Heed the Call of the Space Siren – Devilsong Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 console.
Oh, the call of a life in Space. The ideals of freedom, riches, fame, and adventure that many associate with being a spacer are usually met with a cold, empty blackness and danger in every sector. This is the idea behind Devilsong, a multiplayer-only Space shooter from indie developer Gristmill Studios. Built for the 2011 Dream.Build.Play competition, this venture to the stars was developed in just 30 days. Can a game with that short a dev cycle be worth your hard-earned Microsoft Points? Well, strap yourselves into your starfighters and let’s find out!
Devilsong is a throwback to old school games like X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and FreeSpace, and has only one gametype and one map. The mode is Deathmatch, with players on each team (Deviljacks and Hunters) fighting via starfighters to either reach a certain kill count or have the highest score at the end of a time limit. Each craft is equipped with machine guns for manual aiming, and missiles which require a lock-on. This is gameplay in its simplest form, but it is delivered in a fun-filled package. There is no matchmaking however, so you will have to know other players who own the game or fight against AI.
The fun gameplay is augmented by the game’s map, which is based in an asteroid field not far from what looks like Saturn. These floating hunks of rock are not stationary, but constantly shifting. This makes the battlefield’s layout ever-changing, causing each match to feel unique and be adrenaline packed. There will be times where combat takes place in large empty spaces, and others where rivals twist around obstacles. Players will have to use every inch of their skill in these instances to not only avoid their pursuer’s weapons, but to not crash and burn. A sample of gameplay can be found here.
However, there are some occasional lag issues. Sometimes, your weapons will refuse to fire, or fire long after the trigger was pulled. Respawns will sometimes take much longer than usual, with several attempts needed. These can usually be remedied with a game restart, but it’s always disheartening to have to leave mid-game.
Visually, the game is quite impressive considering its development length, and the dark combat area is a wonderful recreation of Space. While there are only two different ship chassis, they’ve been uniquely designed to set them apart from one another. Each piece of the game, from objects to background, is also texture-pop free, so no visual anomalies will distract you during play.
In particular, the lighting deserves attention. The play space has only a single fixed light source, leaving a dark side to set pieces. Because of this, they become impossible to see until a ship’s engines light them up, often resulting in evasive maneuvers. This adds a wonderful, and realistic, surprise element to gameplay.
From a sound perspective, this game is fairly quiet. Since the title is multiplayer only there is no voice acting, leaving only sounds from engines, guns, missiles, and the like. There is a soundtrack, but it’s comprised of simple background music. This makes the title perfect for streaming your own music via PC or Zune, however, and I would recommend something upbeat and electronic.
For only 240 points, Devilsong is a must-have for Deathmatch enthusiasts. The content available in-game is delivered very well, and is a riot to play. This is something I hope Gristmill revisits at a later date, perhaps adding a storyline and new game modes, matchmaking, and more levels and factions. Grab some friends, start your engines, and answer the call of Space!
Final Score: 4.5 / 5.0, and a spacer’s salute!
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