I can’t say I’m a big fan of tactical strategy games, and haven’t touched one since Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars hit the Xbox 360 some time ago. It was with some trepidation that I loaded Slitherine and Black Lab Games’ Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, as I was certain I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Could this be the game to change my mind?
It is the 22nd century, and a dying Earth has been abandoned so a fortunate few can settle on a new home called Novus. However, things are not as it seems, and it’s soon apparent that the new colony is not as peaceful, or prosperous, as it was hoped. Fast forward 14 years, a brand new threat has loomed its ugly head, and it’s up to you to command your fleet to victory.
Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is not your typical tactical strategy game, but plays more like a beautiful game of chess. Once you’ve chosen your mission, it’s then up to you to setup your fleet. At first you start with fairly basic ships, usually one larger frigate type, which is your heavy lifter, and three smaller fighters. Each of the ships available to you have their own brand of unique fighting techniques and options, making you really think about how you’re going to set up. As you choose, you are also able to setup the initial formation of your fleet. You can set them however you like, across multiple planes, placing the fighters upfront as a defence, it’s entirely up to you. This was actually a breath of fresh air, where many other tactical strategy games will allow you to place your ships however you wish, but not in a 3D space. The fleet customisation is a lovely addition, which many wouldn’t think twice about.
However, it’s not just the ships you have control over, but you can also decide your crew on your dreadnought. Be careful of your choices though, and how you decide to specialise each member, as every decision changes the relationships of the crew, and ultimately how effective the ship is in battle. Now you’ve got your crew and fleet in order, it’s time to make your way to the battlefield.
Each mission will give you a specific objective to complete, but it’s not as easy as it first seems. To stop you in your tracks, you will be faced with a mix of two enemy factions, hell bent on stopping you. The Nautilids are an alien race whose prime objective is to leave you floating in the vast expanse of space, with little hope left. Their alien crafts, distinct in their design, approach en masse, and try to take you down with sheer volume. The Nautilids are not the only threat though, as the renegade military conspiracists, the Remnant, are also out to take you down. Their tactics are more traditional, and tend to mirror your own, and require a little more care in taking them down. They tend to approach the battle with fewer numbers, but their ships are stronger than those of the Nautilids.
The act of battle is a simple one, but this is where the comparisons with the tactical properties comes into play. With each turn, you must decide on the path of which your ships will take. Scour the battleground, and see where your opponents are. Do you decide to keep your fleet together, or take advantage of their strengths, and have them pick off the weaker opponents? The unique play style of Star Hammer really comes into play with how you decide your next move. Much like how you setup your fleet in the beginning, during play, you can move them vertically, as well as choose their forward path. What’s really neat is that you can preview the path your ships are taking, and will also highlight whether your ships are on a collision course with each other or not. It’s at this point, as well, that you choose your attack strategy, and decide how best to tackle your enemies.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, and actually enjoyed spending time devising tactics, setting up my fleet, and deciding my next move. Having to think ahead, and come up with a sound strategy is a lot of fun, and if you enjoy your tactical games, I highly recommend it. The overall visual style of Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is incredibly polished, and really shines when taking control of your fleet. The UI is clean, and easy to read and understand what is going on. With a total of 60 different missions to work through, Star Hammer will certainly keep you busy.
Slitherine and Black Lab Games’ Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is now out for Xbox One for £15.99, an absolute bargain price if you ask me.