Space Raiders in Space is a tower defense game that has a layer of style and panache that you don’t see in the sub-genre. The game has a graphic novel aesthetic similar to that of Sin City and is very self-aware of itself. The game was developed by 2 Stupid Devs (no really that’s their name) and published by Destructive Creations. So the big question is if the game is engaging to players even unfamiliar with the genre? Read along to find out.
The story is presented in the form of a comic book even from the start menu as the layout and the fonts look like a graphic novel. As you begin the game’s campaign each chapter starts off with comic book panels being brought to life one at a time as the voice actors and narrator say their lines. Shout out to the narrator because he “goes off script” from the comic panels at times so it’s not too mundane to just simply read along. The game begins with two people – Andy and Heather – as they awaken from cryosleep while landing on an alien planet. The two make the first contact with alien life and they look like giant bugs the size of a german shepherd. The aliens are friendly and also part of a hive mind. The two stayed on the planet and made a research outpost to study the alien life. The two even broadcast the video of the aliens back to Earth. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the two were attacked by the aliens unprovoked which lead to them escaping suddenly. As the two try to find refuge they run into Jimmy and Sam who aid them on their quest to figure out what caused the aliens to suddenly turn violent and repair the situation. Along the way, they find out that the video they sent back home was doctored to make people afraid of the aliens and the fake video was perpetuated by a charismatic leader. Ultimately I’m going to stop here and not giveaway all the twists and turns but to summarize each chapter has the 4 characters in a different location as they defend against multiple waves of aliens and the chapter cut scenes and the dialogue gives context to the setting.
The audio is very understated here, there isn’t any big bombastic soundtrack going on here, more like an ominous-sounding musical overtone and the music is mixed low as to not overshadow the voice actor’s dialogue or all the sound effects in the game from building defenses and shooting guns. The music does its job as it fits the tone the devs were going for. I also do want to take a moment to appreciate the voice actors as they did a good job of reading their lines with a straight face because the plot and dialogue feel ripped out of a bad straight to home video action movie. I also don’t say that in a bad way either as it is clearly done on purpose and this is signaled by the narrator and other meta/4th wall breaking references. I love how the narrator read his lines with the right amount of snark, even with a game over screen I let it play out because the narrator scolds the player for messing up because he is the one telling the story and that’s not how the story went. Also, shout out to the voice actor that played Jimmy as his character was a total airhead Californian surf-dude type that says “bro” a lot. The character was played flawlessly and the actor really delivered on that chill/stoner vibe. On the one bad note, some characters reactions to killing aliens repeat a lot of the time, and its the worst on Heather’s character because she constantly is regretting killing the aliens but from a story perspective she should only be saying that line in the first two chapters but saying that line after the 200th alien she dispatched ring hollow.
Nothing but good things to say here. I ran the game at 1080p and 144FPS but this isn’t a first-person shooter, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t need all that. I didn’t see any skipped frames or any glitches during my playtime. Everything was smooth and functions as it should. As far as how the game looks – the game has a cel-shaded art style that blends the looks of Bastion and Borderlands. The look works for me and I don’t have any critiques to weigh against this category. So I would like to take the time to give a shout out to this game’s menu. Aside from the comic bookout layout I already mentioned this menu has sarcasm all over it. On the bottom right-hand corner of the menu there are two stick figures representing the devs thanking the player for purchasing the game then suddenly says “Wait, did you pirate [the game]?” Then in the video options, you can disable live portraits because checking that option is “not for potato computers.” There is a section that is “Not a section” And my favorite part there is a box that functions as a profanity filter and I won’t repeat here how they presented it but it brought a smile to my face as I thought to myself “Nice!”
