Hoban "Wash" Washburn's "I am a leaf on the wind" mantra became one of the most memorable lines uttered by a fictional space pilot when Alan Tudyk screamed it in the midst of Serenity's climactic space battle. It captures the essence of what it should feel like to be trapped in a tiny fighter. You're a gnat. You're a tiny bundle of matter trying to steer safe passage through a tumultuous storm of plasma and flame.
I got that feeling watching recent videos of Strike Suit Zero, an indie space shooter that hit Kickstarter last week . It puts you in a mech/fighter hybrid and throws you into intergalactic warzones full of duelling capital ships and swarms of angry fighters. I got in touch with lead designer Chris Redden to ask: can I be a leaf on the wind? Please?
Early indications suggest: yes. Born Ready Games have put a lot of effort into building battles that don't entirely revolve around you. "We have almost a full combat simulation happening while you're doing your objectives," he says. "You might have this objective to kill this group of bombers, but those bombers have an order to kill this capital ship, and they have people escorting them. Then there's other fighters attacking those escorts and it creates a whole battle scenario that you're just tipping the balance of and affect it slightly.
"That simulation allows it to seem busy and real without having to custom script it. We don't have to build fake scenarios."
Strike Suit Zero is Born Ready Games' attempt to strip out exactly what was great about the complex space PC space sims of the '90s and weave them into a more accessible format. "It was fun to manage your shields in X-Wing, but that wasn't the core element of why that was great. What made that great was the mission design, the story, some of the characters, the ships, the gameplay. It's trying to bring that in. It's getting a melting pot of the greatest parts of space combat games and put it into one game."
List a space series you remember fondly and there's a strong chance you'll find genetic traces in Strike Suit Zero. The stunning lasers and colossal capital ships of Freespace 2 face off against mechs designed by artist, Junji Okubo, who has worked on Steel Battalion, Infinite Space and Appleseed: Ex Machina. The music is composed by Paul Ruskay, who wrote the original score for Homeworld. The twists and turns of each mission are inspired by TIE Fighter, the game that Redden fell in love with when he first started gaming on a PC.
Some missions will be tightly directed to deliver those twists, but others will scatter objectives across a raging battlefield. You might have to shoot down incoming torpedoes to protect a capital ship, or escort a freighter to get it into laser range of an enemy colossus. "You're very much a soldier in the battle in those kind of missions and we want you to feel like it's a naval battle. Here's your orders. Help out."
The Strike Suit can transform between ship and mech modes. Ship mode grants you swiftness, but as a mech you open up your craft's silvery carapace to bring extra missiles to bear. The lateral movement and sudden stopping power of mech mode grants you extra manoeuvrability, and the whole rig can be customised between missions.
You'll unlock new missile types, lasers, plasma cannons and the like between sorties. These can be equipped to a series of hardpoints on your ship before you activate red alert and warp to the next mission. You can also complete sidequests mid-mission to earn permanent stat upgrades that'll make you tougher, and make your lasers even more lasery.
Unlike most Kickstarter projects, Strike Suit Zero is almost finished. The team are hoping to release it in January. The current build is playable and all the features are in, but Redden and co. want to make sure it's polished up properly. "We really want to nail the experience and get it really, really balanced. The difference between a game that's finished and a great game is that polish, that extra bit."
"We wanted to make the game that we're trying to make," Redden adds. "Publishers can't always guarantee that we can continue down the same vision that we've always had. Kickstarter gives us the opportunity to take the game that we wanted to finish at a certain quality, and actually get it there, and not have to compromise anything."
Backers have contributed half of the $100,000 total needed to secure funding through Kickstarter . There are 25 days to go. For more space sim Kickstarter news, check out Star Citizen , the new project from Chris "Wing Commander" Roberts.