I’ve been sort of mulling over this list passively in my head for the last two weeks or so. I feel it’s a good and worthwhile discussion. Though my confidence in this game’s success has long since disappeared, my previous ties to this game have compelled me to post my thoughts here. These two lists are a direct result of everything, good and bad, that has come about in this game. In many ways, these are the top 4 most likely reasons Star Conflict will live or die.
I hope to see some productive talk about these items, and hopefully some actual progress is made by both the community and the developers as a result.
Without further delay, let’s dive in.
4. The US playerbase is dead.
The last of the major US powerhouse corps - NASA - has been overrun by Russians, with leadership struggling in the absence of its CEO. All other US corps have folded long before, with the major competitor to NASA disbanding in favor of joining elsewhere. All minor remaining US corps have slowly died out, or been unable to withstand the few Russian corps that are willing to log on at US timezones to attack sovereignty systems there. A handful of US corps have hung on, but once the Russians go to sleep, the game goes silent.
Much of these issues are easily notable with the near-universal selection of Russian servers in pubqueue PvP. Far too often, even a small contingent of Russian players will force the server into their region, and the small quantity of US players must hope their connection does not give them a disadvantage they cannot overcome.
With lag often too high to support the more agile ships and the removal of turn keys which allowed high-ping players to maintain straighter paths in flight, US players are forced to move into the slower and bulkier ship classes, which will become another point of frustration further down this list.
3. The gameplay has become heavily infested with campy, stagnant fights.
Weapons such as the Flux Phaser, high-lag games forcing players to take slower ships, and the emphasis on High-HP ships have encouraged players not to commit to a fight from any worthwhile brawling ranges. What was once much more a close-range brawl is now a run-and-hide fight, encouraging hit and runs on ships with far too much HP to ever kill under such circumstances - and more often than not being shot down by a long range camp weapon shortly after breaking cover.
The combination of long range camping making brawls impossible, and the fact that flying close range to destroyers is often suicide, creates a no-win situation for anyone attempting to recreate the gameplay that originally drove the game to its initial success.
This is a kind of gameplay that more often leads to frustration than fun, and is quite effective at driving people to log off and/or uninstall.
You knew it was coming - if you know me well, you probably thought it would be #1 on this list. Destroyers are not the single greatest threat to Star Conflict’s future, but they are a massive strain on what the game provides to its players.
Destroyers are intensely overpowered, with the sad thing being that the devs have no intention of changing this. People would like to disagree with such an assessment, but the definition of a broken game piece fits the current nature of Destroyers to a T. Denying this is denying fact, and doing so a pointless exercise of blind ego and pride.
With HP in the hundreds of thousands, damage surpassing any other, and modules so powerful they can dictate the entire battle in a single activation with ruthless consistency, Destroyers have turned the game into a ludicrous camping festival of who can out-troll the opponent with unkillable beasts. As a result, nearly every other class must build near-exclusively to attempt to counter them, or become completely unviable. Unfortunately, even directly targeting Destroyers with ship builds yields little success.
Destroyers are even more polarizing now than ECMs once were, with those on one side upset at how a previously well-rounded game did not need these ships and how they are too powerful in the established metagame, and those on the other side defensive of the content they worked or paid to acquire, and preferring what Destroyers offer to what the previous versions of the game provided.
Whether you believe that Destroyers should be heavily nerfed, or even removed from PvP (or even the game itself) entirely, none of these possibilities seems to be anywhere near in sight. As a result, existing problems become further exacerbated by a total lack of action to fix a critical issue - and by extension a denial that such an issue even exists.
Ultimately this kills a game long before balance does, because new players don’t see balance when they start playing. What they see is paywalls, and Star Conflict has them in droves. Neodium. Beryllium. Live Crystal Containers. Ship-Specific Upgrade/Purchase parts for premium ships. Monocrystal and its recent nerfs to acquisition. What was once a mild paywall but largely mitigated by grinding the content for free is now directed at trying to get players to shell out as much as physically possible to achieve the same end result. The devs have stated several times that they are against ‘farming’, which in a F2P game of this kind is the only way to obtain paid currencies for free in any worthwhile amounts. As a result, this “pay or leave” mentality the devs have forced on its players have given the game a fiercely negative reputation it cannot overcome until this issue has been dealt with, and a forceful commitment by StarGem is made to ensure it never happens again.
