The bright spot of any MOMCOT is that it’s the ultimate part-time game. You can pick it up for five minutes every few hours and be done with it. Sure, it’s more efficient to fall into a regular schedule of farming/mining/harvesting your food/crops/minerals, but you can have a sincere ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with a MOMCOT. VEGA Conflict, now in beta, is a space-based MOMCOT that dares to defy convention, if only ever slightly, to capture my interest. Frankly, I love me some space games, so after a few days with VEGA, I’m happy to give my report.
A Little Slice Of Heaven
Free of any narrative that I could see, you play some kind of scheming pirate that builds fleets and intercepts cargo rightfully belonging to the VEGA corporation. Or civilization, or something, I don’t know, but what’s theirs, you want to be yours. The tutorial cuts off a little too early at this stage, but with a helpful community at hand, you’re able to get up and running pretty quick.
You’ll spend most of your time looking at your base and managing which thing to upgrade or research next. With three different laboratories and three different mining facilities able to extract three different minerals, you may find yourself pretty overwhelmed to start. Until you really start upgrading these facilities, they all look pretty much identical, which doesn’t help when you’re really trying to find that Weapons Lab to upgrade your Beam Lasers because the kit you’ve currently got just isn’t doing it. Unlike other MOMCOTs, you won’t feel like you’re building an entire city and then being forced to scrap it just to progress since you’ll be encouraged to move your facilities around on the regular.
Your local area is littered with asteroids, which are filled with a locked number of total minerals of any kind, based purely on what miners you have extracting from them. If you place Zynthium miners around a rock, it’ll be full of Zynthium, ditto with mineral ores and Helium-3. It seems a little cheesy because it eliminates some of the strategy of placing your miners efficiently, but when the game calls on you to acquire as many minerals as possible to advance your cause, you’re not going to complain for very long about where they come from. Eventually your mining facilities will fill up and you’ll need to, in pure MOMCOT fashion, bank them to a storage facility. As you advance, your Outpost will allow you float more mining stations and upgrade them further, store more of these minerals, and do all of this faster.
Release The Fleets
Of course, sitting around in your little clump of an asteroid belt isn’t exciting. You’re actually perched above a single planet with at least a hundred other entrepreneurs just like you. Your base allows you to build more and more robust ships and fleets as you advance, which can then be sent off to hijack shipments headed off to VEGA.
Ship construction is nodule based and you only create one ‘template’ per hull, of which bigger ones can be researched blah blah blah. I actually had some pangs of nostalgia toward Master of Orion 2, which encouraged you to build fewer ships and refit them as they got older. While you’re not able to rename these ships as they advance, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. As to not completely punish you for your noobish ways, you can never lose a ship in battle, you’ll just have a heftier repair bill when you return to base. Each nodule on your ship serves your weaponry, hull or shield strength, or a variety of other specialties like cargo for storing all that fat loot or thrusters to make you more maneuverable. Weaponry plays off in a kind of rock-paper-scissors fashion as lasers are more powerful, but they don’t have the range, railguns can hit further, but aren’t as accurate, etc. Researching and balancing these is another call of the day.
Combat itself is almost frustratingly simple. You’re squared off in a delta formation against the enemy and based on your fleet’s configuration, you’ll want to have certain ships behind the line and other ships pushing forward. Since you can’t spend any time configuring your format in the pre-battle hold, you’re left to deal with this as things get rolling. This means you’ll take far fewer risks trying to take down higher-level shipments because you honestly have such little control as to what happens when the action begins. Battles are usually won or lost in thirty seconds. Could you, potentially, come up with some daring maneuver that invites flanks and incredibly resourceful use of the battle environment? Potentially, but the game doesn’t reward you for tackling foes just outside your difficulty, it rewards you for doing it often, so straight rushes are generally the call of the day, over and over.
The Curse Of The MOMCOT?
Eventually, you’ll exit your world’s meager orbit and hunt massive hauls between solar systems, then jump between groups of those systems and on and on; a realm I still haven’t touched, yet. It’s been over two and a half years since I’ve been invested in a MOMCOT and I’m approaching the phase where I must genuinely wait for half an hour or longer to really accomplish my goals. Grinding produces no extra effect as my stores are nearly flush and that alone can’t advance a single research project or upgrade. The game tempts you to use coins to finish all of these things earlier and easier, but you never feel pressured to do so, which is a relief. At the same time, you’ll need to wait out that two or three hour upgrade instead.
On a final note, the game is striking to look at. From the little cluster you build your base in – featuring some complex parallaxing – to the menus and beyond, the game is a looker. In fact, by all means, it appears to have been inspired by EVE Online’s cold modern look, which may put off anyone’s who’s already ‘been there’, but there is no lack of showmanship here all around. Kudos to Kixeye.
How long will I be playing this? Hard to say at this point, but I’d definitely like to crash some big shipments before I bail. See you inside!