The Precursors review
You start The Precursors in a suspiciously corridor-shaped jungle, shooting plant monsters. Two marines with the same voice-actor nag you to hurry up, even after they’ve been melted by plant spit. This is not a polished game.
Depending on who you talk to in this FPS-RPG, your name is Tris, or Treece, or Trees Creighton and you’re a soldier in the Amarnian army. Actually, wait, an ace space pilot. Or a mercenary. A bounty hunter, even. Someone somewhere spilled coffee on the The Precusors’ story bible.
After the linear jungle section, you get to roam around Goldyn, a desert planet with one detailed town and lots of bandits and dunes. You can keep with the shonky story, but there’s a wealth of secondary missions you can get from the city folk. Find my car. Kill my wife. Buy me drugs. Kill four ogre lizard guys, and bring me their hands for soup. They say things like, “Did you get make the bandits dead okay?” You’re allowed to reply, “No problem buddy, much less is the worry!” All of the dialogue is this badly translated, and it grows on you (see Precurslols).
The missions are short, well signposted and well paid. You get a buggy early in the story, so traversing the desert is fairly painless. But there isn’t anything terribly exciting to buy with your cash and the things you really need – replacement tyres for your buggy, or more bullets for the gun on your buggy – are nowhere to be found. As well as cash, you get experience points and go up levels. When you do that, you can sift through the bargain bin of boring perks. Do I want to run slightly faster, or get better at breaking into filing cabinets for worthless junk? Progression comes in small, tedious steps.
After fighting the good fight on Goldyn, you get your very own space ship so you can fly to planet Gli. There, you’ve got to incite a civil war so you can distract the natives, poison all of their babies, and pave the way for colonial genocide. Things pick up here, though.
You’re best to ignore the story and jet around in space. Responsive controls let you engage in dogfights with interceptors and strafing runs on capital ships, or cruise smoothly between star systems. In space, there’s a system of interdependent reputation sliders that govern how factions interact with you. Kill some Free Traders, and your reputation increases in the eyes of the Intergalactic Empire of Just Stop All That Free Trading Thanks. It’s a welcome note of complexity.
You can also buy cheap goods and sell them somewhere else for profit, but there’s no real incentive to – the premium upgrades aren’t much better than the standard shields and lasers, and you’re fully upgraded in just a few short milk runs, regardless.
For a game that I’m about to injure with a smallish number, it reminds me a little of Morrowind. You can spend hours lost among alien worlds, dreamily hunting defenceless trade vessels in space, blissfully ignoring your mission pointers.
The Precursors doesn’t make it compelling. You don’t get new toys to play with. You can’t do anything meaningful with all the cash except stock up on medkits and missiles. You’re left with the urge to play a better space trader like X3: Reunion, or a better sci-fi RPG like Mass Effect 2. Do that instead.
It’s got decent spaceship sections and charmingly bad dialogue, but don’t expect quality or compelling action.