22
Jun
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Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

Sometimes, it's best when a game doesn't perform just one function. Especially when graphics-heavy apps charge more than usual for an experience that might grow stale, variance and depth is extremely important. The iOS port of Galaxy on Fire II has depth in spades, but is the overall experience worth the game's price?

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The Gameplay

Galaxy on Fire II plays remarkably similar to a 2003 Windows game called Freelancer, in which you took on the role of an interstellar starship captain with an eye for earning money. The same concept remains true in Galaxy on Fire II; you can follow a story mission or go off on your own, accepting missions from people in space station bars. Using the money you earn from completing missions or selling goods, you can upgrade your ship and weapons with a number of modifications.

Combat is experienced in real time, letting your ship dodge laser fire while lining up that perfect missile shot to suck that pirate out into the vacuum of space. Combat is a bit hectic, but mostly optional if you avoid story missions. What I like about this game is that you there is enough content to satisfy any need for a "break" in the action by letting you mine, ship, or trade.

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The THD upgrade to this title suits it very well. The graphics are downright gorgeous, and I was very impressed by the level of detail in both ships and the objects in the game world. The developers seem to want you to revel in their work since they give you a free-look camera and an "Action Freeze" mode, which is available from the pause menu.

Action Freeze lets you rotate the camera to any angle you desire, then lets you snap a screenshot to keep and share. These are stored on your SD card and are emblazoned with the Galaxy on Fire 2 and NVIDIA logos.

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Sadly, these photos are quite difficult to find on your SD card; I was only able to find the "GOFII" folder with my phone's stock Gallery app. Trying to find the path in which these files existed through the "details" menu was met with an "unknown" result, so those using gallery replacements like QuickPic should beware. I wish there were an option to view the gallery in-game, for easier sharing, but this seems to be absent.

What impresses me most about Galaxy on Fire is the amount of depth the developers were able to squeeze into the game without having it become a confusing mess. There are numerous star systems, commodities, weapons, gadgets, ship models, and people - all working together and intertwining at the same time. The commerce, combat, mining, and manufacturing are all implemented superbly, with some exceptions (see below). They're successful in the sense that each one functions as its own addition to a great gaming environment.

This kind of depth is something I don't really see enough of; it's ambitious without failing. Ironically, it's a port of an iOS game, which marks a disturbing trend: are there any Android developers out there with the balls to make something natively?

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The Quirks

However, this game isn't without its faults. Unless you've got a weapon that uses the lock-on system, having it active is kind of useless. The controls really need to be fine-tweaked in order to find a sweet spot of "just sensitive enough," as it's much too easy to overshoot or undershoot your targets. It got to the point where I spent just as much time trying to line up my shot as actually firing: I suspect on higher difficulties this would be quite maddening.

Some UI foibles exist, too: accidentally hitting the "afterburner" button when moving your ship around with the joystick isn't hard, leading to some awkward moments where you'll speed past a space pirate instead of blowing him up. Using the controls effectively requires a degree of self-control; you need to keep a cool head during combat and make sure your fingers are where you need them to be.

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The Pricing

The game retails for €11.99, which will come out to over $15 USD/CAD. This presents a unique problem - many Android applications and games tend to be on the cheaper side, while iOS titles tend to be more expensive. Will Android users be willing to pay for higher quality titles like this? Or will low sales discourage high-quality game developers from Android, instead taking their apps to more profitable markets?

While I would argue that Galaxy on Fire II has $15 worth of content, I would give it a pass based on the unreliability of the touch controls; if this game were $15 with a mouse and keyboard or gamepad, it would easily have my money. For a game of this depth to include a fully voice-acted campaign on a mobile platform earns it some points, but others may not be as appreciative.

The game comes with the first solar system unlocked, allowing you to try out the title before unlocking the full experience through in-app purchase. With a $15 investment on the line, however, that's to be expected.

Matt Demers
Matt Demers is a Toronto writer that deals primarily in the area of Android, comics and other nerdy pursuits. You can find his work on Twitter and sites across the Internet.

  • Mgamerz

    You didnt mention the storyline! oh wait... what storyline... This game needs multiplayer. ad hoc or wifi.

  • Force

    Ah, what the hell. This is a 100 per cent Freelancer rip off.
    It might look good, yes. But get your own ideas and don't steal other peoples game designs.

    • Timb

      Freelancer was a rip-off of Wing Commander: Privateer -- nothing is new.

  • Deeek

    I really love this game and I believe it is well worth the $15, even with it's quirks. So far, I've put in about 12 hours of game time into it and I am addicted. I really hope this succeeds in the Android market. We need more quality games!

  • Marc

    Its a fun game that I have really enjoyed.

  • Josh

    I am also in love with this game. Super addictive. Also, I like that it is easy to play in chunks. Every time you dock your ship it auto saves, so if you want to play for just five minutes, you can do that.

    As far as controls go, I have mine set at 54 and it works great. I definitely hit an awful lot. I would go so far as to say that combat is amazing. Once you find the sensitivity that works for you, it quickly becomes the best part of the game.

  • Steve

    Sounds (and looks a bit) like Elite from the 80s...

    • shalafi

      Yeah, GOF2 = Freelancer = Elite

  • Andy

    I wonder what it is about Android users that cause them to be more finicky about paying for apps. I personally have no problem with it.

    • Timb

      No idea. The author is also a little bit confused about pricing with this statement: "Android applications and games tend to be on the cheaper side, while iOS titles tend to be more expensive."

      Coming from an iOS background (and now using a Droid Charge) every app I have rebought for Android has actually been priced higher on Android than iOS.

      Galaxy On Fire 2, for example, is only $10 on the App Store.

  • jaamgans

    @Timb - that is what the reviewer said...

    I have it on my transformer and it does crash occasionally but otherwise it looks gorgeous and worth every penny.

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