Stellar Wanderer Review
So, you want to smuggle illegal contraband and shoot down some friendly spaceships? Or maybe you want to run through the galaxy, jumping from portal to portal in search of some money making side missions. Stellar Wanderer is a mix of space shooter and spacesim/RPG. There are a lot of good and only a few inconsistent things here, and I’ll let you know how Stellar Wanderer stacks up.
Stellar Wanderer, developed by Dream Builder and released by Crescent Moon Games, is something of an oddity when it comes to the Apple TV. It’s mix of space shooter action and space-sim RPG elements makes for something that players are either going to love or hate. I will admit that I have not played many games like this over my 40+ years on this planet and I wanted to approach this one with fresh eyes and an open mind.
As I played Stellar Wanderer I realized something, I really enjoy these types of games and I may have missed out over all these game playing years on a genre that I really knew nothing about but obviously enjoy!
Stellar Wanderer, while pleasing aesthetically, can be a mixed bag when it comes to defining it’s true visual characteristics. You’ll see numerous solar systems, docking stations, transport vehicles and war ships. There is a bit of diversity in the many vehicles and bases contained within the game and it makes for quite a compelling visual experience. But there are a few issues.
The aircraft models are a bit inconsistent. While some look very good and even have transparent windows where you can see the pilot, others look much more basic and less impressive. But the graphics still get the job done. One addition I really enjoyed in the game was the cockpit view. Coming from a racing sim background and having developed my own racing sim, the cockpit view is a very important feature for me personally. It takes time and effort to include this and I commend the developer for adding it knowing that many players simply won’t use it. There are times I want to go into battle with the feeling of being at the helm of my fighter/cargo spacecraft and I am happy to have that chance here.
The explosions and little details are nicely done and add a lot to the shooter aspect of the game. The lighting and differences in that lighting from system to system is a welcomed addition and adds to the atmosphere, no pun intended, of the numerous solar systems of Stellar Wanderer. Most of the time I know where I am simply by the backgrounds and colors I am experiencing. The actual backgrounds are a bit pixelated and could be a bit more “HD” in my opinion, but work well with the theme and overall expansive nature of the universes created.
Firing your weapons feels satisfying and has all the standard fare you would expect from a space themed game and the distance in which you can see the objects in the universe is impressive. There is a lot of information on the screen at any particular time and may look a bit confusing at first, but comes in very handy as you get used to the game and start patrolling the vast expanses of space created.
Ahhhhhh, sounds from space. Let’s concentrate on the ambient, aircraft and weaponry sounds first. They are fairly standard fare and do a good job of conveying the action on screen to your ears. Weapons ring out with a laser-type quality and missiles sound as you would envision them. Nothing overpowering or mind-blowing here, but definitely helps add to the tension of space travel and firefights.
As far as the music, it is really well done in my opinion. A soft, almost calming, soundtrack gives way to a more intense score when an enemy has engaged your fighter. You know when you’re under attack for sure. From the minute the game starts up and you hear that serene score, it makes you feel as though this part of space is heavenly. Very nicely done.
You won’t find Brad Pitt or Seth Rogan voicing any of the characters in Stellar Wanderer, but the voice acting, while overacted on some parts, is not terrible at all. For a smaller game, the voice acting in Stellar Wanderer is more than tolerable and better than some other higher budget games I have played. I don’t think any Oscars are going to go to the actors here though.
I really think this is where Stellar Wanderer excels. The entire production leads to a product that can be inconsistent and buggy at times, but is well worth the $4.99 USD. The variety of ships all have their own stats and handle differently in space as they should. Heavier ships can hold more cargo and some have room for quite a few weapons and even a turret, but might not be able to outmaneuver the lighter, faster fighters until upgraded. Ship control is fluid and the auto-aim feature can be a large help in battle especially with a slower ship. But the exploration of the open world setup is what is most enjoyable for me.
There are many side missions you can agree to that will take you from protecting an ally ship from attacking pirates to racing other ships in a championship and even hunting and killing nefarious characters that need to be dealt with. I will admit that I was surprised that there was a racing aspect to the game and though it is not very deep and uses simple “race-through-the-rings” gameplay, it still pays out and is a great source of XP and rewards. It can be run over and over again too!
You can smuggle contraband and while the mini mechanic is pretty basic, it is a lot fun running from system to system searching for a certain precious metal to bring in some extra cash. Shooting at a chunk of space rock might be a bit simplistic, but it can be a good source of money if you put a lot of time into it.
There will be some players who are more familiar with this type of game who may not agree with my assessment of Stellar Wanderer, but I really like this game. There’s a lot of depth to it even though it can be repetitive and I would definitely recommend it to all the Apple TV players out there as you get a game that can suck you in for hours at a time and at no point make you feel like you are wasting your time. I fought to get my favorite ship and paid a bit of money to get it fitted with the best weaponry it can hold and now I am trying to gain more levels to build up points to essentially upgrade the main stats of the machine. It’s been a real joy to play to be honest.
As I stated earlier, this game is well worth the $4.99 USD. There’s a lot of entertainment here to be had especially if you can keep your expectations in check. Games like Galaxy on Fire 2: Manticore Rising for the Apple TV are great also and may have better, polished graphics and other slick visuals, but Stellar Wanderer has that extra bit of exploration that I truly enjoyed. Yes, these are mobile games ported to the Apple TV platform, but a lot of them, like Stellar Wanderer, are great additions to the Apple TV as a gaming machine and make the purchase of the device worthwhile.
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