Back in March 2019 I played and reviewed The Braveland Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch, a simplified Heroes of Might and Magic-like game from developer Tortuga Team. Later that year the developers released Spaceland, their simplified Xcom-like game on Apple Arcade, Steam and the Nintendo Switch, with the game finally coming to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this week on the 14th February 2020. As a fan of Tactical RPG games, and the developer’s previous title, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game and try it out.
Although I refer to Spaceland as ‘watered down’ or ‘simplified’, I don’t mean anything negative in regards to the gameplay. The game is presented in a way which allows both newcomers and veterans of the genre to enjoy what’s on offer without alienating people and overwhelming them with lots of mechanics and processes to learn. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the game…
The story is quite a simple one within Spaceland, you’re part of the Space Rangers, patrolling the far reaches of the Star Federation. However, whilst out on your standard patrol, you come across a distress signal and move in to investigate. Unfortunately, the landing wasn’t as smooth as you’d hope as the ship crashes to the ground, separating you from your colleague and leaving you just outside of a small deserted colony. Utilising the signals you’re reading, from both your partner and the colonist who sent out the original distress, you head out to reunite and rescue both sources.
The deeper you get into the abandoned colony, the more allies and alien species you encounter. It’s up to you, and your newly formed team, to explore every nook and cranny in order to find out what’s going on and save the day by eliminating the source. Thankfully, each of the unlikely heroes has their own weapons, skills, and abilities which will help you out during your adventure, making the game much more strategic as you decide who to take into battle with you in order to succeed.
Have you played Xcom? If so, Spaceland operates in a very similar fashion. Other similar games, which I’ve reviewed previously, are Rebel Cops, Phantom Doctrine, and Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. However, Spaceland is more on the casual side than any of those. The core mechanics are the same, you can move a set number of tiles, characters can take cover behind structures, guns require reloading once they run out of ammo, the whole experience is turn-based, and your accuracy changes based on the distance you are to your target. But, the game not only encourages fast and snappy gameplay, it also rewards you for being efficient and speedy.
Each mission you embark upon rewards you with a number of ‘Chips’ upon completion, Chips which can be used to unlock new abilities and boosts via each of the characters Skill Trees. How do you earn these Chips? Well, the amount you get depends on if you finish the level, have everyone survive, complete it in under a set amount of moves, and find the secret. Thankfully, if you don’t complete a goal, like find the secret, you can replay the level and just concentrate on that goal – which is great as the ‘number of turns’ goals are sometimes quite tight!
Each reward/completion goal met also results in getting credits, credits which can be used to buy new gear for your team once it unlocks in the shop. However, unlike the previously mentioned games, there isn’t a detailed store for kitting out your characters, it’s all rather simple. As you progress, upgraded weapons and armour appears within the shop, most of which are unique and specific for a certain unit. The key to surviving is keeping on top of the available items – this means you may actually find yourself repeating older missions to farm credits so you can afford the new items.
The whole thing feels very simplified and casual but the gameplay itself is solid and works really well as an Xcom-like game. Spaceland also adds some environmental puzzles and events to further flesh out the gameplay, such as pushing blocks onto bridges so they sink the enemies walking across it, blowing up walls with dynamite, operating switches to move your team to other parts of the level, and more. My only issue with the gameplay itself is the difficulty spike when you go underground. Sure, you can switch the game over to Easy if you’re having trouble, but you need to complete it all on Normal if you want the trophies.
As part of the review process, I often take a quick look at other versions (usually the PC version) to see if the game has possibly been ported before further additions to the game or if there’s anything missing such as Steam Workshop and mods etc… In regards to Spaceland, it appears the developer has put out a few updates for the Steam Version which weren’t implemented into the console versions (Including the Switch version from last year). So, what extras do you get in the PC edition:
• Extra Missions
• Daily Missions
• Online Duels
• Online Co-op
• Upcoming new features such as an alternate ending and a level editor coming this year
I’m hoping that these features can make their way to consoles post-launch, but as of right now (a few days before launch), these are not present in any version other than the Steam one. That said, the omission of these features doesn’t take anything away from the game, it’s not cut content or essential to the story, it’s just bonus features added post-launch on that platform.
Spaceland reminds me of old-school board games, such as Space Hulk and Heroquest. The aesthetic is very chunky and clean, with simple textures and bright, bold colours to help certain aspects stand out – such as the movement grid. As the game originally came to Apple Arcade, which is where I played it first, the visuals really fit into what you’d expect to see from a ‘mobile game’, but I personally think they also look great on my big TV as well as on the Switch in portable mode (yes, I also own the game on the Switch).
The music which plays throughout Spaceland also sets the eerie and suspenseful atmosphere perfectly, with its sci-fi soundtrack. Again, if you pick up the game on Steam then you can also grab the soundtrack for a respectable £3.99 but I’m not sure if it will also pop up on consoles on launch – as I’m writing this pre-launch. I’m hoping it does. The characters themselves have no voice acting, so there’s a bit of reading to do if you wish to follow the story, but it’s not pages of text, just the odd conversation between your team.
As I’ve personally played the iOS, Switch and PS4 versions, I can honestly say that there’s nothing between them in terms of performance, quality, and stability. My personal preference would be the PS4 version, for the trophies, but wherever you pick it up, you’re going to get the same awesome experience with no compromises (bar the PC-only features).
Despite the casual and simplified nature of the game, Spaceland is a competent and solid tactical RPG which everyone can enjoy. The fact you only have a choice of five teammates may have initially surprised and confused me, as I’m used to having a whole bunch to pick from, but the unique skills and personalities add a level of strategy into the game which I wasn’t expecting. If you’re looking for a more casual Xcom-like experience, which short missions that you can pick up and play in short bursts, then you need not look any further, buy this game!
If you’re looking for a version of the game with the most content and updates, the PC version is for you. However, if you don’t care about the post-game content, or hope it comes to other platforms (like me), then every other version is pretty much the same, bar the resolution. On a side note, if you like Heroes of Might and Magic and would like a more casual version of that, the Braveland Trilogy is also out on Steam and the Nintendo Switch – which I also recommend and hope makes its way to other platforms in the future.
- - Aesthetically pleasing visuals with simple and bold textures
- - Entertaining story which plays out over a bunch of unique areas
- - Progression-based rewards which gives you new weapons, skills, and characters
- - A great soundtrack which matches the gameplay
- - Although simplistic when compare to similar games, there's a lot of depth and strategy involved
- - There's a difficulty spike mid-game which forced me to temporarily drop the difficulty
- - The console release is missing a number of features which are in the Steam release