Grab The Games: Eterium

Eterium is yet another game in the ongoing space sim revival, this one doesn't hide it and says on the box (i.e. its steam page) that the game is made in the spirit of Wing Commander and X-wing. And it shows from the first minute you run it. Actually, I have my fears how accessible it is for somebody who has not played any of those classics (shame on that person of course). Freespace 1, a classic now, but at the time a game following in the footsteps of Wing Commander opened with a tutorial mission that taught you how to move, target and shoot at crates, a duck after a major head injury would have no problems with this mission. Eterium opens with a mission that does have popups explaining how to use some of the controls, but also has you fighting 2 enemy fighters, navigating an asteroid field and fighting another 2 fighters.... all the time learning to fly, trying to remember controls etc. And of course in the tradition of space sims your shields do regenerate but your hull doesn't, if you take any damage in the asteroid field for example the final fight may be too much for you. I played a lot of games like this in the past and I died once in the first, tutorial mission. Is that bad? Personally I love it. I love a challenge and I love the fact the game is interesting from the start, I don't have to wait for the interesting bits to come they are there from the go. I do realize however that some players may find it too much at first...

Quite far from the movie sequences of Wing Commander the static briefings do get the job done

One thing that Eterium doesn't have in common with its “ancestors is budget. This is an indie game (I may be wrong but I think the team is just two people) far from e.g. Wing Commander full of Hollywood stars playing the characters. It has its merits i.e. the hardcore feel, the devs definitely made a game they wanted to play, not the game they wanted everybody to play, and to my mind that's something to respect. On the other hand graphics in the game are... ok. If you run Freespace or even last Wing Commander it is going to look as good as Eterium does. For some this is good, even more nostalgia, but it does not look like something made in 2014. There are no voiceovers, and characters are shown as still images, in the style that could be described as “how Europeans imagine manga. There are some players who openly voice dislike of this style, personally I don't mind it, although somehow it does clash with the rest of the graphics, some more consistent art direction would be welcome. Coming back to the indie thing since I got the game there has been one patch with a lot interesting changes, including one more mouse control mode, clearly showing that the devs do listen to their players. Myself, I ran into trouble with the game not seeing my Xbox 360 controller, I got a very quick and helpful response from one of the devs. So, if you are tired with games done by huge, heartless corporations this one is different.

I really hate asteroids!

Now, to the meat of things flying. The game can be controlled with keyboard/mouse, gamepad or joystick. Mouse/keyboard, after the aforementioned patch, works really, really well. Aiming with the mouse is great and you can make quick turns using the arrows on your keyboard. Together it works really smooth. I also played the game with the gamepad and sadly did not like it. Even with sensitivity at minimum the controls felt jerky, especially in terms of horizontal movement making aiming rather difficult. At first I thought that maybe it is just me, but for comparison I played some Freespace on the pad and it was incomparably better. One other gripe here – all the configuration: sensitivity, dead zone etc is done via an external launcher, not in game. So if you don't like the settings you have to quit, change them, load the game, load the mission... at this point probably you need to tweak it some more so rinse and repeat.

I had to take quite a lot of damage to be able to capture an enemy fighter in the screenshot :)

Despite all the small problems, the game is really exiting, the missions are varied enough, tweaking your ship is fun, enemies are satisfying and nothing that worked in old games is changed just for the sake of change. So If you liked Wing Commander, but want something new instead of replaying the same game again you're going to love Eterium. If you are new to the genre... well, old classics require some tweaking to get the resolution right etc. but have higher production values, so might actually be a better choice. But just to start with, getting Eterium in the end is definitely a good choice. :)

Mikolaj W


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