At the end of the last article covering Arvoch Alliance, Lieutenant Veloxi kept dying repeatedly during the forth mission, entitled “Springing the Trap”. Read on to find out how I got passed that mission, and why the remainder of my six hours with the game reminded me of an old Dane Cook bit. Don’t worry, it was back when he was funny.
Arvoch Alliance (AA) can be a game of contradiction. This was first evident in the tutorial, which was fine for a spell, and then jumped in difficulty near the end with a crazy timed landing sequence that nearly made me pull my hair out. This kind of went against the premise of a tutorial, in my mind, which should gently guide a new player — or space pilot — in the intricacies of space flying and combat, not guide them for a bit then slap them in the face, which is how that jump in difficulty felt.
This happened again during the campaign. The first three missions of the game seemed to slowly be building up the tension and the complexity, at least until the forth mission, when BAM, all hell breaks loose. Now other games build up the tension to a breaking point and then all hell let loose — Freespace 2 did an exceptional job with its pacing, for example — but here, it felt like too severe a jump.
Eventually, through sheer cowardice — I jumped away from the battle when it got too hairy, right before I was ordered to return to the carrier — I finished the mission, but barely. There were some cool moments wherein, from a distance I could see the explosions of the battle I had just jumped away from still going strong, and I had to burn all the way to the carrier to avoid combat in my damaged fighter. Sadly, FRAPS flaked on me and got no screenshots of this, which added to my frustration.
Then I moved onto the fifth mission, “Time in the Wilderness,” wherein two wings of fighters — led by yours truly — were to fly around a nebula on a patrol mission to find Vonari fighters. I still wasn’t sure who these Vonari were, but they seemed like badasses, so I was happy when my wing was given the Evoch-C fighter, but I was told not to lose any since they were so new. Yeah, sure, Sir! ;)
Flying into the yellowish nebula for the first time was pretty cool. Thunder rolled and made my wall shake with bass, and lightning strikes hit off in the distance, which was a cool effect that really helped set the mood, I thought. As we approached the first waypoint, we encountered two wings of Vonari fighters. Eight versus eight, this seemed like pretty decent odds, right? In my first battle, I tangled with a Vonari fighter, shooting over and over again until he died. Vonari seemed to learn piloting from Humans, as they did that same damned twisty maneuver that my previous enemy — The Federation and us Alliance folk laid down arms against us to fight this new combined thread — used against me in previous battles, only this time, it took quite a bit longer to shoot them down.
Once I finally splashed my first enemy, I noticed I was the only ship on the screen, so I headed back to the waypoint…to find nothing. No wingmates, no Vonari, nothing. I then started flying around trying to find everyone. Now, keep in mind, your ship has a regular fuel supply, and engaging in maneuvers of any kind that uses the thrusters or the afterburners uses fuel, and the only way to avoid this is to pretty much fly in a straight line. Therfore, flying around looking for a fight of course expended fuel, which will be relevant in a moment.
Eventually I ran into Beta 2, and after that, we found one more enemy about 15,000K from Waypoint One, which we splashed, finally clearing the waypoint and letting us go to Waypoint Two. I couldn’t select it in the nav map or anything, I just had to make sure it was clear first, which eventually got infuriating, as you’ll see. Anyway, Beta 2 and I ran onto Waypoint 2, wherein we encountered four more Vonari fighters. Now, I had been using a lot of fuel, burning to catch up with enemies or avoid their shots, flying around randomly to FIND enemies and so on, so JUST when we found the enemy, I got a low fuel warning. “AWESOME,” I thought, “This is like my car’s low fuel light coming on in the middle of a desert.” I didn’t end up being a problem because I was shot down shortly thereafter.
For the next try, I switched out to different missiles and decided to try a new tactic of not giving my Wingmates any commands, to see if we fared better. In this scenario, my wingmates seemed to last a little longer, but this seemed likely due to the Vonari concentrating their fire on me, and I died quickly.
For the next attempt, I tried using a different view to see if it would give me an edge. It didn’t really, but it was pretty. Again, during combat at the first waypoint, I seemed to have gotten separated from the rest of the fighting, so I flew around to find everyone else. After nearly an HOUR of flying around in a circle surrounding the waypoint, I gave up and restarted, as I ran out of patience. I’m not sure if that brakes a rule, but I honestly didn’t care at this point.
This next attempt, I tried different missiles and tries using particle guns only, rather than the traditional combo of guns and beams. I didn’t last long in this attempt. In the next attempt, I tried a different formation using the oft-forgotten — and for what use I’m not fully sure yet — tactics screen, and we lasted a little longer, but I once again somehow got separated from my mates. I flew around for nearly forty minutes trying to find them, landing at my carrier — which you’d think might refuel and rearm your ship, but no — until I found either my mates or the enemy, shortly dying thereafter.
This kind of thing kept happening. Nine more times. I tried this mission for around a dozen times, always with the same result: my death. I eventually stopped taking screenshots due to the repetitiveness of it all. This made me start to wonder…is the problem with the game, or is the problem with me? I’ve played many space games in my time, and rarely have I run into this kind of wall in regards to the difficulty of a game, nor have I run into this kind of quickly ramped up difficulty. I had to stop playing the game for days because I was getting so frustrated with it.
At this point, it reminded me of an old Dane Cook bit. In this bit, he’s talking about Monopoly and how, several hours into a game of Monopoly, this is anyone’s reaction: “Fuck this game!” This is pretty much how I felt about AA after several attempts to pass this mission. Once I hit the six hour mark — which felt much, much longer — I stopped. I was getting too angry and too frustrated with the game to give it a fair writeup, so I slept on it a couple of days before deciding to write this review.
Overall, AA showed a lot of promise. For a while I was enjoying the combat in the campaign, as well as the story and the setting. The ramped up difficulty, however, eventually killed my enjoyment of the game, and at that point I had no interest in checking out the game’s other features like the Instant Action or Multiplayer modes. Maybe I’ll come back to them after I clense my palate a bit, but for right now, I’m done with this game. I hate being so harsh because I’ve enjoyed all of the other Star Wraith 3D games I’ve played. I never ran into this problem with an Evochron game, for example, so I’m not sure what the deal is.
So in the end, can I recommend AA to my fellow space pilots? Honestly, I don’t think I can objectively answer that right now. I say try the demo and make your own choice, if you feel up to it. Hopefully you’ll have a better experience than I did.
Please enjoy all of the screenshots I took for this article below, and thanks for reading!