It takes the Cell stage from Spore, or the entire game of Flow and Osmos, and brings their gameplay to a whole new level. Captain Forever is a more complete game, in a way that others of the genre simply aren’t, though they share the same general flow and goal.
The basic premise of these games is that you are a small entity in a vast open space. There are much larger entities out there, and you want to become the biggest dog around. You must move around the space and consume smaller entities to grow your own size and strength. Usually the challenge of such games is the mechanism of controlling your entity.
Flow is an enjoyable, and engaging game in it’s own right, but if there is one key thing it is missing, it’s strategy. There’s simply one way to go about playing, eat smaller things, avoid larger things.
This article will focus on how Captain Forever brings strategy to the genre.
Strategy in Ship Construction
In this game, unlike similar games, you are no a homogenous entity. Instead you are constructed of a small square core, with bulkheads, guns, and engines extending your core ship.
Components can be detached and attached - so long as they are not already connected to another ship - at any time.
You start the game with a handful of loose components from which to construct your ship.
Any component can be attached to an existing bulkhead, or your core. How you position these components, forms the basis of your strategy.
Captain Forever uses a relative control system, where the left and right buttons will turn your ship, and the front and back buttons will accelerate or reverse. Engines that are attached to your ship will only help you if you are moving or turning in the opposite direction they are facing.
Engine symmetry is key, unless you think you can handle lopsided acceleration.
All your guns fire when you press the space bar, but they fire in whatever direction they are pointing. If you attach guns to your rear, you can use them to cover and escape, while if they are attached to the side it is easier to strafe enemy ships.
Each component you add, particularly bulkheads will increase the mass of your ship, requiring more engines to move at higher speeds.
Between these three component types, there is a great deal of strategy to be had in how you construct your ship.
Assemble your ship quickly, or you might find yourself in a trick situation. [source]
Strategy in Combat
In Captain Forever, you grow your strength by taking components off of your fallen enemies. This, coupled with how guns work, can lead to some interesting situations in combat.
A ship’s life is it’s red core. Only once you have destroyed that, maybe you claim it’s components as your own. However, a ship’s core is surrounded by various components. Components that you may want for your ship.
Meanwhile, engines and guns often break with a single hit taken. While your broadsides might cripple and enemy, you could severely hamper your spoils.
This leads to interesting gameplay, in which you must to balance your need to gain new and better components, with the threat that your enemy poses. Do you have the skill and maneuverability to drill down to the enemy’s core.
Good luck getting much out of this fight.
Another area where this game significantly improve the combat over games like Osmos, is in how guns work.
Every gun will fire in a straight line from where it is positioned, this creates natural blind spots in each ship’s defences.
To succeed in combat one must both position themselves for an attack, while ducking into your opponent’s blind spot.
The validity of this challenge, is aided by the fact that you cannot move sideway. Typically you can’t keep your guns pointing the enemy, while simultaneously avoiding their line of fire.
By making your entity modular, Captain Forever is able to introduce a lot of strategy into what is otherwise a very straight forward category of games.
Hopefully this example can inspire us in how we approach other casual mini-genres, and how to bring them into a more complex game experience.
You can play the game online in your browser, take a look for yourself.
Captain Forever Website