MMO Base Builder with a Sci-fi Twist
Cosmic Wars: The Galactic Battle is branded as a Strategy MMO. In actuality, the title feels somewhere between a competitive turn-based RPG (think Pokémon) and a Base Builder, an increasingly popular genre in the mobile gaming sphere.
Cosmic Wars has you building a ship from a small tugboat-like vessel into a towering war-machine. The game centers around a hub world from where you can access marketplaces, premium items and the rest of the game world.
Ultimately, Cosmic Wars offers players a strategy-light mobile title. Your ship starts out small and early upgrades consist of simple mining and attack additions for your ship. In a grid-like system you stack your cannons atop hangars, space bakeries, mining frigates and more. In little time, you’ll create a towering, probably lopsided, behemoth of a vehicle. And after that, because it’s an MMO, you’ll continue to upgrade and improve forever.
On paper, Cosmic Wars seems like it could be fun, and the game has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it is a rather straightforward game with a pricing model that gets in its own way. Cosmic Wars isn’t too intense, fast-paced or mechanically intensive. It would be better marketed as an intermittent time-passer, as that’s how it wants to be played. Expecting the player base to pay to experience what feels more like an idle single-player game merely set in an MMO environment seems to overshadow everything the game has going for it.
Cosmic Wars is great for those who love turn-based games—because that’s almost what it is. Your ship doesn’t move in this game at all, rather you swipe to pan around your location in space. You can move around by clicking locations to warp to on a drop-down map of the galaxy, but Cosmic Wars never gives you the chance to steer your ship or navigate through any stretch of space.
Combat begins when you click on an enemy ship. It costs a small amount of currency to engage an opponent, but unfortunately a good deal less than you receive if you win. Each encounter plays out automatically. You never actually do anything during combat, with the exception of activating a few skills and drone-like interceptors via tapping.
The majority of your cannons and other weapons fire off automatically. The battle ends when you or your enemy drops to zero HP. Made of many separate parts, your ship can lose cannons and other structures if any one part receives too much damage.
Overall, this makes each battle a waiting game as you watch your ship tear into your foe. In an inventively engaging move, UTPlus Interactive includes a DPS meter beside your health bar. This arguably would allow for more strategy, as you can activate abilities in response to, for example, a cannon being destroyed in order to make up for lost damage. That being said, situations rarely arose where I found myself doing more than just watching my opponent’s DPS drop. There are hardly chances for you to do much at all in battle that feels proactive or preventative. The feature is really cool but feels out of place in a game where you can only seldom directly affect how much DPS you or your opponent are doing.
Problems in the Vastness of Space
Building parts for your ship and repairing structures after battle takes both resources and time. Depending on the strength of the part, this waiting period can range from 15 minutes to hours. This time doesn’t have to be in-game time, making the mechanic feel unnecessary. What’s more it really detracts from the pacing. An issue only amplified by the time being skippable with premium currency. If the mechanic added anything to the atmosphere of the game before, its being skippable for money spoils it.
Further, there is no direct EXP granted from grinding normal enemies in the universe. Instead, enemies drop iron and food, the games two currencies, which double as crafting materials. Like in a Dark Souls game, you use these currencies to level yourself up. This presents an interesting challenge, or at least it gives you something to think about.
At first glance, this mechanic is seemingly neutral or at least up to player preference. But because these currencies can be purchased with premium money, there arises a dilemma: suddenly, the leveling process can be expedited. The lack of traditional EXP allows premium players to skip large portions of the grind while free players make harder choices about upgrading. It goes without saying that this leads to a diminished experience for both parties. While this mechanic is nearly ubiquitous in mobile gaming these days, it doesn’t make it efficacious.
More Than a Crater
Cosmic Wars does some things very well. The structures, the buildable attachments to your base ship, are very well-done. At first, you only have simple gathering and shooting options. By level five, you gain other options such as weapons to stun enemy weapons and shields that protect parts of your ship based on proximity. You can also rearrange your ship at will, leading to more options for augmented strategy—even changing from encounter to encounter, though this would take a while.
It was a lot of fun examining the leaderboards in the game. Top-ranked players have gargantuan ships, both towering and winding. It’s both impressive and likewise fun to see other player’s creations in a mobile MMO. Usually, interaction in these titles can be limited, so being able to see the culmination of a player’s accomplishments down to the individual parts they used was rather pleasing.
Atmospherically the game hits the mark. Like some of the best sci-fi, Cosmic Wars: The Galactic Battle looks gritty and polished at the same time, which plays to the overall mood. The graphics are decent and look like an updated Heli Attack style. The music, however, is uninspired. Many tracks repeat in multiple areas. Regardless, they do a decent job capturing the mood of the game.
…But it’s Still not Great
Cosmic Wars: The Galactic Battle is not a very deep game and charges a fair amount for its IAPs, and therefore it deserves a critical eye. Were it devoid of premium mechanics, it would be easier to say that its simplicity is charming, or that I’d recommend picking it up on occasion. Its freemium pricing and passive game mechanics, however, never allow Cosmic Wars to feel like a worthwhile experience.
Cosmic Wars: The Galactic Battle looks gritty and polished and its core mechanic of building lets the player be creative. This is all overshadowed by the game’s progression mechanics being entirely built around premium currency.