Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
Screenshots of Space War Arena do not do the game any favors. Even watching the game’s trailer doesn’t do any justice. But the gameplay shines through from what might seem like cheap visuals or lame mechanics. Make no mistake, Space War Arena is a quality and addicting title despite what your first impression might be.
At its core, Space War Arena can be classified as an RTS but only loosely. Instead, gameplay might be best described as real-time chess. From a single screen, the goal is to send spaceships to the other side of the screen to destroy the enemy base while preventing the enemy from doing the same, most always resulting in a massive battle in the middle. Choosing from a limited but customizable loadout, the player launches ships once enough time has been stored in a cool down queue. This might sound complicated, but it is actually simple to understand but filled with depth. Some battles will last one minute but other times the timer will eventually expire and end in a stalemate.
For example, there is a ship that acts like a shotgun that can easily destroy a group of small ships but takes little time to launch. Small ships can be summoned with low wait time but can easily be destroyed. There is a huge ship that moves slowly, does some serious damage, takes a longer time to summon, but is weak against fast ships. The sniper ship can hit targets before it has a chance to take damage but is rather weak. There is a station that actually launches tiny ships until destroyed, constantly annoying the enemy. There is even a ship that reduces the cool down time of all summons. Like each piece of the chessboard that has different abilities, so does each ship in Space War Arena. In a way, it is almost like a tower defense game only the towers are moving against other moving towers.
The gameplay is well balanced and always addicting but that is also in part of the leveling mechanics and pacing. Each stage of the main campaign will essentially unlock a new type of ship and allow the player a way to experiment with it. However, the player will eventually encounter tough situations and see game over. To combat this, the player can grind in the Evolve gameplay option where each ship can slowly gain levels to increase stats. It takes a long time to see these increases but they are necessary to complete the later stages. It is a little annoying to grind for the small stat increases, making this the biggest issue with gameplay.
There isn’t much to look at in Space War Arena and even less to hear. There really isn’t any music as opposed to ship sound effects and explosions. But there is also a two-player option if you wanted to compete head to head with a local buddy instead of the AI. Some campaign stages switch up the mission object though. Instead of always trying to take down your enemy’s mothership, some stages are endurance matches as all waves must be completed before advancing.
I found myself enjoying Space War Arena way more than I thought I would. In fact, I will easily classify this game as a Switch eShop sleeper hit as the gameplay is just so darn thoughtful and well balanced despite what might be seen as another generic space shooter. This is a perfect example of that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Better Than: a bad Chess simulation
Remember?: that board game Crossfire where you shoot ball bearings at each other
Also Try: Chick-Chick-Boom (WiiWare)