Switch version tested
Review code provided
After a successful outing on Steam in September, Ellada games have taken the reigns and ported Spaceland onto everybody’s favourite hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. Created by Tortuga Games, Spaceland is a turn-based strategy shooter that will appeal to fans of X-Com and Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
Follow the story of a pair of space rangers who, while out cruising the galaxy pick up a distress signal from a nearby planet, being the heroes that they are they rush to the rescue only to have their ship damaged upon entry. Venturing into the compound it’s soon apparent something very Ridley Scott has happened as alien creatures roam free and dead bodies are in abundance. As you lead your heroes through the pretty lengthy campaign you will encounter survivors to join your ranks. Each survivor will fill you in on the background of events and aid you in saving the day and escaping the planet.
Turn-based action is the order of the day for traversing the labs and caverns of this icy planet if you hope to survive these slimy monsters. Luckily your team are made of a range of characters each with their own class and abilities from quick-moving assault, heavy gunners, close range, demolitions, a medic etc. At the start of each round characters will be allocated based on the mission, sometimes these are chosen for you or require a certain character to be in the group for story purposes but you are usually given the option to choose at least one from the remaining group to suit your play style. The overall number of characters in each level will again be down to the story and objective elements involved.
Each turn within a level your team will have a set number of actions they can take. These break down to movement and attack. You can flick between your active team a will with the shoulder buttons to help you hone your strategy with movement radius being laid out in grid tiles. White tiles will highlight the furthest you can move and green will highlight the tiles you can shoot from. Choosing whether to run away or stand your ground to fight will be a balancing act based on your mission objective. Bear in mind that completing an objective does not automatically end the level as you will then have to move your team to the exit so having someone cover the rear or planting some land mines is a viable option.
Each level contains a well-designed core objective to achieve which turns the game into just as much a puzzler as it is a strategy shooter. Racking up a body count is not the key to success and although Spaceland does inspire you to keep your squad on the move with a finger on the trigger, blasting away unnecessarily will soon find you with no ammo when things get rough. The environment will also play a key role and anything that can hurt you can also hurt your enemies. For example, in certain area’s you will have a series of bridges to cross that can only handle the weight of one character. If you can lure a couple of baddies onto a single bridge it will collapse and take them out. Ammo and Health crates are scattered around to give you a helping hand but they can only be used once. If you have had a pretty heavy fight you may have to choose which of your party members is likely to benefit most from the supplies.
The progression moves along at a steady pace with gameplay focusing a bit more on keeping your team on the move than hunkering behind cover. Each level is well designed and shouldn’t take more than ten to fifteen minutes to finish which was ideal for handheld play. After each level, you are awarded tokens for your performance which can be spent on levelling up your team’s weapons and stats. Tokens are won by completing a level, killing a set number of enemies, finding secrets and finishing the level within a set amount of moves. These don’t have to be done all at once, you can replay levels as many times as you want but with the AI being fairly tunnel-visioned in their patterns the replay value loses something here. The upgrade tree is slightly bare-bones but it’s a nice inclusion, primarily you will upgrade characters core abilities such as the range of the medic’s healing abilities which comes in handy if you find your team is spread out during a boss fight.
Presentation for Spaceland is bright and detailed, the hand-drawn style art looks gorgeous in both docked and handheld and at first, the slightly cartoonish aesthetics made me think this game might be a bit weak in content but the gameplay is tight and solid with a difficulty that progresses at a steady rate and soon offers a real challenge. The story is also deceptively deep and the characters all have a strong amount of personality which is impressive given they are not voiced.
Sound effects and fantastic, from the gun’s, explosions to alien noises everything has a good level of polish. The overall music score I really enjoyed, that classic sci-fi synth reminded me of the first Mass Effect and draw’s you right into the setting.
Spaceland is a love letter so the best turn-based strategy titles that have claimed many an hour of gaming time from fans of the genre. Though the offering may appear a bit light compared to the likes of X-COM, the focus on a bit more action and less hiding behind cover makes Spaceland a great addition to the Switch library.
TBG Score: 7.5/10
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 30/10/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Survival, Adventure, Role-Playing, Strategy
Developer: Tortuga Team
Download link: eShop