Monday, June 11, 2012

Impressions: Moon Breakers

When you watch Star Wars, do you clap your hands like a giddy toddler when Red Squadron forms up for their assault on the Death Star? Do you want to be Tom Cruise in Top Gun, shooting down enemy fliers like the ace pilot you always knew you were? Yes? Then, Moon Breakers may be just the game for you -- it's space dogfighting at its funnest, and it's really not that difficult to learn.

A couple of hours of play and you'll be as good as Maverick.
What is Moon Breakers?

Right from the Steam page: "a free to play, multi-player 3D space combat game set in an alternate WWII-inspired future. As either a Government or Pirate pilot, take to the stars in single-seat starfighters and engage in epic dogfights for Helium-3 around the galaxy."

Hear that, guys? It's free.

There isn't a tutorial or single-player campaign; you are plunged right into the multiplayer with your only guidance being a few seconds with the controls before you're spit out of a launch tube and into some blistering dogfights. Fortunately, controlling your fighter is a relatively simple affair. You throttle up with W and slow down with S. You can do this with your mousewheel too, but I've found the buttons to be a lot more responsive. You direct your ship by just pointing your mouse. A and D roll your ship. You fire your main weapons, usually machine guns (or on some fighters, laser cannons), with the left mouse button and rockets or bombs with the right mouse button.

As simple as the controls are, there is a learning curve to the game. When you start out, you'll die. A lot. And then some more. However, each death is a lesson; next time around you'll know not to take your puny Mamba right into the enemy carrier's turret fire. You'll figure out how to lead your shots, how to turn the tables on a bogey on your six. 

And as you learn, you'll also be upgrading your ship with credits earned from each round. These credits can go towards upgrades, which will improve your fighter's speed, firing rate, shields, etc. Or you can save them up for other models. Unless you opted to shell out a few bucks for the Bundle DLCs, you'll only have access to the Mamba light fighter. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the Mamba is a solid ship in the right circumstances. You won't be leading any assaults on the enemy carrier, but you'll still be fulfilling a vital role in screening your own carrier or defending your bombers.

If you really do want to play as a bomber or heavy fighter, your best bet is to shell out for a bonus pack, which will multiply your credit earnings each round. Win a couple rounds and you'll have enough credits for your ship. Or you can just buy Helium-3 and use it to buy your ship. The upper tiers of each class of fighter is a bit expensive, credits-wise so I can see why someone would want to pay for Helium-3 instead.

But, honestly, you're just as well off with the Mamba. Other fighters have their own advantages and weaknesses, and I personally haven't gone toe-to-toe with a ship that I wasn't able to take on with my Mamba. If you're outflown, it's most likely because of the other pilot's skill, not his plane.

If you've always wanted to be a starfighter pilot, to emulate the likes of Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles, or Starbuck and Apollo, then Moon Breakers should definitely be on your list. Matches are short and intense, but fun and easy to get into. And while you may die in fiery explosions for the first couple rounds, you'll see your improvement over the course of a few games, and there's few things more satisfying than zeroing in on an enemy plane after you've outflown him and blasting him apart.

You can download the game at no cost on Steam or Chrome.

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