Any game with a Sci-Fi space setting immediately grabs my attention and such was the case with 3030 Deathwar Redux, where the player is free to roam the expansive galaxy however they wish, traveling to different star systems, being the best damn space smuggler they could be. The game is billed as an “intergalactic indie epic” that happens to lean on Elite-esque space exploration and traditional adventure genre tropes. 3030 Deathwar Redux spans a 30-starred system universe and asks players to complete a range of quests interlaced with bouts of combat. A funny thing about 3030 is that the game was originally released in 2007 by Indie devs Bird in the Sky. It’s since been reworked with the help of Crunchy Leaf Games, entered Steam’s Early Access initiative, and is now released in its full form.
I think what’s fascinating about this game is the way that it can capture the nostalgic tinge of the space games of our youth. The game has a LucasArts-esque feel, which can remind you of playing any of the old Star Wars games, or something out of the DOS era, with a visual style similar to adventure games of the ’90s like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Some of the possible actions the player can take are talking to characters on the station, trading, upgrading your ship and taking missions. Besides the randomly generated side-missions there is also the main story, split into 10 acts that the player can progress through.
The missions are fairly simple, and mostly involve flying from one station to another, or finding someone or something on another star system or planet. Sometimes you fight some other ships in space, and sometimes you float out in abandoned ships to salvage some scrap to make more money. Use the money to upgrade your ship to explore new parts of space where you can take more missions – lather rinse and repeat. If you’ve played Elite or other space sims, you should have some idea of what to expect. The difference here is the player views the action from a top-down perspective, with space on a flat 2D plane.
What separates the game from an older space sim from the 90s is the sizable amount of content offered. 3030 Deathwar should, I feel, be marketed as a “chillout” game, because of a large amount of content, missions, and reading the player will do. I can imagine plugging in a podcast and just cruising around space for a few hours. There’s no strict time limit, and you’re sort of free to do what you want. The adventure is what you make of it and moves at whatever pace you choose, and I think that is this game’s biggest strength.
However, there are some aspects of the game that leave it sort of stuck in 2007. Although most of the game’s negative aspects make it feel like it’s stuck 10 years in the past – which it sort of is – this might only be a problem for newer gamers as opposed to older ones who’ve been keeping track of this game since its original release.
This game’s scope is a bit of a double-edged sword. The game’s weaknesses for some players could also be its strengths for others. For example, there’s a lot of information in 3030, and usually adventure games sort of point you in the right direction when first starting up. 3030 doesn’t do that. 3030 drops the player into the world of the game with minimal prompting after a very brief and somewhat confusing tutorial section. You have to sort of figure your way out through this mountain of possible quests and dialogue trees to choose from. Coming into this game from an entirely fresh perspective in 2017, I felt a little lost. Not because the universe was so vast, but because I couldn’t quite figure out how to interact with it. Without an exact prompt, or mission-related to the overarching plot, I can also get bored really fast. The story as I experienced it was trickling into the game intermittently as I accomplished side missions essentially at random. Rather than feel natural, this method of storytelling left me a little lost and constantly wondering whether or not I was doing the right thing in the first place. But that’s just me coming as an entirely new player.
However, if I were playing this in 2007, this game would be pretty cool. The visual art style brings forth the tinges of nostalgia and the music is delightfully misfit. Back in the day, this would absolutely be the game you would end up spending a large chunk of time playing and could easily suffice as one of the few games in your library in 2007.
Overall, I recommend 3030 Deathwar Redux to folks who are huge fans of old DOS games, LucasArts games, or who played the original 3030 in 2007. If you did play it, then I’m sure you will for sure enjoy this expanded edition because there’s just a lot of content to keep you occupied. However, if you’ve never played 3030 Deathwar, aren’t a fan of old DOS games, or have no particular affection for the space sim as a genre, I would not recommend this game. If you’re the type of player that heavily relies on story elements, 3030 Deathwar Redux can get very frustrating or overwhelming when digging through all of its content. But like the double edged sword, what’s bad, can also be good.