Star Story: The Horizon Escape by EvilCoGames
Star Story: The Horizon Escape is a light sci-fi adventure with RPG elements and a whimsical tone. The game features turn-based combat, an extensive crafting focus and an interesting technology unlock system linked to the decisions you make during your adventures. All of this is tied together with a non-linear narrative boasting 24 endings. It’s always good to see a game exploring the medium’s capacity for non-linear storytelling, and Star Story is clearly a bold undertaking with its many divergent narrative paths, so how does it play?
The Story is the Star
Things get off to a well-paced start, and the game quickly sets the stage for its largely text-based story. Star Story is eager to explain its various systems, but nothing is complicated enough to warrant extensive, tedious tutorials; thankfully the developers don’t make the mistake of providing them. The narrative is constantly moving forward, and there is no option to reverse course (barring the regular chance to teleport back to base for crafting).
Decisions and other key activities are handled with simple mouse clicks, and the protagonist is always moving through the side-scrolling world, divided up into deserts, forests and mechanical fortresses. Most of the action is based on making sensible decisions in the situations the narrative presents or on having the right equipment for the right problem (many options are only available if you’ve brought along the correct gear).
Every Story Needs an Action Scene
The other side of Star Story is the combat; this is a simple, turn-based experience that is once again fairly dependent on bringing the right weapons or equipment. Different types of damage are more effective against shields, armor or squishy flesh, and it’s important to manage resources appropriately so that the right weapons can be brought to bear in any given fight. I found the combat fairly tame, as long as weapons are all regularly charged, but it is satisfying to peel away the enemies’ defenses fight after fight.
The aforementioned unlock system is tied to a kind of morality points system faintly reminiscent of the famous (or infamous) “paragon/renegade” system from Mass Effect. Weapon improvements can be unlocked by making bold, aggressive decisions, health and support gear is accessed through helping others and being cooperative, whilst tech equipment is unlocked through seeking scientific solutions to problems. I found this system initially quite engaging, but over time it becomes easier to effectively farm these points and so shore up weak points. Nonetheless, it is an interesting and unusual system.
The crafting side of Star Story is both a strength and a weakness. It’s always fun to be gathering materials and cobbling together new gear, but the game insists on transporting our hero back to base to do all of this, and in order to progress safely it becomes necessary to make this transit quite often. It would be less of an issue if this didn’t mean having to sit through two – admittedly very short – loading screens every time. I think the crafting side of Star Story would be better if integrated, as a menu, into the main adventure screen.
Judging the Book by Its Cover
The level of polish on Star Story is variable; the music is on point and tonally appropriate for the story, whilst the visuals are beautiful and vibrant. Where Star Story fails is in one of its most crucial aspects: the writing. As a largely text-based adventure, Star Story is unsurprisingly heavily reliant on its writing, and unfortunately there are many basic errors here, ranging from small punctuation or grammar issues to significantly garbled sentences in danger of losing their intended meaning. Hopefully, this can be improved over time, but at the moment it is an issue that is in need of correction.
Star Story is an impressive game that is absorbing and fun to get lost in; the non-linear narrative is cleverly looped back on itself to encourage exploration of all possible outcomes, and the mysteries of its world are sufficiently intriguing as to warrant exploration. All of this is somewhat hampered by the intermittent writing quality, but Star Story is nonetheless an engaging, light-hearted adventure that invites us to seek out all of its secrets.
Star Story: The Horizon Escape is available via Steam.
Watch the official Star Story: The Horizon Escape trailer below: