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Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Starfront Collision HD (iPad)

I’ve been critical of Gameloft in the past. I can understand where its games come from, and in producing cut price versions of popular franchises, it has found itself a substantial fanbase. But games like Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Modern Combat: Domination and Order and Chaos are soulless games, and, as much as they’re guilty pleasures, impossible to recommend.

Yep, about to win this one.



Starfront Collision HD is a little different, though. For whatever reason, and even though it’s as soulless and vanilla as the rest of the Gameloft catalogue, I enjoyed this one. It plays well on the iPad touch screen and it’s in a genre where story doesn’t matter.

The latter is just as well (and a big reason Gameloft's RPG knock-offs fail), because the story and setting of the game itself is typical Gameloft fare – generic to the point where it is utterly painful. At a basic level, Starfront plays like the game it steals from – Starcraft – in having three races find a common reason to beat the living daylights out of one another.

Follow the arrow, boys


The three races are carbon copies of Starcraft’s Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss too, though no less than five minutes after putting my iPad down to come and review the game, I am so uninterested in these carbon copies that I can’t remember the names Gameloft has come up with for them. It’s just as well there’s a ‘skip’ button for the cut scenes, because I found myself using it, even on the first play through the game.

But it really is an irrelevant complaint. Starfront is a game that is all about bringing the action-heavy Starcraft RTS action to the iPad, and it does so in a reasonably balanced fashion. There’s fewer buildings and units to juggle with this game, and it does pull a lot of the complexity out of the formula, but Starfront is at all times accessible, and easy to pick up and play – it’s a game that’s a time filler, not a time consumer.

Clearly an important character, this one in white


And Gameloft acknowledges this with this game – better than in other titles from the studio. Missions are kept brief, deathmatch maps are small. There's no need to grind all the way to level 60 to see everything, and there's less than 20 missions to play through. An individual game that runs for more than half an hour is a long one, and even though you'll get your money's worth with the skirmish maps and the like, this is thankfully not a game that outstays its welcome. It works to the game’s benefit, because it hides the shattering lack of depth and strategy in the game. Moreso than any other RTS I’ve ever played, all Starfront is about is building an elite swarm of units quicker than your opponent. That's not strategy. The only skill that requires is quick tapping.

It makes online play pretty dull, and unless you’re desperate there are plenty of more compelling strategy games with online components available on the iPad. But, the general ease of this game (even on the highest difficulty levels), along with some technically impressive visuals means swarming over the AI enemy is like a good hot chocolate – satisfying without being filling.

Franky, the only way to win this game is by swarming. Takes the 'strategy' out of RTS


Obviously, if you do have either Starcraft game, or a laptop with some other strategy game installed on it, there’s little to no reason to look at Starfront – while it’s technically competent, it’s still an empty game. If you do prefer gaming on the iPad, however, I’m going to do a personal first and admit that this Gameloft game isn’t that bad – certainly I would recommend it over Command and Conquer on this platform.

That said, I’ll restate what I say every other time I review a Gameloft game – the studio is clearly filled with some talented artists and programmers – why can’t it invest in something that’s even slightly original? Gameloft remains far too cynical for me to ever be a real fan. 


Review: Starfront Collision HD (iPad)
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