Game Reviews

Outer Empires

Star onStar onStar onStar offStar off
| Outer Empires
Outer Empires
| Outer Empires

Space has always fascinated mankind. If not for the beauty of its infinite expanse, the desire to conquer its reaches has been a source of enchantment and fodder for games the world over.

Conquering the epic online saga Outer Empires proves equally enchanting, though tough - its enormous design makes it one of the richest, if not the most overwhelming, games on the App Store.

Space living

As a budding pilot, you start the game off with missions found in one of many government-owned stations. There are three types: Combat, Exploration, and Cargo Delivery. Each rewards you with experience and credits, both of which are needed for better ships and funding the many other facets of the game.

As your virtual wallet begins to bulge, your spacecraft can be upgraded with a variety of different parts to improve its performance, such as more shields or a better propulsion module for faster speeds - so long as the ship has the right amount of fitting space.

The parts theselves can then be enhanced through research, further increasing the amount of customisation possible. After fitting custom parts, our Light Cruiser went from a rather pathetic excuse for a ship to a speedy and hardy vessel capable of effortlessly vanquishing anything in its crosshairs.

Progress is slow at first since the jobs pay little. However, as your level increases so do the rewards. While a certain degree of effort and patience is required, it's not too much of a grind until you hit later levels, particularly if you opt for a paid subscription.

Along with missions, you can embark on colonisation efforts to mine minerals, process them, and then manufacture goods - assuming you can sustain the workers needed to run each building on the colony.

The resulting products can be used for personal purposes or sold on the market. In fact, almost everything on the market is built by players, which gives the game an authentic MMO flavour.

In space, everyone can here you scheme

It's impossible to deny the game's impressive scope. There's much to aspire to, much to explore, and so many things to do. Moreover, the multiplayer component supports so much potential that its impact can't be understated.

Within the first few days, a player had announced a rescue service for pilots who had accidentally run out of fuel in station-less systems. It was a godsend for newbies who would otherwise be stuck in space twiddling their thumbs.

Sadly, pirates caught on and started using it for obtaining targets to shoot and the service was cancelled. Still, it was an entrepreneurial move on both parts, and it's just this sort of scenario that makes the game unique. Your imagination is one of few limiting factors.

Factions can be made or joined, and they are definitely the way to go if you happen to have a Napoleon complex or perhaps just crave a more social experience.

That isn't to say you won't get to chat with other pilots if you choose to go it alone, but factions are where you're likely to establish strong bonds with your fellow pilots and the banter and camaraderie makes your time in space a lot more enjoyable.

Collision course

Sadly, this space odyssey isn't without problems. For one, Outer Empires crashes regularly. Logging in is a painless affair and within seconds you're back in the action, but it diminishes the experience. The latest patch has helped with general stability, but the annoyance still occasionally rears its head.

Additionally, Outer Empires isn't the best looker, with graphics like something from an early NES title. This is function over form, the gameplay clearly considered more important than any visual appeal.

The biggest downside is the combat, which is lacklustre. Enemies found on combat missions can be targeted and sniped from anywhere in the system, meaning our Light Cruiser could just zoom around till everybody else was a smoldering wreck.

The AI does hunt you down, but a fast ship can happily run circles round them so that they pose no threat whatsoever. It feels like you're cheating.

Worse, iPhone combat still doesn't work. While we've been assured it'll soon be fixed, it's disappointing to see an entire portion of the game non-functional.

Back to the future

The nature of MMOs means that new features will likely be added, graphics updated and things balanced as time goes on. In fact, over the time it took to write the review the market became more responsive, and the game as a whole became less laggy. A positive sign of things to come.

It's worth noting that the app comes at a small price but a paid subscription means double experience and pay. It's £2.39 for one month, £6.49 for three, and £22.99 for a year.

Glitches and omissions notwithstanding, what will keep some coming back is the same thing that will send others running. You don't exactly have to wear a wizard's outfit or attend Star Trek conventions to enjoy Outer Empires, but the casual gamer may be a bit daunted by the scale of it.

Outer Empires

Outer Empires offers a massively immersive handheld experience that few other iPhone apps can offer, but the most casual gamer might be wondering where the fun is
Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin
Having said farewell to university life, Ben decided to follow his ultimate dream of getting paid to play games. Luckily, Pocket Gamer was more than happy to help in his quest.