Underspace is an upcoming space shooter developed and published by Pastaspace interactive. Currently in development, we got our hands on the demo (available here) there’s more going on under the hood than you’d expect. Let’s warp into the Underspace PC Preview!
The demo starts with you being disgraced from your noble duties and property, and you’re forced to start again as a Starchaser, essentially a space-faring fighter pilot for hire. There are a few characters to chat to, and it’s clear that the story will play a large part in this game on full release.
Once you’re in a ship though, there’s a whole region of space to explore, with different space stations, cargo ships and even the local police force casually going about their business. Reaching objectives is interesting, in that you can choose to take the long route and fly with your ship straight there, but space is vast and this would take a long time.
Or, you could use space highways to shoot you around at lightning speed to key areas of interest. Despite these handy highways I did find myself sometimes taking the long route and using the time to check objectives and stats, almost like reading a mission brief in the cockpit on the way.
Combat starts fairly quickly, and for the most part, it feels engaging and satisfying to play. Targeting systems let you see where to shoot to hit moving enemy fighters at all times, and their movements are erratic enough that you need to pay attention to what you’re doing at all times. The level of complexity to your controls is relatively high with every key doing a different thing, but the basics are easy to grasp and the game shines when you’ve got multiple enemies you need to kite around at once to survive.
The game can feel slow at times though; the AI is good at evading and trying to defend itself, but there’s not much pressure except for when you’re outnumbered four or more to one. When it’s just you and one other enemy it can feel like a slow tedious chase to bring them down, especially if they have high hull integrity and your weapons are on cooldown every fifteen seconds. I hope this isn’t the case for the full release, but it feels like there should be more aggression to really make you think about your battle strategy and prioritisation.
What I wasn’t expecting though were the RPG mechanics; you have a surprising degree of choice in who to attack, and your choices affect your favour with certain groups. By the end of the demo, I had very good standing with the police for assisting them in taking out a renegade group called the Washers, who conversely, would attack me on sight if I bumped into any of them in between missions. The Washers have other allies who also took a disliking to me, but not as much as I assume I hadn’t attacked them personally.
The world-building structure, from what I can glean from the demo, is a mix of both capitalist and feudal political structures, taking good inspiration from Dune. If the RPG mechanics with differing alliances end up impacting your main narratives choices and outcomes, it would be the perfect wrapper to the base gameplay; I found myself being interested in who I was fighting and why during my time with the demo, and I hope once fully developed we see our choices locking us off of certain paths and opening new ones in response. This is, however, a daunting task for even major studios, let alone the indie scene so even if it’s vaguely implemented I’d consider it a success.
Underspace PC Preview – Verdict
Underspace is a very promising title from the limited content seen in the demo, with lots of potential and room to grow into something unique. The core combat could benefit from being beefed up a little, with more aggressive enemies and a bit faster paced, but the initial workings of a gritty immersive sci-fi universe are there, and I hope on full release the game delivers.
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