I love Steam for their occasional deals, such as the recent Indie Game Pack they had on sale for $7.99. The pack came with a number of independent games, including Galcon Fusion. If not for that deal I would have never known what a great game I was missing.
The game play is fairly simple, in theory. Galcon Fusion is a RTS game set in space. Games start with each player controlling a planet (or multiple planets, depending on the settings). The number shown on controlled planets represents how many ships you have on that planet. Controlled planets also generate new ships, the larger the planet, the faster it generates ships. Neutral planets that are not owned by any player show a number on them, representing the number of ships you need to take over the planet. Clicking on one of your controlled planets and then right clicking a neutral or enemy planets sends a percentage (which can be changed from %5 to 100%) of ships, represented as triangles, from your planet to the neutral/enemy planet. If you send more ships then the neutral/enemy planet has, you take it over. The goal being to take over all the planets on the map.
It seems simple, but there’s a lot of depth. For one, enemy planets don’t show how many ships they have on the planet, so you have to guess how many ships you’ll need to win the planet. You can also reinforce your planets by sending ships from adjacent planets to the one you want more protection on. Assault the wrong planet with insufficient ships and you end up hurting yourself more then the enemy, which can result in a loss very quickly. Essentially the game play boils down to a) stopping the enemy ship production by capturing key large planets they control and b) stopping their “standing” army located on their various planets. Stopping production but not their army will just result in you taking over all their planets while they take over all your planets, just prolonging the game. Stopping their assault on your planets gets neither player anywhere because they still have ships being produced on their planets.
Games can be played offline or, even better, online with up to 12 players in a single game. Playing online adds in a whole other layer of strategy. You have to consider defending your planets on all sides, or early attacks on your main planet after you’ve expanded too rapidly. Players can be eliminated in seconds of the start of the game if they’re next to someone who sees they’ve grabbed to many neutral planets (losing ships to take over the planet) too quickly. However, expand too slowly and you’ll quickly be outproduced very quickly. Pissing off too many different people without having the ships to back it up can be a very bad thing.
Games are very dynamic, you never know what’s going to happen. In-fighting between adjacent players while a 3rd player keeps getting larger and larger is a common problem. Temporary alliances, backstabbing players that helped you survive, playing two people against each other so they weaken themselves for you….it’s awesome.
- The Retro View – Totally unnecessary, and I would imagine hard to play in, the retro view is a cool little kickback to old school PC gaming. Hitting F10 turns it on at any point. It’s interesting to look at if you die early in a match and have nothing else to do while every one else fights it out.
- Depth – Galcon Fusion may masquerade as a simple little game, but playing it online you quickly see how deep the combat is. I see it as a boiling down of the genre to a simpler form, while still maintaining everything. You could compare it to Starcraft, which essential has the same elements: production and unit manufacturing. Galcon Fusion doesn’t have specific units that counter one another, and production is done automatically, but I think that’s a good thing. The simplicity just makes it more fun because you don’t have to worry about tediously making units, you worry about the combat and strategy of your moves.
- Graphics – Though the ships are represented by triangles, the graphics still look pretty good. The planets all look nice, and the background star field slowly moves. And it’s awesome to see the massive amounts of ships flying around near the end of the game.
- Game Modes – There’s a lot of different types of modes available besides the standard free for all. There’s team play, where a variable number of players can team up against everyone else. Assassination mode has one players ship numbers shown on each planet and the game is won by killing that player. Vacuum starts you in an empty galaxy and you have to take over all the planets in a set amount of time. Crash mode makes it so in-flight ships collide with one another, adding further strategic considerations.
- Waiting Around – Like I said earlier, you can lose really quickly. I’ve lost more times then I can count by foolishly expanding too rapidly. Well, games themselves can last a fairly long time (maybe 20-30 minutes, or longer depending on whose playing), so you wind up sitting there doing nothing the whole time, which gets boring fast. Quitting and joining another game can be just as bad, because if you join a game in progress you have to do the same thing, sit around and wait for someone to win. I wish there was something you could do in the meantime, like an auto join feature that joins an open game before it starts.
Galcon Fusion is an excellent game. If my one problem with it is having to wait to play when I lose that’s almost a good thing. Any fan of the RTS genre should pick it up, it’s a great game. Even if your not really in to RTS’es, give the demo a shot, in a senses this game is much simplier then modern RTS’es, while maintaining the fundamentals. It’s sort of like Risk in space, and in real time.
Galcon Fusion was developed by Phil Hassey. It was released on February 11, 2010 for the Mac and PC. There’s also an iPhone version of the game available (it came out first) called Galcon. I didn’t play that version of the game, but it’s received excellent reviews and was the first game on the iPhone to offer true multi-player capability.