E3 2021 Preview – Falling Frontier
The final game presented at Hooded Horse‘s E3 2021 showcase was Falling Frontier, a mixture of 4X strategy (which appears to be the publisher’s bread and butter, and for that I thank them) and RTS mechanics handled by one-man dev team Stutter Fox Studios, aka Todd D’Arcy.
Falling Frontier pumps the breaks on the conventional approach of RTS games, where most of the focus is centered around assembling armies and going gung-ho towards enemies. During my meeting with the developer, I noticed how the game is way more focused on recon, intelligence gathering, and logistics. Just like in other games covered during this presentation, you explore a solar system, creating outposts, space stations, refuelling spots and so on. You start off with a sole recon station, and you’re told to send out probes to discover more of the surrounding space around you.
This is when some of the game’s more interesting elements show up. Sure, some probes might come back with new information regarding resources or enemy bases, but some of them might simply not come back at all. Did something destroy them? Are there enemies nearby? Should we send out ships and spend resources to find out what happened to them, which might lead us to an ambush, or should we just pretend nothing had happened? This decision making is what I liked the most about the whole presentation. You start off with very little resources, where every decision might be your last, adding an extra layer of tension and planning to the game.
Exploring new worlds, creating outposts and increasing your resource pile is fun and all, but I also liked Falling Frontier‘s approach to ship building and manpower management. You have to carefully decide the crew in each of your vessels, as this will affect its stats. Furthermore, you have a shocking amount of freedom when it comes to customizing your ship. Not only are you able to tinker with cosmetic elements such as its color, but you can properly adjust which weapons will be attached to it, as each one is best suited for a different kind of skirmish.
Battles happen in real time, but they oddly reminded me a bit of Sid Meier’s Pirates‘ combat mechanics, especially regarding the slow movement of each ship (they’re capital vessels, they should be slow) and the fact you can use different kinds of weapons and ammunition to hit specific weakspots in each kind of ship. You can destroy them, and explosions looked dramatic and impactful, but just like in a pirate-themed game, the recommended strategy is to hit a ship enough for its crew to evacuate so you can take it over. Furthermore, you can use asteroids and other obstacles to your advantage, as they can be used as a makeshift cover, protecting you from enemy attacks.
Besides its procedurally-generated maps, Falling Frontier will also feature a fully-fledged campaign mode called Titan Rising, divided into three acts, the first of which being set in our own Solar System. Furthermore, a scenario editor, complete with an event editor, will also be included down the line. Again, I need to mention that this title with a promising and unique gameplay loop, as well as more content than most big budgeted titles, is being developed by a sole person. And that will never cease to amaze me.
Falling Frontier is set for an Early Access release later in 2021, for PC only.