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REVIEW: Pulsar, Lost Colony

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…is pretty fun. I figured I’d start the article by getting to the point. I suppose I’ll elaborate a bit, tempting as it is to chuckle, hit save, and put this in a side column. Pulsar is a developing game which throws five players onto a spaceship in an open galaxy and tells them to swim. It normally follows this up by swiftly drowning them- and then you learn that it uses permadeath.

The permadeath is a pretty regular customer at the beginning. The main disadvantage of the game is that you really do need a full team of friends to fly this spaceship with you, because the game is truly unforgiving. The players select from several entertainingly unique vessels, each belonging to one of four factions (intended to eventually be five). One player takes on the role of Captain, who is meant to coordinate and buff the rest of the crew, but ultimately spends most of their time on a power trip because they are the ONLY one allowed in the Captain’s chair. The other players serve as pilot, weapons specialist (gunner), scientist, and engineer.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the game, for me at least, is the exclusivity of these skills- the ships systems can be reasonably complicated to manage perfectly, and it is nigh impossible for one player to manage two effectively in combat. This means that players actually do feel specialised in their role, and surviving requires teamwork and coordination. I usually find myself in the role of engineer- like the rest of the crew, I can beam on to space stations to trade or find quests, down to alien planets to explore, or board an enemy ship to bring it down from the inside. But in combat, I am almost always in a dark corner of the ship, alone and without any windows to see what is happening- just levers, and switches, and coolant… and I love that. The game also supports VR, for another layer of immersion, but all I know about that aspect is that it has functionally worked for those that have tried it. The graphics may be fairly rough and ready, the quests sometimes repetitive, but it feels like I’m Scotty in engineering, literally doing my best to give her all she’s got. Even if that means switching off the oxygen and finding out how long it takes the Captain to notice.

Under development by Leafy Games, Pulsar is fairly far along in her development, including 90% of the final game’s intended features, and 80% of intended content, according to the developer’s online roadmap. However, Leafy Games estimates at least another year before they are prepared to fully release their creation, with the addition of the endgame goal- the lost colony itself. It is nevertheless fully playable in its current state. The content can occasionally feel a little bit repetitive because there are a limited number of spawn location, so naturally the quests placed near these are hit more often. It is exciting though, to journey with a group of friends to the edge of the known galaxy, to visit a station based on nothing but curiosity.

Overall, I would recommend the game as a teamwork-centric spaceship flying (and often exploding) game, that fulfils my fantasies of pretending I’m a janitor on the Enterprise. It is disadvantaged by a somewhat hefty price tag considering its current state, at just shy of £20, especially because it requires at least three friends to tag along for it to be most enjoyable. But if you’ve got a group that miss games which set you loose to find adventures together, this is the ticket.

 

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Sinclair Davis

Deputy Editor | 19-20 Games Editor | 18-19

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