This is the part that hurts the most. For all the good things I said thus far, this is where the game falls apart for me. For some gameplay is king and I subscribe to that notion as well, so this is the section that should make or break your purchase decision. Before I go into what I want to say I need you, the reader, to know that I have no experience with tower defense games so for people who are big on tower defense games and have played other games in the genre this might be a buy for you considering all the good things I’ve already said in the above sections. So to start off I want to say a good thing, this game is really good at introducing the player to the tower defense genre similar to how Pokemon is baby’s first JRPG (not in a bad way). The game is controlled with only the mouse, so just point and click, it’s a very simple control method, and it’s not complicated to wrap your head around it. The game has you start off with two characters on a very small map as to not overwhelm the players. The tutorial teaches the player about the game loop very well by guiding the player through the first two chapters telling the player what to click on and explaining the system with the on-screen text. I never felt lost and I understood what was going on as I went along. The game is defined by two stages per wave. The first stage is preparing, you can have your characters loot for resources or build up and fortify their defenses. The second stage is when the characters are being attacked by the wave of aliens and the characters must kill them with their guns or melee weapons or any of the defenses built. Once all the aliens are killed the next wave begins, rinse and repeat, until you start the next chapter. As the campaign goes on the player gets access to more and more defenses (such as a torrent, a decoy, and spiked walls, etc.) and the maps get larger and harder to defend. The game subtly teaches you strategy in creating a good layout that is hard to penetrate. I got so good that I was actually able to just set my characters to defend and let the gameplay itself. As the player, you can command your characters to do one of four things, defend, attack, build, scavenge, or hide. Mostly though your characters really can’t build or scavenge while aliens are attacking and hiding takes a character off the board so it’s really just attack and defend. In defend mode characters take a position that you are defending and only shoot an alien if they are in range. Different weapons that you can equip have different ranges so someone can shoot an alien very far away with a sniper but can only shoot so far with a shotgun. In attack mode, the characters take the aggressive position and run out and attack aliens with no regard to their safety. Luckily the game is generous with food that you can use to heal your characters even during the attack, it’s as simple as two clicks. So with all that being said, the game’s system is functioning as it should, so what’s the big deal? My problem with this game is that I do not find this game engaging at all. I struggled to beat the game because the gameplay bored me most of the time. The story and the voice acting’s charm could only go so far. It also doesn’t help that if you get a game over, you need to start the chapter over again from the beginning. This one chapter I was on had 13 waves! and I died on the 13th wave! So I lost about 45 mins of progress when I had to start over and it really angered me. I feel like this is unacceptable in modern game design they could have at least spawned me back at the beginning of the 13th wave or if this is some sort of tradition to the genre that I am not aware of, they could have at least designed the game to allow me to either spawn back at the beginning of the 13th wave or go back to the beginning of the chapter and it doesn’t help that I’m bored with the gameplay. Fire Emblem Awakening did a thing that allows for a hardcore player to play with the traditional permadeath and for newcomers to the series it could be disabled as to not frustrate players with losing a character they’ve grown attached to. This is a true story, but when I play a game, I try to immerse myself in the game and have all my attention on the game but because this game plays itself for a good portion of the time, I was able to check my phone and gave a text message conversation with someone on something totally unrelated, all I had to do was click defend and the game took care of itself, and I won the wave. I don’t know what else to call this, I don’t want to call this a failure in design because it might be a limitation of the genre but either way this game struggled to hold my attention.
After beating the game’s campaign other options show up in the main menu including a full auto section that has endless mode and survival mode. I didn’t spend too much time here as it was more of the same, but for hardcore players, if you run up the score, you can show up on the leaderboard that’s baked into the main menu.
Ultimately, I feel like this game is defined by style over substance. At least the game’s value proposition is done right with the asking price of $9.99 so it’s not too much of an investment on the player’s part. There is enough content in the game to occupy the player’s time and for those that find analytical defense placement and 80s action movie tropes engaging, then this game is a buy. Despite my own personal reservations, I can still say that this game is good as this game’s design choices was done with intent. The story was thought out, the voice actors did their thing, and there were no gameplay hiccups/bugs (well not those kinds of bugs, lol). 7/10
The game is out right now on PC on Steam and was reviewed on PC via Steam
The review code was provided by the publisher – Destructive Creations – for the purposes of the review.