dead calm of your ultrasonic travel. It creates an urgent ambience that encapsulates and imbues you with good vibes and in some cases, goosebumps. Of course, the music doesn’t just kick in when you are travelling through the vacuum of space, with space stations having their own unique sound as you wander through the 2D hustle and bustle. It makes the world seem alive and energetic.
It adds up to something more than a 2D side-scrolling adventure game. The openness, the music and, perhaps most importantly, the sharp dialogue that’s found throughout every space station – they all add to 3030 Deathwar Redux’s character and personality. Above all, they make it almost timeless – which is helpful for a game that’s been a decade in the making, and of which older versions have been available for years.
This is an open-world space-faring 2D adventure game where the story is not the only thing to accomplish, nor is it the most rewarding. Space is your nano-bot-infested oyster and, whether you wish to tackle the plethora of constantly regenerating jobs and experience the best of the NPC dialogue, or delve through the farthest reaches of space in search of treasure-laden derelicts, 3030 Deathwar Redux welcomes you with open arms.