Grab The Games: Starlight Inception™
There once was a time when space simulators were a very prominent game genre, series like Wing Commander, X-Wing or (at the end of this era) Freespace were occupying a very important place in the heart of many a gamer. While games of this kind did exist still, for some reason or other their number became much smaller (not to mention the quality). Starlight Inception is a part of a revival of sorts, as recently many space sims have suddenly surfaced. The game is of a more arcade type, with flying model closer to Wing Commander than actual physics. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, personally I find this a very good approach. That said at times the game may be a little too casual i.e. the damage to your ship getting healed over time. Anyone who played old space sims knows how fun it was when hull integrity went down to 2% half into the mission and still you've managed to complete it successfully. No such emotional moments here it seems. Still all the classic Wing Commander elements seem to be there you're a military pilot, you can move to different rooms in the carrier ship, have conversations with people there from time to time, and fly with a wing against overwhelming numbers of enemies. Everything looks good on paper but... well, to put it bluntly is too generic.
Can't say the main ship is full of life...
The story is very predictable, and while space exploration seems to have allowed many lesser Earth countries to gain importance USF, under whose banner you fly, is basically a very, very stereotypical USA. Think Top Gun mentality and complexity. Another classic element moving around the ship is done in first person. Still, there are no more people and conversations than there were in early Wing Commander games. Due to this a lot of the time you are walking through empty, bland corridors or rooms. And when you meet somebody apparently they try even to sit to attention, so stiff are the models...
The space looks good enough...
But none of this really matters, does it? It's all about flying after all! The game supports both game controllers and mouse and keyboard (I don't have a joystick at the moment, but from what I read, they are not well supported, although that is supposed to be changed in the upcoming patch). The game works fairly well with both controls, although not perfectly. With the controller aiming is rather hard, as the ship tends to jerk around). Mouse is perfect for aiming, but quicker movements are harder to achieve. All in all the controls are decent and very easy to use. By default the game uses TPP (or rather third ship perspective), but you can switch to inside view (with a big cockpit obscuring vision and inducing nostalgia). Between missions you can purchase new ships and equipment using points you earn, the choice here is big enough and definitely is a plus. One thing that the game has to offer that the old classics did not have is flying on planets and not only in space. But... it does not change much... sure there are some buildings you can hit, and your brain will fall into up-down logic easily, but you are using the same ships, that fly exactly in the same way, so apart from decorations it does not matter. Also, space is much prettier. To be honest the way the space looks is probably the only good visual aspect of the game. It is colourful enough but far from the colour extravaganza of last X game. The rest of the graphics are... serviceable. That's really the best thing I can say about them, Freespace 2 with higher res mods looks much, much better than this. The ships look very bland and generic, even the big ones are not interesting. And a small problem that really killed the joy of playing the game for me unless you get really, really close you can't see enemy fighters, you are just firing at and destroying squares on your HUD. Theoretically the same thing, but much less fun... On the plus side the boring graphics mean the game runs really fast and has modest hardware requirements. One thing I rather liked is wing (or squad) management, there is enough orders to give, but too many to make it overwhelming and AI pilots can be really useful.
...but planet side things are much more boring.
Besides the single player campaign, there is also a mode that tries to be similar to Tower Defense... but good Tower Defense, even if action-oriented is fun because of planning and building the defense... here, the enemies follow routes and you have to stop them, but there is little in terms of planning, more like finding a good spot, staying there and firing at those damn boxes on your HUD.
All in all the game is good enough to be promising, and you can feel nostalgic about playing all classic space sims... but at the same time you might be just better off going to gog.com and actually getting one of them. Most are still better sadly.