Hardcore sci-fi RTS Falling Frontier released a new gameplay trailer today showcasing ship-to-ship combat over the gas giant Saturn, and it's so impressive that it's got people on Reddit arguing about the realism of its depictions of combat between capital ship moving at relativistic speeds.
The trailer reveals the Hano class destroyer, portrayed in a dramatic two-on-one battle that I found utterly hypnotic: "Cinematic" is a word that gets used a lot in the videogame space—probably overused—but I think it absolutely applies here. The detailed graphics, background chatter, slow-motion pyrotechnics, and subtle music and sound effects combine to great effect, and by the midway point of the battle I was pulling hard for the Martian Task Force—a strong reaction that I don't generally experience while watching promotional trailers.
The video inspired reactions of a different sort over on the PC Gaming subreddit, after one user pointed out that the PDCs—"point defense cannon," which is basically a Phalanx CIWS by way of The Expanse—appeared to be "super ineffective."
"More confusing to me was the inaccuracy of the cannon fire," another redditor replied. "You'd think with the vessels moving relatively slowly on predictable trajectories that a ballistic round with advanced computer targeting wouldn't wiff quite so often. If the ships moved more erratically I'd understand."
A third then weighed in to note that "realism" isn't really desirable in a space game.
"Ships would be fractions of light seconds apart dueling with lasers and maybe kinetics under maximum G forces," they wrote. "They would also be ugly, tube-looking things. They would have massive radiators. You wouldn’t hear anything. You wouldn’t be able to see both ships on a screen. You wouldn’t see flashes from detonations (nukes are almost all non-visible radiation such as x-rays. Combat would be over in a few seconds as trajectories cross, followed by a long return journey to a fuel depot."
That prompted a fourth redditor to say that some people really do want realism: "Remember that there are people out there that have the time of their lives spending the better part of an afternoon just setting up a combat plane for take-off in eg DCS," they wrote, which is a fair point.
But not the final point: "I'm not looking for realism throughout the game, just cannons that don't appear to be fired from the hip," wrote AvarusTyrannus, who made the original comment about inaccurate cannon fire. "Tell me there is some Minovsky particle reason for things being as they are and I'm fine. It just looks odd in the absence of any explanation to see such poor gunnery."
Falling Frontier's combat has drawn multiple comparisons to The Expanse, although for me—as an Expanse non-watcher—it's more evocative of Homeworld. But this new gameplay video, and especially the Reddit conversation it inspired, reminded me immediately of the Mass Effect 2 bit in which a crusty drill sergeant lectures a recruit on Newton's First Law: "If you pull the trigger on this, you are ruining someone's day, somewhere and sometime." (Newton phrased it somewhat differently, but the point holds.)
Along with sparking some fun online debate, Falling Frontier publisher Hooded Horse said the new video showcases a number of changes made in a recent combat rework:
- Faction variants of the new Hano model
- Improved ship movement mechanics
- Improved combat model, including missile tracking and countermeasures
- Improved damage model
- Tactical slow-motion
- Free-range orbital camera
- Updated UI, including for managing point-defense cannons
Hooded Horse said that more new and updated ship models and faction variants are on the way later in 2023. Falling Frontier itself doesn't have a release date yet, but it's also expected out in early access sometime this year on Steam, GOG, and the Epic Games Store.