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Elite-style space trading sims (8)


3 Name: Anonymous Gamer : 2012-06-23 21:36 ID:QCcdG+d7

Having played a bit more Ad Astra, I can say it's quite a fun game, but because of the default controls where pitch and roll are mouse-controlled, aiming tends to be a bit of a bitch. When I try to assist police ships in taking down a pirate, I almost inevitably end up accidentally firing at a cop, and being promptly blown apart as soon as the pirate ship has stopped being a police concern and begun its new life as a salvage target. I have yet to try its joystick control options.

Be that as it may, Ad Astra is an impressive project; even more so because coding it was/is (development has stopped in March 2010, but future features are still planned) apparently a one-man effort. In terms of graphics, while it has a lot more variation in ship shapes compared to Oolite, whose ships are mostly variants of various sizes on a wedge theme (which some OXPs are attempting to counteract), Oolite objects look less pixellated around their outlines. Also the availability of high-res texture OXPs removes Ad Astra's advantage of less bland ship textures. Planets in Ad Astra, on the other hand, are a lot more detailed than their Oolite counterparts, mostly because the game is designed from the ground up to allow certain ships to enter their atmosphere. I have seen mountains, valleys, cities and even oceans in Ad Astra. There is an ongoing project to improve planet textures in Oolite as well as a Planetfall OXP, but even with the highest-resolution textures installed, Oolite planets will never be anything but smooth spheres, and the Planetfall expansion, unlike the Ad Astra system, does not let you pick specific cities on the planet to dock at. Because of Oolite's roots of docking only at space stations, its ships also lack the animated landing gear present in all Ad Astra ships that are capable of atmospheric flight. The 3D all-caps font used in Ad Astra's main menu and Game Over message, on the gripping hand, failed to impress me, rather reminding me of the first Quake instead.

Oolite also does not allow the player to tow derelict ships to the nearest space station; at most you get to scoop up cargo containers left behind by destroyed ships. There is an OXP which lets the player plant beacons on derelicts to summon special giant salvage ships, with which one can then dock and receive payment. This however cannot hold a candle to the tractor beam system in Ad Astra, which you can use to tow any disabled ship smaller than your own into the nearest spaceport, which will then pay you for any cargo left on the ship as well as all salvageable material from the ship's component parts as well.
Some shipwrecks are only too large to tow with their wings left intact, so you can shoot the wings until they break off. This is another thing Ad Astra handles better than Oolite: all ships that I have seen so far in the former game were composed of quite a large number of parts, almost each of which may be damaged and/or destroyed individually. In Oolite, a ship that takes damage will absorb it with the shields first, and if those are not enough it will lose some of the energy in its energy banks, along with a random chance of some frangible ship subsystem becoming unavailable or a random cargo item being destroyed. If a ship's energy banks are completely depleted, it blows up leaving some of its cargo (if it had any) plus maybe a piece of hull behind. (Exploding ship parts in Ad Astra, in contrast, generate quite a lot of salvageable debris.) That's it for most ships, though a few OXP ships have a few external parts that can be shot off without the ship itself exploding.