September 8th, 2012 | By Stephen Fournier
I’m not entirely sure what twisted pocket of space the Alliance, Exiles, and Cyborgs are currently fighting within Aeon Command but I’m almost entirely sure that it makes no sense. It’s a place where giant space battles between entire armadas are an everyday norm, except everyone is too gentlemanly to simply slip past their opponents and attack at their mineral line, only moving forward after they are sure they haven’t left any enemies behind them. It’s a war where if your ship is caught in a tractor beam, you aren’t brought into the enemy force and picked off like any sane military would do, but instead towed back to your enemies base and then shot by the mothership. Don’t even get me started on the fact that all three of the races only seem to be willing to fight head on at an equal distance from each other when they happen to be battling in space, a place where most starships should have 6 directions of motion to easily outmaneuver an enemy that is willing to stay static.
Enough of my RTS and logic inspired griping, Aeon Command is a tactical tug-of-war style strategy game developed by Bat Country Games. In each match you will control one of the three factions in a one-on-one battle where you will send waves of starships against your opponent in order to destroy the enemy mothership. Each race is given 6 ships along with 3 special powers, you need to learn how to use the different combinations of ships effectively to defeat your opponent. You start off with only the basic miner and fighter craft at the start of each match but are able to unlock and upgrade your vessels as the match goes on. These can be upgraded mid-match three times using your spare resources to increase their firepower and hull strength in order to better destroy your enemies. A persistent upgrade system is also in the game, after each match you are given a number of points to put into different upgrades for either a specific race or into general upgrades with either one of these is able to influence the outcome of a match.
There is a surprising amount of depth to a strategy game that only allows you a basic grasp of your units. The key to victory is not in micromanaging your units to keep the weak ones safe and to focus down the biggest threats at the time, but instead to properly recognize and identify unit compositions, when to unlock/upgrade your ships, and how to effectively counter your enemies. This is where the variety of ships comes in handy as each one fills a specific role for each race. Your main fighters form the backbone of your force, attacking single targets and soaking up fire. Your missile units form the bulk of your long range and anti-mothership damage. Each race has a defensive unit that somehow lessens or diverts damage away from a friendly unit as well as a multi-target ship that deals damage to multiple units in one shot. Two of the races have a disruptor unit that can break up unit compositions or leave enemies helpless for your units, and finally every race has a cruiser that deals large amounts of splash damage and has high health. There is a counter for every ship that each race has and to win you need to use these counters effectively while not getting caught out yourself.
The campaigns do a good job of introducing players to the different mechanics of the game, you won’t be playing them for story but they do a good job of getting you settled in for the long haul. You begin with only the Alliance campaign unlocked and are slowly introduced into the different aspects of the game through each mission, every level either a new power or ship is given to you with the final battle of each campaign being a culmination of everything you have learned so far.
As you can see from a couple of screenshots, Aeon Command is quite visually impressive. The background is nicely detailed with a varied color scheme for most of the levels that doesn’t detract from the art style of the game. The ships themselves are not overly detailed but are easily distinguished from each other through their very different shapes and styles. I’m also rather fond of the outline that every item in the foreground has that easily distinguishes it from the background and who the unit belongs to, red for the enemies, blue for yours, and purple for minerals. All in all the art style works well together and ensures that the player never loses track of what’s going on. Unfortunately, this does not transfer over to the audio which is nothing better than background music which I turned off after the first hour of it repeating itself.
Another complaint is the lackluster view control currently in the game. Right now you are only able to scroll across the battlefield by clicking on the part of the map bar that you wish to view or grabbing the view piece on the map and physically dragging it. This doesn’t make sense when you have several other methods to move the view at hand such as using the arrow keys or the mouse, both of which would make the game much smoother.
This leads me nicely into the biggest problem I currently have with Aeon Command, it’s a PC game that feels like it was designed for the iOS and Android platforms. The tug-of-war style game lends itself well to touch screen gaming what with the lack of precision needed in its controls. The simplistic button layout and view control also point to an emphasis on handheld design which is a shame as this is a fun title with only a few problems holding it back at the moment. Still, this is the reason we have alphas of games, to find out what works and what doesn’t all to make the game the best it can be.
You can pick up the Alpha version of Aeon Command on Desura now for $4.88, guaranteeing you access to all coming updates and builds of the game as well as the final release version. Bat Country Games is also trying to get Aeon Command on to Steam via Greenlight so if you feel this is of Steam quality, give them a vote up.