Weird World – The (Retro) Verdict
Recently I’ve been looking back at a number of the titles I’d missed first time around and i’ve playing a lot of Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, a space exploration game by Digital Eel. Find some words after the cut.
In Weird Worlds you play a starship Captain who’s sent out into neighbouring star systems to meet strange new civilisations and to boldly go… and well, relieve them of their technology. There’s no overarching plot, you simply explore star systems and see what you can find. The only restriction you have is a deadline to which you need to be back at base for (lest you lose your bonus) and that’s it. You’re just sent off into the unknown. The bonus, of course, is a gaming conceit used mostly as a score multiplier (and that is the game’s main replay value), but it works as a good driving motivation and more importantly it injects a bit of risk/reward into the experience.
You spend the majority of your time on the map screen (which is fully animated and looks very nice for a nine year old game) where you choose which system to jump to, looking for tech, encountering new species’ (and then either trading, fighting or running away from them) and generally exploring the local area looking for things of worth.
Your ship is upgradable, with many different types of equipment slots (all of which can be found/bought/upgraded along your journey) and you also have a sizeable cargo hold within which you can hold your legally acquired bounty. It’s quite fun trying to find all the different drives and weapon combos, and the randomisation adds further re-play value to this.
Weird Worlds is a good game that is sadly hampered by one niggling issue; the combat just isn’t very good. When you eventually get tempted into a combat scenario you’re dropped down into a top-down view of the battle where set about trying to introduce your enemy to the loving embrace of a hard vacuum. Weapons all have different abilities and ranges, ships have different speeds, you can get cloaking sub systems, better shields and can even, start to form a fleet. You would think that this would give you a multitude of tactical options in the encounters and lead to a terrific and exciting battle.
You’d be wrong.
The controls, mouse bound as they are, offer little control over the battle save for your final destination and to top it all off, the weapons all auto fire. In reality, combat boils down to heading straight for the enemy and the biggest ship wins. There’s no real skill involved in these battles. Space Pirates and Zombies, this is not.
This is a genuine shame given just how enjoyable the rest of the game is. The random missions, encounters and events all make Weird Worlds a very enjoyable way to spend your time. The combat sections don’t ruin this, they’re just dull and frankly you’ll just avoid them all together after a certain point, but they do lessen the overall effect of the title.
All in all though, I can’t believe I missed this first time around, I thoroughly recommend you play it as it’s such a great little time sink. I just wish the combat was better.
Belated-Verdict – On Target