Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, if the board game Star Trek Attack Wing got turned into a video game.
Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, if the board game Star Wars Attack Wing got turned into a video game. Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, which I will now refer to it as simply “Star Hammer”, is a tactical turn-based space battle game. A game like this on console is rare but very welcomed. Star Hammer plays beautifully on console, with the controller inputs feeling intuitive and comfortable after playing the first level. Of course, it helps that this is a completely turn-based game, in which you have plenty of time to carefully plan out your moves and issue commands, but not once did I find myself making mistakes by pressing the wrong buttons and having to re-commit actions and the like.
The single player campaign is a meaty one, and well worth the low asking price for the game. The narrative is pulpy fun, generic as it is, and though it lacks voice acting and those other production values that we generally expect from console games, the words are woven well enough that there’s plenty of drama anyway. There’s real long term value in the game thanks to the branching paths through the story. Your actions and play style (defensive vs. aggressive) will determine what missions open up to you, so there’s plenty of incentive to replay the game to try out those different paths.
Gameplay consists of surveying space for enemy ships, finding their positions and planning out a course of action based on your ship locations. You will then move your ships into position to defend and attack. From there on out your movements will be reactionary to where the enemy ships are going, and how they are attacking. You will have to pay close attention to their ship class, the type of weapons they fire, their ship speed, and even where their attack cones are. After your 2nd or 3rd round, you will be zipping through space setting up your handful of ships like a boss!
What remains disappointing is the lack of multiplayer. This is a supremely balanced tactical combat game, and the skirmish mode allows for all kinds of fun scenarios with the AI. Turning the settings all the way up to the maximum allows for truly incredible dogfights that span the entire screen and can easily run over a full Sunday as you carefully position units around to take advantage of weaknesses in the enemy line and fill in gaps of your own. The ebb and flow of combat has a glorious tabletop feel to it, which makes it a natural fit for multiplayer action. Unfortunately, that’s not to be, and while the game’s AI is competent, it is disappointing that I can’t take my friends with me into a battle of strategic might.
Perhaps that’s something that we will see in a sequel. Star Hammer deserves to be spun into a franchise, and there’s plenty of room for future games to add additional factions and storylines.
That’s thinking forward, though. For now, Star Hammer continues to be one very fine introduction to a new franchise that is well worth paying attention to. The experience might feel a little unusual to people who are less familiar with the kind of strategy games that were previously exclusive to PCs, but I strongly recommend that people take the time to adjust to what Star Hammer offers, because once it gets its hooks in, it’s unbelievably rewarding.