It was a sunny day in San Francisco.
But I was heading indoors to travel to dark space, outer regions of a colonial conflict between settled worlds and Mother Earth. The screen was full of stars and it wasn't until I got closer that I realized the afterburners of my enemies were moving about in the field of light. The enemies swarmed like wasps around my carrier ship as I gave silent pursuit.
There's an engrossing facet of Strike Suit Zero I can't quite put my finger on, something that pulled me in and gently vibrated my senses until I was so entangled in the frenetic web of enemy and friendly fighters that it took be a while to return to reality. The space shooter genre hasn't had much of the spotlight lately, but a few unique twists in the upcoming title from Born Ready Games could give it a laser shot in the arm.
Chief among these is the ability to transform your space-jet into a mech with heightened movement and weapon capabilities. As tempting as it might be, Born Ready does not allow players to zip around in Mech-mode for long, instead forcing players to manage "flux."
Flux energy is gained by destroying enemies and spent while in Mech mode. Rapid switching, speed, and persistent combat are all keys in balancing flux, the mech mode, and your maneuvers as a fighter jet. While normally I'd decry a developer who doesn't commit fully to their main gameplay draw (being a huge fighting, shooting robot in space), I think I had much more fun when I was forced to contemplate the risks and rewards of switching between my machine's two states.
Being forced to calculate how much time you have in mech before getting forced back into fighter jet form means you're always juggling gameplay systems. You're locking on to enemies with missiles and leading them with machine gun fire. Then you are under lock yourself.
Here I had to weigh two options: try to barrel roll my way out of the mess I had chasing me, or switch to mech and strafe to dodge. Opting for the latter, I quickly brought my mech's combat systems to bear on the enemy foolish enough to tail me.
The Strike Suit can be equipped with many different weapons, including a rail gun and a plasma gun, but I preferred the homing missiles. Once I had my attacker lined up, I held down the right mouse button and locked on to a horizon full of enemies. The homing missile can fire up to twenty at a time, meaning there were about to be twenty dead tangos on my screen.
But pretty space explosions can't spell death if you're too entranced by them. So I spun around and quickly fired another volley of missiles at an enemy carrier before transforming and speeding away after an enemy buzzing my own fleet.
Strike Suit Zero is clearly at its best when players realize the rhythm of combat and determine how they want to fit in with what the rest of the battlefield is doing. Scores and leaderboards will encourage players to experiment with that rhythm and figure out what works well for them.
My time with Born Ready's space-sim was short-lived, but success and defeat were drawn finely in the upper atmosphere that day. A jetline trailed between the skyscrapers before my imagination could scoop it up and flip the wings out to form a robot's shoulders. I guess I'm eager to get back to the front lines.