Spaceland is a tactical, turn-based RPG that’s available as part of Apple Arcade, and also available on Steam and Nintendo Switch for $14.99. It draws a great comparison to X-Com, which is one of my favorite strategy games of all time. I was eager to jump in and see just how similar it was and if it was able to stand up on its own.
This story is a typical sci-fi story. Our main character lands on a planet only to find crazy destruction. He progresses through and finds some other humans and makes a team. The team works its way through the story to find out what happened to all the other humans on this planet. I’m not big for spoilers in reviews, so I won’t spoil anything, but I will say there’s a skip button when the dialogue is going; don’t be afraid to hit it. The gameplay and the action are the stars in this game, not the story.
This is a turn-based strategy game that is played on a grid. You have a certain amount of action points and each action uses them up. Attacking and moving all use points, so you need to use them wisely. If you want to attack on a turn, you will not have a full range of movement — something else you need to worry about.
You have a team that enters the level and you need to complete a task and make it to the end. It sounds simple but it will get very difficult. There is a wide variety of enemies trying to take you down, with many of them having to be dealt with differently from other enemies. Some enemies can only be attacked from behind; others will turn into lava when they die making the floor dangerous if you kill them too close to you. There was a big enough variety to keep it interesting, but it wasn’t too big where you couldn’t learn it.
Something that was different for me in playing this was the way they handle ammunition. In most games, if you run out of ammunition, you reload. Here that’s not the case. Ammunition is a precious resource for your primary weapons. You have to find ammunition boxes scattered in the level to replenish this much needed resource. As you progress, you will earn some gold and unlock some new weapons, giving you the ability to craft secondary weapons. Secondary weapons do not consume any ammunition, but they typically have less range, and do less damage.
You will unlock a total of seven playable characters during the campaign. Each character is unique: they have their own weapon and set of skills that come along with it. You have everything from your standard assault character, to the heavy weapons, and of course, your explosives expert. Some skills are as basic as throw a grenade or dynamite, while others are game changers that will save you, like the ability to heal a teammate from a distance or to add extra ammunition to yourself or a teammate. Skills are a much needed commodity to succeed in this game, especially in some of the later missions.
There are only a couple of boss encounters, but they give a real challenge, especially the final boss. The final boss encounter took me hours to complete. At the start, it almost felt unfair, and made me quit the game. I then went back to the old levels, and hunted out secrets, and finished the secondary objectives to get gold and upgrade points to further build out my team. After downing this boss, it was a feeling that games don’t give me often. I felt like I really accomplished something.
A Noble Sacrifice
Most levels let you customize which team members you bring in, but there are many that require a certain team member because of some abilities they have. Levels like this require that character to survive the mission and make it to the end. That character death will be an instant failure for the mission. This can lead to some fun scenarios. Characters can die — and will die — in this game, but unlike other games in this genre, it’s not permanent. When things get tricky at the end, and you need a certain character to live, it led to me taking an “expendable” character for that mission, and leading a pack of enemies away from the rest of the group.
Sacrificing this character so others can safely escape.
I did this multiple times, and every time I did, I added my own cheesy dialogue to the sacrifice.
“Tell my family I love them”
“I don’t think I’ll make it home for dinner tonight”
Dumb things that made me laugh like saying a character’s name, and then saying “I always hated you” right as they died. The humor made the sacrifice fun to me.
Spaceland is a great turn-based strategy game. It’s easier than some others in the genre, like the X-Com series, but still very difficult at times. A bland story hurts, but the gameplay is solid, making this a great game. I give this one two thumbs up. Go kill some alien scum.
Final Score: — 7/10 —