Until that time, this game is completely unsustainable, and has no realistic future. It’s unfortunate, considering what makes the top 4 best things about this game.
4. Dreadnought Battles.
These are an incredibly interesting game mode like no other. It requires players to actually construct and outfit the dreadnought they plan to take into combat, and forces players into a more objective-oriented battle plan than regular PVP asks for. These two things combined make Dreadnought Battles unique among its peers, creating an experience and metagame all its own. Sadly, the game mode is heavily degraded by Destroyers, ranged camping, and external problems including fake attacks, limited time to announce, horrendous UI for accessing the planning, attack, and defense interfaces, and a rather small but significant lack of a countdown timer for any of these needs.
Despite this, the actual game mode itself is one of the most fun parts of the game, if you can actually get into a battle.
3. Star Conflict is gorgeous.
The environments are great, giving that ‘off in open space’ feel that the game strives for. Graphics and clipping issues aside (of which the rocks in game provide many a death to, which the task of fixing StarGem indeed must undertake one day), the environments and maps provide a fantastic look to a game that definitely intends to appeal to the aesthetic, and succeeds marvelously.
This isn’t limited to environments. Special effects are excellently done in the vast majority of cases, with the only major exception being that the Guard’s kinetic phase shield is a massive hindrance to viewing the screen. Aside from that, weapons fire animations look crisp and powerful, modules look awesome to activate - with special shoutouts to the Plasma Arc and the Destroyer’s Wormhole Warp animation. (As much as I hate both the ship and the module, the warp animation looks FANTASTIC.)
Sounds are on point too, with each gun having the proper thud to its firing motion most of the time, with only a few exceptions (Draglift gun using Singularity noises is a particular fail here.) The Shrapnel cannon has an awesome shotgun snap to it, the disintegrator has a electrical-strike-esque sizzle, and beam lasers carry a distinct buzzing that feels completely natural for the gameplay being had.
To top it off, any game that has players taking screenshots on aesthetic alone is a testament to what game design can be.
2. The customization of ship builds is excellent.
Though comparing it to other games like Eve reveals how much further the system could go in delinearizing builds, what currently exists, for the most part, is one of the best tweaking systems ever made. You can go 1000 matches with one build before deciding to change one single mod on the ship, which leads to a completely different experience for the next 1000 matches. Rinse and repeat across 200+ ships with 40+ mods yields nearly unlimited variants of gameplay, with the unfortunate currently existing caveat that some mods are unviable and many are strictly better than others. Such a rectification is not impossible, and could be made to moderate success.
1. All negatives aside, Star Conflict is FUN.
People don’t just dedicate thousands of hours to an unenjoyable game. A spaceflight arcade-style sim shooter is, despite being an acute niche, extremely easy to appeal to the sci-fi gamer populace. Star Conflict fills a need that no other game has done successfully to date, with alternatives such as Eve being too automated, and Elite Dangerous not having enough customization and in-combat castables to provide the experience Star Conflict does. Though the majority of the multi-thousand-hour players have left due to Star Conflict’s myriad negatives, the once prominent positives were enough in the earlier days to keep players playing for days on end. Some veterans have even attempted to stick around post-negatives, in an attempt to glean a few last moments of fun out of the game. Such a desire can only come from a game that was intensely successful in its earlier iterations.
This is Star Conflict’s greatest triumph and greatest potential, without doubt or question.
At the time of this posting, the negatives far outweigh the positives, with developer plans and mindsets seemingly intended to turn away veterans in the hopes they can attract new ‘whales’, players who will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on paywalls in order to obtain the content behind them. Though this can be sustainable for a time, it is destructive to the rather worthwhile reputation Star Conflict had begun to build for itself in the months after the 1.0 release. Though I personally do not see this changing, I subconsciously hold out hope for what this game could have been, and what it could be, if those at the reigns open their eyes to what their game has become and commit to something better.
Thanks for reading.