Element: Space is a turn-based tactical RPG that combines a sci-fi story of political turmoil and squad tactical combat. As a fan of the XCOM games, Element Space attracted me precisely because of this tactical element.
In the distant future…
Element: Space is the first game development project of Sixth Vowel, a developer from Argentina. Our story begins in the distant 2199, when, after a great galactic war, nations finally agree to sign a peace treaty and set up the first galactic congress to avoid future wars. To host the first session of the congress, a warship named Inspiration is selected, led by Captain Pietham. However, as the introductory animation continues, unknown forces try to sabotage the congress and push the galaxy into a new war. Captain Pietham and his colleagues, Raphael Guerrero and Jun Zhao, discover the plot and succeed in stopping it. But the tables turn as the people behind conspiracy accuse Pietam and his comrades of the sabotage and you take control of them as they become fugitives.
Element: Space is a turn-based tactical squad RPG. During the game you lead a three-member squad that will have to go through many tactical encounters on the path to prove their innocence. The game is a combination of two modes, similar to Tower of Time. Between levels and out of combat the game is a classic RPG, where you can move freely over the map. When you encounter enemies, the game turns into a turn-based tactical battle.
As the game develops you can recruit 8 possible companions to your team. Each one has a unique skill-set and rich background story. As in some other RPGs, each companion has their own personal goals and if you help them achieve it you unlock their secret perk and make them more useful in battle.
The large galactic environment of Element: Space is populated by different factions, seven of which are explorable. These factions are derived from nations such as Japan, China, Russia, the European Union and others and each of has its own units, tactics, esthetics and perspectives.
The tactical combat in Element: Space can be very difficult for new players. Right from the start you are thrown into tough battles against challenging enemies. Since there is no skill tutorial you’ll have difficulty countering enemy skills that you don’t initially understand well enough.
With time and effort, constantly checking enemies’ passive and active skills and abilities, you’ll develop counters and get a better tactical understanding. Yes, Element: Space is a game that rewards persistence and patience. However…
No manual save or mid-map autosave
Yes, the designers made the choice not to provide players with any kind of manual or mid-map autosave. You only get autosaves when opening new maps. I have to admit that this is usually a no-go for me and there are many other players who won’t even consider this game because of that. On the other hand, this usually means that you pay more attention and take the time to plan ahead of battles. Sure, you’ll fail a time or two, but then when you do win you feel some level of accomplishment. The problem is many gamers aren’t looking for that challenge and repeating battles just makes for a boring experience.
During the mission on Venus, which after terraforming has became a beautiful marine world, I realized just how difficult this game can be. On Venus, my team of Captain Pietham, Zero and Alice failed to finish the mission in time because of just how resourceful and often unpredictable AI-controlled enemies can be.
A beautiful world…
On the visual side, the graphics are pretty good and the animations are simply great for this kind of game. Prior to Element: Space, Sixth Vowel mainly worked on animation and you can tell. Kill animation during combat vary and are nicely done and I also liked the animations when using telekinetic powers. The camera is generally OK, but it can get occasionally stuck or bugged.
The AI is very well done and generally a pro of the game, but in some moments it just shuts down or bugs out. Fortunately, these small bugs do not prevent you from completing the mission, most of the time.
The world building in Element: Space is nicely done and it’s a shame that we don’t get voice acting and voiced interaction between characters during missions. Music and sound effects fit nicely into the entire environment of the game.
What the players say…
Element: Space, was given mixed reviews by the gamer community. On Steam, 68% of the players gave a positive evaluation. Most of the criticism refers to the bugs on release (some of which have been patched since) the lack of manual saves and voice acting and on occasion the clunky interface or camera.
It is commendable that the game developers themselves respond to player criticism and do seem to regularly throw patches and improve the game, 4 months after release. This is pretty impressive for an indie developer and shows their commitment. It does seem that they view Element: Space as a long term project.
Element: Space gameplay video
A few words about the developer
Sixth Vowel is an independent developer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As stated on their website, they aim to become one of the largest development studios in Latin America. Element: Space is their debut and they hope to continue to develop new and better games.
Sci-fi setting and tactical combat
Nice art and animation
Some annoying bugs
No voice acting
No manual save