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May 2021

Space Crew

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Runner Duck Games
Release Date: Oct. 15, 2020


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Space Crew'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 5, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In Space Crew players are tasked with defending Earth against a mysterious new alien menace by carefully recruiting crew members, designing their own spaceship and venturing across the cosmos.

Space Crew, the follow-up to Bomber Crew, follows the same basic premise but is set in space. It's sort of a sequel, so it means more wacky and wild things to encounter, more dimensions to explore, and more situations to deal with. While it may not keep the same concept, it's a sequel in pretty much every way that matters.

If you're not familiar with Bomber Crew, it's easiest to compare Space Crew to FTL. Both games are basically about managing your spaceship's crew, engines, power, and weapons, and they even have similar interfaces. Space Crew focuses more on the crew, and while you fight enemies, the fighting is almost entirely automated and depends on your character's stats and skills more than anything you're doing to target foes. You can move your crew freely around the deck, have them serve at different stations, repair broken parts of the ship, or fight off invaders.

Your crew is comprised of a captain, comms officer, engineer, two gunners, and security officer. Each serves a different purpose. The captain is also effectively the pilot, and their skills determine how successful you are at anything from aggressive charges to evasive maneuvers. They're probably the least expendable member of the crew, since leaving your ship unpiloted is a fantastic way to die. That may sometimes be necessary, but if the situation is that dire, you should consider the escape pods.

The comms officer is the second most important crew member after the captain. They're responsible for identifying routes to other star systems, targeting enemies, scanning objects, and more. If they leave their station, you lose out on targeting data, and that can be lethal during an enemy attack. They can also radio in for support from allied ships, which is a very useful bonus.

The engineer is the most flexible and arguably most useful member of the crew. If he's at his station, he can reroute power to improve engines, shields or weapons, which all boost your stats. He can even overclock that boost to give your ship a temporary power bonus or give the reactor a supercharge at the cost of making it emit dangerous radiation. If he isn't at his seat, then he's the fastest at repairing broken ship parts.

The two gunners handle the guns. They have higher accuracy than the rest of the crew and can increase that accuracy or overcharge the weapons to do more damage. You might think that means you can just stick them in the gunner seats and be done, but that isn't the case. You have four gunner seats (front, rear, left and right), and depending on the circumstances, certain guns can't hit certain positions. While you can solve this by using your engineer and security chief as backup gunners, you'll sometimes have to shuffle them between the gunner seats to make sure they can target incoming enemies.

The security chief is the guy in charge of your ship's defenses. While he makes a great additional gunner for your ship, he's also incredibly valuable on the bridge. He can increase your ship's defenses and enter "stealth mode," where you get a few precious moments of immunity to enemy attacks, so you can put out fires and repair systems.

All the while, there are tons of other things to monitor on your ship. Each system is potentially vulnerable to damage, shields can go down, fires can start, and enemy ships can invade and send their crewmembers to attack. You need to consider how to best handle these situations by placing caches of items throughout the ship. For example, you can put guns near the entrances, but that might force you to go past enemies when you need to fight them. Fire extinguishers are useful near problem parts of the ship. You need to consider what you need to focus on for your challenges.

Of course, you can get a ton of upgrades to help fight the enemies. Both your crew and your ship can be upgraded. You can get different equipment for your crew, which does everything from making them more durable to giving them immunity to radiation from damaged reactors. You unlock more things by collecting research from missions and spending the money from those missions to purchase ship and weapon upgrades. You may want to go for a less powerful but less risky set of engines or a more powerful reactor that is far more fragile. A mounted autogun/plasma rifle combo is more flexible than the stock weapons.

Where Space Crew shines is when you're putting out fires, both literal and metaphorical. Scrambling to figure out the solution to every damaged system, alien invasion, and radiation leak while leaving your crew with enough time to do their jobs involves a ton of micromanaging and positioning. You need to figure out which crew can be diverted from their jobs at which time, who is expendable and who isn't, whose skills are most vital, and so on. That makes it a big juggling act where every mission will have you frantically moving your crew around the ship. That also makes it engaging and gives it a different feel from the similar FTL, where that was more of a sign of failure than an everyday occurrence.

Space Crew is shaping up to be an excellent game for those who enjoyed FTL or Bomber Crew. It captures the same sense of fun in managing a constantly collapsing ship while having enough of its own personality to avoid being a retread. Assuming the full version lives up to our preview build, it should be something that fans of either game should check out. We'll see when Space Crew hits for all current-gen systems and computers later this month.

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