Preview: Nova Drift
An addictive arcade space shooter with strategic elements
Nova Drift is an addictive arcade space shooter featuring a dynamic upgrade system that brings countless strategies to survive and defeat waves of enemies.
The game is best described as a modern take on the typical wave space shooter games found in many Japanese arcade machines. The game starts off slow and easy, and progressively increases difficulty by either spawning more enemies or by spawning more challenging ones.
The upgrade system is extensive because it features a decent amount of upgrades, ranging from typical health generation and shields to full weapon changes, mines and even drones.
The upgrade system is also where strategy comes into play, because it is here where players will find themselves making crucial decisions that will affect them as the game progresses. Upgrades that players select may be very helpful fighting off more difficult waves, or it can become a contributing factor to the cause of death.
The list of upgrades that players get to choose from are also drawn from a semi-random pool designed to encourage experimentation while still allowing players control of their build. This is by far one of the most important elements in the game because this will ensure that every session will play out differently and will prevent players from selecting the exact same upgrades every time.
Control wise you have the options you would expect from a space shooter, buttons to turn your ship left and right, a thruster button and a shooting button. Limiting movement only through your ship's thrusters adds a layer of difficulty to the game's controls that takes time to master.
Players will have to carefully plan out the trajectory of their ship as pushing the thruster button at the wrong moment can mean death and destruction. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because without this mechanic the many waves of enemies would become too easy to destroy.
The way the game handles limited screen space also adds a layer of strategy on top of ship movement. When players move their ship out of view it will appear again on the opposite direction, allowing for even more ways to get out of a tricky situation fast as enemies don't have this ability.
While this is a good mechanic to have included in the game, this is also one of my major griefs. The mechanic works as expected, but features unwanted blind spots because the space ship doesn't appear again until after it has fully passed out of view, and as a result can cause you to accidentally hit enemies you can't see.
Each type of enemy and each type of weapon will feature a different type of effect that in turn makes the game aesthetically pleasing to watch or play.
Enemies also come in different shapes and sizes so that players are able to determine the level of difficulty of the enemies he or she is facing, and also what type of attacks the enemy has.
The user interface used to select upgrades is also very well designed and easy to understand, and even shows the different stages each upgrade has as you progress through by unlocking them.
After the "game over" screen players will be able to insert their name on both local and online leaderboards to compete against other top players, though, integration for this was still in early stages in the preview build that we played.
For those who like a challenge the game also allows players to unlock several challenge modes. These modes allow players to play by different sets of rules to test their skill and to unlock special upgrades.
Overall the game is definitely worth playing, and can provide players with hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of gameplay depending on how serious they are with determining the best strategy to top their previous highscore.
Depending on the retail price of the final version, the game may be worth picking up, but it does have competition as there are many other space shooters available that offer similar experiences, though, the game's upgrade system, the randomly generated sessions, its graphics and challenge modes can be considered unique enough to justify purchase.
Nova Drift is currently on Kickstarter where indie developer Jeffrey Nielson hopes to secure funds to finish development.
At the time of writing, 269 people have backed the project with roughly $5,000 pledged of its $6,000 goal. If successfully funded, the game will be making its way to Windows and OS X.
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