Space blast from the past
Upon reaching level 30, there’s a part in Galaxy Warfighter where it starts to click. The core systems which continue to shine throughout the shoot em’ up genre do so here, with a satisfying whirl alongside a fair few niggles.
Developer Qplaze’s break from mobile video games to their debut on Steam (alongside a Nintendo Switch release) is a basic one, though it highlights the fundamentals of the shoot em’ up genre.
As a generic (although lovingly-detailed), intergalactic spaceship, you’ll launch off from your home base and work your way through more than 100 levels of largely the same thing: avoiding enemy fire, shooting enemy ships, and collecting money on your way to the boss at the end of the level.
Each level only takes a few minutes, so it has an addictive quality of ‘just one more go’ which nestles itself in the back of your brain. However, it takes 30 levels of grind to get to that stage.
The game is slow-paced at the start with only a handful of enemy types and few enemies to battle against. While you’d expect a game to naturally ease you into the chaos, Galaxy Warfighter takes too much time getting to the good stuff.
Die, die, die
You’ll frequently die in Galaxy Warfighter and, particularly around levels 40-60, it’s a bit stop-start. Certain missions will act as barriers which you’ll pound against until you’ve blasted apart enemies, swooped to the side to grab every space dollar and accumulate just enough money to upgrade certain attributes and equipment. It’s a shame as it highlights a bumpy difficulty curve which halts your momentum and progression almost arbitrarily.
However, once you do start to hit the rhythm and you’re lost in a fevered firefight, the game sings.
As you flit from one part of the screen to the next, constantly firing in one direction (right to left), trying to ensure you hit and kill as many enemies as possible while worrying about enemy placement, what’s shooting at you, what you’ll soon face, and whether you should risk grabbing the weapon upgrade; it’s exciting, intense and a bit mad. You’re trying to solve these problems within milliseconds and doing it for that long requires a burst of focus and concentration which can be incredibly satisfying.
Although, with only four bosses (one of which will appear at the end of each level) the end of each mission can be a bit boring as you kill them using the same method you did last time, which wasn’t hard to figure out in the first place. The only thing which has changed is they might have increased stats.
Aside from being able to boost your health, shield, gun damage and drones, you can also upgrade a couple of abilities to help you over these hurdles.
The first is a wave attack which, well, sends a wave of energy from your ship and damages enemies. It’s a bit of a disappointment as, compared to the other satisfying audio effects, it doesn’t sound impactful at all – it’s more like you’ve shone a laser into their eyes, rather than hit them with an arcing beam of death.
The second is the ability to stop time/ freeze the screen, which is incredible, but maybe too incredible. While it can instantly take the pressure off and allow you to squeeze your way out of a barrage of bullets, it can also make some encounters too easy. For example, a tactic I used once I’d bought the ability was to save it for the boss where, upon seeing them, I would pop the time stop and shoot the bosses in their weak points. Most of the time, this would kill the boss before the ability wore off, so there was no real fight.
Put it in the time break
During the time stop, it’s easier to notice the ship’s hitbox is a bit wrong. Occasionally I would get hit when I shouldn’t have been. However, it can also work the other way around as well. Sometimes you might find yourself about to be blasted by a bullet only for it to miss you so while it lends a bit of mistrust to whether or not or hitbox is correct, it rarely makes much of a difference.
However, you won’t notice the hitbox peculiarity straight away as your eyes will be drawn to the wonderful, pixelated backdrops. In the occasional break from firing your way through enemies and asteroid fields, you may get a chance to absorb browns, deep purples and splashes of blue on the backdrops, which slowly pan throughout the level, giving you the illusion of progression. The artwork has a nice darkness to it with a sense of loneliness and emptiness coming through, in spite of the fact your screen is usually filled with ships. Like the bosses, though, there’s only a few so you’ll quickly start seeing the same things.
Galaxy Warfighter is a modern take on an arcade shoot em’ up, and it’s a good imitation, it just comes with a few caveats, particularly its repetitiveness and lack of evolution towards the later levels of the game.
[Reviewed on PC]