My last Spotlight showcased Super Monday Night Combat. Uber Entertainment return this time in a publishing role, playing host to Imba Entertainment’s Moon Breakers. A company I’ve been able to find precious little information on, the game shares a number of credits with those of SMNC which, in addition to the naming similarities, leaves me wondering if they aren’t in whole or in part the same guys.
That’s an aside though. Irrespective of who actually made it, it’s available now on Steam and Chrome and it’s free to all who would partake, so that means it’s up to me to poke it with the review stick.
Moon Breakers is a space-based dogfighter with a WWII-era dieselpunk aesthetic. In layman’s terms, you fly in around spaceships that look like old planes shooting each other. In its genre there’s not a great deal to compare it against. Back on the N64 there was a Star Wars game called Rogue Squadron. Aside from its later Gamecube sequels it’s really the only similar game I can think of (I guess there was half of a level in Halo Reach, too). It feels like an apt comparison anyway, because it does feel very similar in terms of gameplay.
Your basic ship is armed with laser blasters and missiles. These are both projectile weapons and all your targets will be zipping about in three dimensions so you’ll need to get good at leading your targets with your shots quickly. Games consist of 32 players, 16-a-side with one team representing the government and the other being space pirates. Matches are your standard online multiplayer fare of team deathmatch, capture the flag and the like. Your justification for the conflict is the old SF trope of fighting over Helium-3, which is as good a reason as any.
Moon Breakers is straightforward enough to just jump in and get into the action quickly, but it feels like there’s a lot more to the combat that can only really be learned through experience. Dodging a hail of fire not only from the enemies but also from the numerous mounted cannons on the enemy’s flagship is as tricky a business as hitting things flying through space in the first place. Arenas take the form of an array of interesting asteroid fields, including one looking very much like a shattered moon. Aside from looking impressive these can be used tactically to take shelter from enemy fire or just as cover to try to slip through to the enemy base undetected. These are just my first impressions, too, I’d be quite confident in saying the more experienced players probably know a few more interesting tricks that haven’t even occurred to me.
After a game you will receive ‘creds’ depending on your performance. I’ve received anything up to 3000 creds from a game but a better performance would probably net you more still. This rate of return is good for buying cheap upgrades to your ship but unfortunately saving up for a new, better ship will set you back anywhere from 180,000 to 3,000,000 creds. A bit of quick mental arithmetic and I get an estimate of 15 hours of gameplay, in which I perform well every match, just to unlock the single cheapest ship. By extension, that big one? 250 hours! You can probably see where this is going. Cred boosters can of course be purchased using your real money offering up to 10x return on the payout each game. That valuable He-3 you were fighting over? It turns out that you can just buy it with a credit card. $2 will net you 350 units of He-3 with, as usual, price breaks at higher quantities, and then that He-3 can be used as an alternative currency to buy ships. To put it in perspective, that 3,000,000 cred ship is instead 7500 He-3 and will set you back $38; the cheapest would work out at under $4.
So then how free is it? Technically, there’s nothing in Moon Breakers that is locked to free players. I stress the word ‘technically’ because it is such a colossal grind to unlock anything at all without spending any real money that it may as well be locked. It’s a shame then that after working so closely with the UberEnt guys they didn’t learn anything useful from SMNC’s pricing structure.
As a game, it’s solid. There’s plenty of fun to be had in spaceships, more so taking down enemy flagships, Death Star style. For me it’s a lot more enjoyable played casually, just cruising around not playing for keeps. If you’re determined to be the best of the best though, you will either have a long grind ahead of you or be prepared to open your wallet.