Twin stick shooters have often been my thing, whereas I have had trouble getting to grips with scroll shooters. Stellatum tries to fit both and does a half decent job of it.
Stellatum is far from a bad game, so let’s get that straight instantly. What it does, it does competently. Issues arise from minor little things stopping you being drawn in.
From a visual view everything is dark and small. It lacks that visceral feel you need with a game like this. A lack of visual feedback when you get a hit, or a kill and the same when getting shot is dissapointing. There is no defining feedback so you can adjust.
It is a shame, because once you start to level up and get new weapons and new power-ups you do feel pretty powerful and that you can do some damage. But a more pronounced explosion here, some flashes of colour there and it starts to feel a lot more exciting.
Note that I mention new weapons and power-ups. This is another minor niggle. You initially get to control a ship that has a good amount of upgrades to it and should this be the starting ship, all would be good. However Stellatum does that thing where it then strips you of everything. Don’t do that, it is super frustrating to say the least.
This makes the first hours with the game feel like a grind. Trying desperately to get back to where you were in the first minutes. Either don’t do the stripping of powers thing, don’t make them so pronounced or let me get back there quickly.
If the game relies on ever increasing levels of difficulty, with ever improving power to the player, then that is fine. But think about how the game starts.
I have avoided comparing the gameplay in this to that of Geometry Wars, because they are different games. However if Stellatum was to take a few cues from that, it would be in a much better place.
Have I have been negative in my appraisal of Stellatum? Maybe, but that’s because I so badly wanted it to be better. It does have something about the gameplay loop as you progress and it does draw me back in. I do like the progression system in theory. Once you add a bit of power, you look forward to doing more to get more opportunities to add more.
Despite the lack of visual feedback the overall control of the ship makes navigating the levels simple and enemies are varied in the ways in which they attack you and in turn how you attack them.
There’s a really good game in Stellatum, unfortunately it needs some better choices to be made in a few areas to elevate it to being a must own. Whereas right now is is only one that can be recommended in a sale.