Game Review: Space Pirates and Zombies 2 – Polished Sequel With a New Perspective

Photo courtesy MinMax Games After playing Space Pirates and Zombies 2 a bit, I went back in my Steam library to boot up the original Space Pirates and Zombies. What I completely forgot was a brief message by the founders of MinMax Games thanking everyone for their purchase. It was a sweet moment, having the two-man programming team showing their humble appreciation after putting their love and passion into their creation. Much of that same love can still be found in Space Pirates and Zombies 2, only now with a heavy coat of polish. MinMax Games has expanded nearly every aspect of the original Space Pirates and Zombies (affectionately referred to as SPAZ), with modular mothership construction, three-dimensional combat, better graphics, voice acting, and even VR options. SPAZ 2 is a top-down reformulation of its predecessor. It’s still in many respects the same real time strategy (or RTS)  experience as before, but expanded and with a deeper focus on mothership to ship combat. Story spoilers right here. The events of SPAZ have done little to change the harsh disposition of the galaxy. Turns out “Rez,” the special sci-fi hyperspace go-juice that fueled intergalactic travel, was created from the same dark entity responsible for the space-borne zombie plague from the first game. Though the entity was destroyed and the plague brought to an end, the galaxy is still as violent, backstabbing, conniving, and snarky as before. The Clockwork Crew, our heroes from before, must once again start from scratch as the zombie plague rears its infected head. Only now, along with building their mothership and gathering resources, these freebooters must pick a side in a multi-sided galactic war to stop the zombie plague once and for all. Spoilers end. Photo courtesy MinMax Games In terms of core gameplay, resources remain your lifeblood just as much as they did last time. You’ll be gathering, trading, and stealing the trifecta of Rez (fuel), Goons (expendable cloned crew), and Scrap (currency). Each of these can be used to barter for new ship parts, or even place bounties on enemy captains you’ll run into during your voyage. But be careful, as other factions may try and hunt you down or put bounties on your own head if you make them angry. The galaxy may be a pretty big place, and your crew may be just one ship among thousands traipsing along the stars, but becoming a hero to one faction can mean becoming a villain to another. Keep in mind that intergalactic popularity can come with a price. Most every situation in SPAZ 2 will result in combat. This time, instead of a bird’s eye view, combat takes places on a 3D linear plane and is way more direct than before. The camera is zoomed in close to your ship with lasers, cannons, missiles, and every kind of sci-fi inspired weapons blasting all around you. If you’re into your big epic space battles, you’ll enjoy this new presentation. Your mothership is now the greatest asset in your fleet when compared to the original SPAZ. Unlike before, where all missions were conducted via warp gates with small bands of ships, your mothership is a flying weapons platform. Depending on your build, the mothership can be light and nimble or heavy and armored, loaded with a variety of different kinds of weapons. Support craft still play an important role like they did before, but the mothership is the star of SPAZ 2. It also looks like SPAZ 2 is going for more accessibility this time. While you pilot the mothership, you can designate the AI to work the weapons for you. This may sound like an option more for those not too keen on space combat, but it can really help out in a pinch, especially since you’ll be assaulted from different directions in most space battles. Much like before, Space Pirates and Zombies 2 is difficult, even on the easy setting. This is not a game where you start rushing to do a check list. Impatience can only bring catastrophe for you and your ship. Though it’s more of an RTS, SPAZ 2 is also a numbers game as you’re constantly swapping out mothership modules and rearming your support ships with new weapons. Synergy becomes a major factor in mothership design as stacking similar sub-cores can produce higher yields for attached weapons and other systems. Outfitting your ship with new weapons and armor utilizes a more modular design, so it may not look particularly attractive, but it’ll still be very effective. Even though it’s more window dressing, the game still hasn’t lost it penchant for quips, gags, and inherent cheekiness. Space Pirates and Zombies 2 continues its run to not take itself too seriously. Characters are a bit over the top, the item descriptions come with their own jokes, and there’s even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag in the tutorial video. (Hint: It’s a chicken.) There are a few drawbacks to this sequel. For instance, while the galaxy is more procedurally generated, it’s only one size. This a big departure from the original SPAZ where the player could control the size, planet, and even bounty hunter density for a game. Likewise, hardpoint options for support ships have been pared down as well, although the ships themselves can be leveled up by obtaining more blueprints for that specific ship. Space Pirates and Zombies 2 takes the original idea of the first game and puts a greater emphasis on ship battles and the mothership itself. For the most part, it still retains what was great and even finds ways to improve on nearly everything. It’s a true sequel in every sense of the word. Space Pirates and Zombies 2 is available now on Steam.
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David Lanzafame