3030 Deathwar Redux – A Space Odyssey

In indie games we see a lot of crazy genre combinations with a variety of results. Here’s 3030 Deathwar Redux – A Space Odyssey, a game by Bird in Sky that combines the space exploration of Elite with the 2D graphics and elements from the golden age of Lucas Arts adventure games.

In 3030 Deathwar Redux you play the role of space pilot John Falcon, a witty character who seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His ship gets impounded by the police because it’s stolen, his crew leaves him and he’s left alone in a space station with enough money to buy a flying wreck of a ship and start rebuilding his wealth and reputation. This is how you begin the game, with a small ship that is good only for ferrying packages and people in the system, or strong enough to destroy debris around the space station. You take jobs from the terminals depending on the money they give and where they are and you are on your way. After some time you earn enough money to either upgrade your ship or buy a new one.

You might enjoy ferrying people and be a taxi driver. If so, then buy a big ship with lots of cabins. If you want to carry cargo across star systems and try to find the best prices, you can do that too. If you are bloodthirsty, get a fast ship, equip it with some guns and rockets and go earn your living being a bounty hunter.

Right from the start you can choose not to follow the story and just travel in the open world, doing whatever you enjoy. You can get jobs that will have you visit two neighbouring systems so you need to be prepared for the distance and stock on fuel. When you leave a star system you will go into splitting, faster than light travel and you will have to watch your radar for nebulae. If you get trapped into one, you will start taking damage and travel slowly. You can always travel around it or find gaps between them and travel through.

The space exploration is being shown from a top down view. You usually open your space map, target a system and a planet or a space station and you are on your way. When you hunt pirates you target them and then move around them trying to land as many hits as possible, avoiding their attacks.

I play with keyboard and mouse and I think that the battle could be better and more strategic if for example the A and D keys were mapped to glide the spaceship left and right, and the mouse was mapped to the turret. You usually fire in a straight line and the battles end up almost always in you circling around the enemy and they do the same with you.
Another thing that was overwhelming at first was the UI and the many shortcuts. There’s a different key to target enemies, space stations and debris from spaceships. When you move near a space station for example, you need to press Q to target it, then Tab to open communications and then 1 to dock. There are other shortcuts in menus that I almost never use, I prefer clicking with the mouse, even if it’s slower.

When you are in space, you open an overhead map that shows your position and the star system with C. That helps to orientate yourself and find the fastest way to split travel. When you are out there to the hyperspace, pressing C opens the nebula map that helps you navigate the ship around it. I found myself cycling these maps all the time and the fact that they show a lot of information, made the screen fill up with stuff and me getting lost in them. I got used to it after some time but an overhaul of the UI would be a much needed addition to the game.

Traversing into space is not the only place you will visit. You can enter space stations, derelicts and in a few circumstances you can land on planets. There the game turns into the Lucas Arts adventure visual style that I personally love. Very detailed pixel art work that gives a breath of fresh air to the genre. Lots of characters in every station that you can interact with, even though after some time they don’t say many interesting things. The layout of the space stations is also the same, with different additions each time.

Travelling between stars takes some time and you need some good music to take your mind out of the mundane task of flying. The soundtrack of 3030 Deathwar Redux is amazing. Synthwave music with 80s elements, catchy pop melodies and singing that make you want to put the pedal to the metal. In the space stations plays different atmospheric music that makes for a nice mood change. In general, even though the selecion of songs is all over the place, it works and I personally really like it. After all, the captain of the ship can have whatever music they want in their bridge.

There is also a story that involves an interstellar conspiracy, secret groups and our hero being in the middle of a weird prophecy. It’s not the best story out there but It’s a nice change of pace if you get bored with doing the jobs and discoveries.

Personally, the other game in that style I’ve played was Elite:Dangerous, and I felt the same thing with both games. I would do a few runs or hunts and after a while I’d get bored and leave the game. The thing was that the next day I was itching to do some more runs and discover new things. The gameplay loop is such that you want to earn more money, upgrade your ship, buy a new one more powerful, travel faster and discover all the systems. 3030 Deathwar Redux does that very competently. I spent close to 20 hours doing jobs and discoveries and I enjoyed my time with it.

You can buy 3030 Deathwar Redux – A Space Odyssey on Steam for the price of 14,99€

3030 Deathwar Redux – A Space Odyssey offers a great space exploration experience in the vein of Elite:Dangerous but more compact and with a good story on top. Its UI might be overwhelming at first with shortcuts all over the place but you will get used to it after a while because the main gameplay and exploration are totally enjoyable. Add a wonderful 80s inspired soundtrack and a visual style that is a tribute to Lucas Arts and you have a space exploration adventure that is worth your attention.

+Lucas Arts inspired visual style
+80s inspired soundtrack
+Gameplay loop that will make you want to do “one more run”
+Open world exploration with a story to follow

-Story is not that interesting
-The UI can be overwhelming

Score : 7,5/10
~Dimitris “Dimi Kaye” Kalyvas

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