Commentary – Solar 2

I’ve decided to make a bit of a shift in the way I do game reviews around here.  5×5 made for an interesting writing exercise, but as far as trying to editorialize on games and provide useful criticism it was at times like trying to pack for a trip in a bag with a multitude of very small pockets.  There’s so much to say about some games that cramming stuff into a small pocket has words falling out all over the place.  Then there’s some games that there’s so little to say about them that I’d have difficulty really using all the pockets.  One such game is Solar 2.

Solar 2 places you begin in the role of a humble asteroid floating through the endless void of space.  The art design is simple and sufficient to the task, and the music is suitably unobtrusive, gradually shifting to fit the mood.  In the end…  well, there really isn’t an ending.  The overall goal?  Whatever you want it to be.  There’s a handful of side missions and little achievement-like bonus objectives to chase, but to me the soul of the game is in the adventure of that tiny insignificant asteroid.

Everything in Solar 2 has its own gravity relative to its mass, and this simple mechanic gives the game life.  As that asteroid you barely have any gravity at all, but by slamming yourself into other asteroids you can add their mass to your own.  Keep at it long enough and you can gain enough mass to become a new planet.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

Now the little asteroids orbit you.  They can make a fine little halo around you if you let them stay, or you can consume them to increase your mass and thus your power.  On a large enough world life may begin to evolve.  Little green men will dart about in your vicinity and blow stuff up for you, and maybe even protect you with a force field.  This is quite handy because soon roving space nomads will try to destroy the little green men living on you, and if you’re not quick about it you’ll soon find yourself a dead world host to naught but ash.

But if you are vigilant, increasing your mass and protecting your world, you’ll grow greater and greater still.  You may feel a twinge of sadness as you realize the inevitable.  If you keep adding mass to your planet you’ll reach the next stage, but the life there will be consumed.  But who could get this far and not want to go further?

An asteroid belt or two later and your world is engulfed in flames, collapsing super condensed matter bringing atomic fusion and giving birth to a shining star.  Simple asteroids now tumble towards your growing gravity well.  Planets, you’ll find, can now orbit your mighty sun.  And these planets can find their own orbiting asteroids and, if you nurture them well, life.

If you’re lucky you’ll have some time to build up before the nomads return.  If not, a single lucky gunship may swoop in and loose two deadly missiles into your system.  If you’re quick you can just barely outrun them, and there’s nothing quite like the frantic feel of trying to throw your body between those planet-cracking warheads and the vulnerable populi of your worlds.  Sometimes you’re not fast enough and your people die, and your only recourse is retribution.  It must be quite a sight for the survivors to see invading aliens consumed by the sun like a vengeful god.

Perhaps you may gather more worlds under you benevolence, tiny green swarms of life forms swirling about your system.  Maybe you’ll continue to feed your worlds until they become stars as well, from binary to trinary and beyond.  Maybe you’ll just continue to consume until you become a black hole, eater of worlds.  Or maybe you’ll just tear ass across the endless void of space to see how far you can go.

That’s my story.  What’s yours?

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