Made by the same team that released Jet Kave Adventure, Golf Peaks, and Castle Of Heart, Space Commander: War and Trade is a space exploration sim built around courier responsibilities and combat. Although the foundation is solid and there are moments of impressive fun, the overall experience drags due to a weak mapping and indication system.
At its heart, Space Commander is essentially a lesson in commerce. Flying from space port to space port, the goal is to buy materials at a low price then fly to another planet or space station and sell at a higher rate. Along the way, you might encounter hostiles or take side quests from NPCs. All these interactions are handled through a menu so the player doesn’t need to worry about tediously wandering an open world by foot. Instead, a more open environment is saved more for space travel.
As beautiful as the space travel is, it isn’t truly open world. Instead, players click on a destination from the map screen and the ship teleports there. When arriving, the player is free to fly around that area until another button is tapped to dock in that spaceport or land on that planet. Fly too far and the invisible walls will keep you inbounds. This means the majority of flight is handled automatically, which is fine, but it just isn’t as open as you might expect. Flight is also responsive and combat features a strong lock-on system that takes the skill out of most dogfights but makes each encounter winnable. Aerial fighting is serviceable, and is needed for some type of action in an otherwise menu-heavy sim, but it is no Star Fox 64 or Star Wars Squadrons.
The problem with this entrepreneurial space sim comes from the menu system. When a quest is received, the game tells the player “go to planet X and drop off/pick up a thing” for example. What sucks is that planet X is not highlighted on the large map, leaving the player to click on every single dot until that location is found. This means more time is spent clicking on parts of the map than actually flying, trading, or communicating with NPCs. The map screen is also huge and filled with clickable locations, making questing way more tedious than it should be. There is plenty of game here, it just feels artificially long playing Where’s Waldo in the map screen, then instantly teleporting there when found.
This is a shame because flying through space is simply beautiful, quiet, and peaceful. It is a good looking title, as simple as the approach is with a smooth framerate and non-intrusive UI, firming putting the awe of space travel at the forefront. Although the overall menu system puts a damper on the gameplay, there are moments of entertainment and flying casually through space can be rather therapeutic.
Also available on PC and mobile.