Production Values

by Darius Kazemi on October 10, 2005

in Uncategorized

So today I picked up a copy of Rebelstar: Tactical Command today. For those of you who don’t know, Rebelstar is a tactical RPG for the GBA designed by Julian Gollop, the lead designer of the X-COM series of games. (Rebelstar was the name of a game he worked on in the late ’80s that provided inspiration for X-COM.)

While the game is playing quite nicely, I have to say that the game’s production values are severely lacking in many places. Particularly in the cut scenes, it just doesn’t have the “polish” that I like to see in a quality title. The screen flickers when updating graphics during the cutscene. I’m not sure if this is a vertical synch problem, double-buffering, or just really bad planning, but when there’s a ~20ms blank while switching between speech bubbles, that is a huge problem.

Furthermore, I think the interface is a bit clunky. Granted, this is a GBA game so I’m not expecting miracles, but I’d like to be able to switch equipment out on the fly and not be caught in Menu Hell. Also, they switch to a distracting splash screen when your turn ends. Why not just put the text on the screen and not break my immersion? On the other hand, they got a lot of interface stuff right, too. If I move my character and he spots an enemy, he stops in his tracks and awaits further orders–but if I want him to carry on, all I have to do is press “A” and he keeps going. Well done, guys. That would’ve broken the game for me if you’d messed up that one.

The consumer in me says, “How the hell do they ship a game with such obvious faults?” But the developer in me says, “It’s a lot harder and more complex than it looks, kid.” Sigh.

While I’m only just out of the training missions, I’m enjoying the actual gameplay very much, and because this game bears a low, low price of $20, I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes strategy games. I’ll probably write more about this as I play through it.

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