Starshatter is an overly-ambitions space sim that will probably appeal to everyone - except those that like space sims.

Starshatter mixes in elements of flight sim, space shooter and RTS but at the expense of depth. Virtually all aspects of the game are simplified almost to the point of an arcade game which does make it accessible to a wide audience, though it's doubtful that was the original intent. The game is by no means a cakewalk but more often than not you'll be chalking up your losses to bad luck rather than your lack of strategic skill.

There simply isn't enough variables or commands at your control. There are plenty of options that you can choose from to customize certain features of the game but whatever you do will have little bearing on the core gameplay. You can play with or without Newtonian physics. You can change perspectives, customize your HUD as well as the various ships, weapons and missions with the aid of the editing interface. To facilitate more efficient commands and round off the edges of difficulty in the strategy department you can pause the game and zoom in to various areas to see where trouble is developing. Purists don't have to pause the game but the feature is there for those that need it.

Fighting ships are small and carry little in the way of weapons. You only have so many missiles and when you run out of them you are not going to be in very good shape against the AI. You'll have to run around looking for friendly forces to arm yourself again - if you get that far.

You will grow in rank as you complete missions which will enable you to control larger ships such as a capital and a carrier. These ships are huge and cumbersome to control. Once you give a command it takes a while before it goes into effect. They're armed with plenty of firepower but then again so is the enemy. For the most part you and the enemy are always evenly matched in weapons, ships, armor and ability. Having two capital ships go head-to-head is a crapshoot. You just keep shooting and hope for the best. It's a laborious effort that's more like work than fun.

Damage is persistent and for a while it seems that the more damage you do, the easier it is to defeat the enemy in subsequent missions. But just as soon as you get comfortable the AI will come in with big guns a'blazing and kick your ass right off the throne and into the gutter. It's unfair and it's very frustrating. It upsets the continuity of the game. I can accept the AI becoming more challenging but not overwhelmingly more powerful for no apparent reason.

It's a huge world out there so don't expect a lot of detail in the graphics. You can zoom out and take a look at the big picture but the more closely you look the uglier it gets. No more is that evident than on the planets. You expect space to be a large void but the planets come off looking like minimalist paintings. They are static and barren. Sound-wise the game is equally as sparse but that's what you want. At least the background music isn't jammed with Euro-trance. With the editor you can program some voice commands on your custom missions which is a nice touch. The sound effects are decent but we've heard them all before. If this game really wants to go the sim route, there should be no sound at all since sound can't travel in the vacuum of space. Oh, I'm a smart little whip aren't I?

Starshatter allows for online play and you might get some mileage out of the editor. The interface is helpful and easy to use so you might want to customize a few missions of your own. The game's lack of depth however is its downfall. The dumber you are, the longer you will be able to play this game. I don't say that to belittle intellectually-challenged gamers…..yes I do.

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System: PC
Dev: Destroyer Studios
Pub: Matrix Games
Release: Sept 2004
Players: 1 - Online Multi-Player
Review by Stew XX