Spaceland contains short yet challenging turn-based missions that give great satisfaction once you learn how to beat them.
Spaceland is a sci-fi turn-based RPG developed and published by Tortuga Team on October 1, 2019 on Steam and Nintendo Switch Online. It’s the latest in a string of similar games, starting with Braveland back in March 2014. Braveland is what got me onto Spaceland as I picked it up in a sale and found it to be a more casual version of Heroes of Might and Magic. I’m a sucker for sci-fi games and the combat looked more like Xcom, so I was pumped when I received a code for Spaceland from Tortuga Team.
At first glance, I thought Spaceland felt like a mobile game. The introduction shows us a crew of Jim and Barret flying in a spacecraft on a patrol mission. There’s no voice acting, only speech text. The animation and music are cool though as they stumble on a distress beacon which they investigate. Due to a storm on the planet, the pair crash land just outside a snowy outpost. Jim wakes up on the ship, but Barrett must have left earlier to investigate the outpost. Upon walking to the first mission point, Jim heads into the first room and the game screen is an isometric view with grid squares on the floor.
If you’ve played games like Xcom before, you’ll be familiar with how Spaceland works. Your active character has a limited number of actions they can make each turn, usually two actions – a move and a shoot or ability. The primary weapon has limited ammo and you have various abilities that can be used in a turn, each using an action. Jim starts with an overwatch-style ability and a sprint ability. Each character you come across has the overwatch and kick abilities, and then will have a couple of unique abilities. Barret can throw a grenade, Marcus has a teleport, Terra a medkit. There are seven characters you’ll be able to play with through the game’s three major stages.
Each stage has 10 missions as well as areas where you can find old weapons and armour. The missions vary in design, starting simple as you learn each character’s abilities, and then get quite challenging later in the game. When I first thought this was an easy mobile game, I was proved wrong as some of the levels are quite challenging and some are punishing. There are various types of monsters that you’ll come across, some that pack a punch and some that are armoured in the front, so you need to get behind them to kill them. Others need to be killed with explosives, and there’s a big boss monster at the end of the three stages.
Some of the level challenges were frustrating at first as I learned the hard way, usually by dying and having to restart that mission. For example, there are some levels with platforms that can only hold the weight of 1 person. You learn this mechanic early on, but then I hadn’t seen that mechanic in a few hours of gameplay. Then I remembered how it worked when I thought I was on the home stretch with two characters following each other. They died right before the mission exit as their weight caused the platform to fall. Then there are some missions where the team is split and they need to work together to use platforms or flip switches to open each other’s door which I thought was a great mechanic.
Another mission that took me several attempts was an elevator ride on the second stage. You need to last for 17 turns as monsters spawn each turn and you only have limited ammo. I really had to think strategically about which characters I took into that mission and when to use their ammo as there was only 1 ammo recharge each. I liked the variety of mission types and whilst I did fail a few them, it did give you the skills to complete those missions – you just had to do it the right way. There is also added pressure where each mission has a suggested number of turns that you should complete it in, eg. 10 turns. You can take more than 10 turns to finish it, but you won’t get the full mission rewards. Thankfully you can go back and replay missions once you unlock some better equipment.
When you finish a mission, you earn chips and coins. Chips are spent on ability upgrades for each team member, and coins are spent in the workshop to buy new weapons and armour for your team. I found I had to repeat several previous missions just to earn enough coin to buy item upgrades for my team as I couldn’t pass some levels. The better armour and weapons certainly make a difference in your success, it can just be a grind to earn enough coins to get them. This isn’t a such a bad thing as the missions are done in 10-15 minutes, though it can be a bit tedious if you’re stuck on a certain mission. I started playing the game on Normal difficulty, but after 16 or so missions I did have to drop it to Easy as I kept dying on this one mission and got frustrated.
The overarching story is easy to follow and I liked the humourous exchanges in dialogue between the team members. Tortuga Team recently added a multiplayer arena mode to the game which I am yet to try, and they’ve outlined a development roadmap for the next couple of months where they’ll be adding an alternate ending, a level editor and more to come. I enjoyed my time in Spaceland and would recommend it to any fans of turn-based rpgs and games like Xcom. It’s much more casual than Xcom which some may not like, but for me being a dad of a 2-year old, I’m liking casual hop-in hop-out games more and more these days.
Spaceland contains short yet challenging turn-based missions that give great satisfaction once you beat them. Some missions were frustratingly challenging; however, these were usually when I was a couple of hours into a play session and getting tired. The next day I’d beat them first go, so I recommend having breaks and re-thinking your strategies. This review utilised a Steam key provided for review purposes with 8 hours of gameplay. Spaceland is available now on Steam for AUD$21.50 and Nintendo Switch Online.