Pixel Starships – Enterprising

Pixel Starships is a mobile space management game from SavySoda. With influences and mechanics from lots of other games, how does it all come together?

What is Pixel Starships?

Pixel Starships is a new mobile game where you’re in charge of captaining a spaceship. It’s obviously heavily influenced by FTL, but it also has JRPG elements and the missions have choices which result in varying outcomes.

Sounds Good. How Does It Play?

The first cool thing is the default starting screen. It throws you right in and immediately makes you feel like you’re part of an active universe. It’s always online, so you see other players chatting around you (unless you turn it off). The chat then appears on other spaceships as they fly past. I don’t know if the ships that fly past are the ones those players are using, but it’s a really clever illusion either way.

Pixel Starships Home Screen
This is your default view and it really makes it feel like an active universe!

From that screen you can upgrade your parts, change the layout of your ship, level up your crew, find missions and join in with PVP battles.

The combat is where the real FTL comparison comes in, because it plays very similarly. It’s real-time but your weapons have fixed reload times so won’t fire until the meters fill. You can choose to target specific rooms in order to disable shields, weapons or engines. This is while your opponent is trying to do the same thing. Unlike FTL there’s no active pause, which means things can get a little frustrating when you’re trying to manage multiple screens and systems at the same time.

And What Else?

Certain missions will trigger ground-based combat. This is the JRPG section, where your crew (usually 3 of them) join forces to defeat enemies on foot. It’s fine, but the system is very basic. There’s no real difference between your crew members when it comes to combat – nobody has a unique ability that makes them vital. They have a damage stat and hit points and that’s about it. I’d like to see this mode expand and happen a little more often.

Pixel Starships JRPG Mode
I don’t know what abilities they’re talking about here, because they don’t work for me!

There Has To Be Something Bad Though

Like most mobile games, there’s a lot of waiting around. When you upgrade a ship room, it takes time. That time increases at higher levels. Of course there’s a premium currency you can spend to make it quicker, but it’s not cheap.

Now the good news is you can keep playing the game as these upgrades take place, but it’s worth noting that upgrading a weapon will make it unavailable for combat while the timer ticks down. I made this mistake once and won’t do it again.

With the PVP you might worry that it’s pay-to-win, but it actually doesn’t seem to be. The PVP combat seems to be indirect – I don’t think you’re playing against other people in real-time – so you’ll know what you’re up against before you start. And you can usually escape from battles you’re losing. But there’s a ranking system, and I’m pretty sure the people at the top of the scoreboard are probably the ones who have paid the most money.

So Far, So Standard Mobile Game. Anything Specific?

There are a few mechanics which would use better descriptions. It’s not always obvious what certain rooms do or why you’d want to keep crew members in the rooms. I’ve just assumed it’s like FTL where the room stats get a boost, but that’s not mentioned. And anyone who hasn’t played FTL could be at a disadvantage. It’s also not clear what some of your crew members stats are for and I could use that being explained.

Lastly, there’s no option to turn off vibration. Every time you get hit or land a shot on an enemy ship, your phone vibrates a little. I don’t really need that kind of feedback and would rather save the battery. But there’s no way to disable it.

Pixel Starships Error
I don’t think this is supposed to happen.

Oh, and if you allow the game to send you notifications, brace yourself. It will send a lot of updates your way.

So is Pixel Starships Worth Playing?

I definitely think it has potential. It’s not perfect, and any game with micro-transactions should make you wary. But it’s definitely an interesting and ambitious idea and it worth a look just for that.