Starvoid PC Review

September 13, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Zeal Game Studios
Publisher(s): Paradox Interactive
Platform(s): Steam, PC
Release Date: August 30th 2012

Starvoid is a real-time strategy game that throws off the base building, tech developing, tropes of the genre to focus on the battlefield. In lieu of epic campaigns, the game is all about getting the most out of a few units in a short amount of time. Starvoid offers strategic battles, extensive customization options, and three gameplay modes to keep things interesting, but a lack of players might be its downfall.

The game starts you out with four preset contracts, or loadouts, to choose from as well as a few first-level unlocks should you want to make your own custom contract. The first decision you’re going to make is what commander will be leading your platoon into battle. Starvoid’s commanders include the melee bruiser, support healer, stealth assassin, and the sniper, with each commander varying depending on how you equip them. I decided to jump into a Team Deathmatch with “Kelly’s Heroes”, the game’s preset sniper contract.

At first I had difficulty wrapping my head around just how fragile commanders are in the thick of things. They are essentially your base; they spawn your units and if they die, so does your entire army. This makes them the kings of the chessboard and they trend toward having more abilities than other units, which the League of Legends player in me took to mean that they are your strongest unit. Starvoid simply doesn’t play that way.

Commanders are not the powerful heroes that MOBA players will be expecting and if you don’t want to be respawning every minute, you’re going to have to develop a healthy mix of the right units and sound strategic planning. Each contract has six different unit slots to customize its roster and only one of each unit type can be summoned at a time, with your maximum number of units being capped by an upkeep. This gives you a small window to define your team at any given time and if you don’t learn which units best suit different scenarios, you aren’t going to last long.

Once I grasped the importance of keeping my commander at range while rushing the enemy force with robotic minions and tanks, I started seeing more turnaround. Every match of Starvoid will net you spoils, which can be spent on new units, equipment for your commanders, and upgrades for both. It’s when you stop playing with the presets and start developing your own builds that Starvoid becomes interesting.

While each individual commander has different stats, a unique active ability, and varied limitations on what they can and can’t equip, the weapons, armor, and specs that you equip are going to drastically change how your commander plays. For instance I swapped my sniper’s rifle with a shotgun, shortening her attack range and swapping out her Snipe ability for a targeted blast that pins enemy units. I also equipped her with a new armor piece that increased her armor every time she took damage. After one trip to the shop I had drastically changed my entire strategy.

Your commander isn’t the only thing that can be changed through upgrades. Each unit on your team has two upgrade slots with which you can change their stats, as well as give them all new abilities. Buying an upgrade unlocks it for use by any unit type that can equip that same upgrade, which will save you spoils in the long run. While the broad level of customization promises fun down the road, there is a hiccup in unlocking the game’s massive inventory: no one is playing it.

In my time reviewing Starvoid I never played a full 6v6 match, if I could find a match at all. This severe lack of players creates major flaws in the game’s design. Starvoid allows players to drop in and out of games at will, which is fine with a large playerbase, but when only a handful of people are playing the game it means that balanced matches are few and far between. If you’re never playing a balanced match, you’re either stealing easy wins, or being mercilessly dominated at all times, neither of which is a lot of fun.

I actually had a similar experience with Team Fortress 2 on the console. If teams are never balanced, then modes like Starvoid’s Battle - a capture-and-hold affair - just don’t work. The odd game of 3v2 is one thing, but when you’re always playing alone against two other people, it’s difficult to both capture and hold points, thus defeating the point of Battle. Sadly, the unbalanced teams aren’t the worst of it.

Starvoid’s Sabotage mode involves trying to plant bombs in the opposing team’s exhaust vents in order to blow up their base. Players start with a set number of bombs and can collect more from unit kills, even stealing all of an opponent’s bombs if you manage to kill their commander. The first team to reduce their enemy base’s health to zero, or who has the most health at the end of the match, wins. Or so I’m told. I’ve never played Sabotage, because literally no one was playing it.

With a unique take on the real-time strategy and MOBA genres, a large amount of customization, and deep gameplay, Starvoid has a lot to offer. It’s a shame that there are so few people playing the game that those of us who would genuinely enjoy it, don’t have the option to. I hope that Zeal can pull through and bring a solid community to Starvoid, because it has the potential for greatness. 

Final Score “Is anybody out there?” 6.0
Starvoid isn’t ugly, but it is very bland. There’s very little color and none of the characters or maps are particularly interesting. Because the game is made for twelve players summoning a handful of units each, everything is very small and thus lacking in detail.
I love Starvoid’s blend of RTS and MOBA elements. It creates a unique gameplay style that I am eager to see more of. Watch worthwhile matches I could get going were a blast.
With no one playing it, it’s tough to justify paying $9.99 for a strictly multiplayer title. I hope Zeal considers moving to a free-to-play model or at least making some serious changes to bring in more players.
As with the graphics, the sound in Starvoid is entirely generic. Aside from a few annoying VO clips, nothing really stood out.

Review by Jeff Ellis

I'm a freelance writer and game reviewer with a year's experience working in the game industry. I've been playing games longer than I've been able to read. In fact, I learned how to read by watching my brother play JRPGs on our Nintendo. I also learned geography from Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. Facts that I probably shouldn't be proud of, but I am. You can read more of my writing over at First Word Problems and keep updated on the site and me via Twitter @1stwordproblems. All Articles by Jeff Ellis.
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  1. Might pick this up if it drops in price.....significantly!....and if anyone is still playing it.

  2. aw too bad, almost picket this one up. Might wait for a price drop.

  3. yea....the game world feel pretty empty. Both graphically and due to the lack of players online.

  4. So, no single player option? pass.


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