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Old 04-15-2010, 12:59 PM   #1
Bandango
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The Independent: Flotilla


Title: Flotilla
Platform: 360
Developer: Brendon Chung
MSRP:400 MSP

What would you do with your final seven months alive as the head of an interplanetary flotilla? Well, I encountered a derelict full of cocooned colonists and destroyed it. Cervadian (deer navy) forces suspected my ships were tainted by the derelict and attacked me. I picked up some hitchhikers and played board games with them. I entered a wormhole and the goddess Afrodite (not misspelled) plucked out my eye and gave me a sweet ship upgrade. I helped some fugitive cats, killed some assassins, and came to a peaceful end on the other side of the star system. Your own adventure will be equally absurd, unless, of course, fowl (as in chicken) space pirates cut it short.

Despite the elaborate odyssey detailed above, Flotilla is a tactical, turn-based, space combat game that keeps things simple. Combat is intimate, intuitive, and never overwhelming. This combat is framed by the Adventure mode, a charming, clever, and novel way to inject major personality and keep you moving forward.


Your flotilla starts its adventure at a planet on the edge of a large star system. Here you can run through a tutorial; I suggest you do. Navigating a small fleet of ships in three dimensions can be a daunting task, especially if you choose to manually control your shipsí pitch, yaw, and rollóanother good idea that will give you the edge over the AI. At the beginning of each turn is the planning phase. You order your ships according to three different behaviors: move and shoot, which sees the most use; flank, which sacrifices offensive capability for further range of movement; and focus fire, which sacrifices movement for additional offense. Basically, you tell your ships how to act and define where theyíll end up at the beginning of the next planning phase. Once these orders are made, end the turn and watch them unfold in real time.

The action plays out like some kind of underwater ballet. Ships move and roll gracefully to a meandering piano score. Itís a striking, almost peaceful show that contrasts well against the fact that youíre actually watching spaceships blow each other up. Your ships and the enemyís circle each other like tired boxers, pouring out streams of missiles, bullets, and laser fire. Itís mesmerizing. As you can see from the screenshots, Flotillaís visual style is simple and stark; it meshes well with the music and the deliberate pace of the combat.


But the combat isnít enough to carry the game on its own. Donít get me wrong, itís a lot of fun; I happily noodled around in the skirmish mode for hours. Alone, though, there is no carrot to keep you playing. Thatís where the adventure mode comes in; itís essentially a mix between a board game and a rougelike. After completing the tutorial, itís time for your flotilla to set off into the wilds of space. You progress by selecting planets to travel to; each planet with a red glow guarantees a violent encounter with one sort of anthropomorphized foe or another, while planets with white glows offer more varied possibilities. Most situations presented by planets offer binary choices, usually of the moral variety. These choices may or may not come back to help or hurt you in the futureósometimes they do bothóand they may even result in upgrades or the addition of new ships to your flotilla.

The adventure mode is designed for short play sessions. Your character is ordained to die in seven months and itís up to you to decide how to spend them. In that time, about 15 planets can be visited (many more in Hardcore mode). If you plot your course along the white planets, avoiding unnecessary combat, a whole game will take less than 30 minutes. That is, of course, if you survive. Itís entirely likely you will not, especially during your first couple times through. There are no saves, and if you perform poorly, or if the fates are cruel, die and start again.

Which is just fine, because each adventure is different. Unfortunately, it wonít take too long until youíve seen all the different situations that the planets have to offer. The initial charm and humor wears off with time; after first going with the flow of the events, then experimenting with the different combinations of choices, I found myself making decisions solely to maximize my fleet count. Still, I was caught off guard when the de-clawed yetis ate my food supply. And I canít quite make up my mind about the mysterious Implementers that ask questions in your dreams.


Online multiplayer would have been nice, though the skirmish mode does support hot-seat. Considering there are no other tactical space combat games out there on Xbox live, the lack of online play is sorely missed. I would have liked to see what strategies emerged during matches against real people, but alas, perhaps in a sequel. Which, according to Brendon Chung, the gameís creator (he made Gravity Bone, if you recall), may actually be coming.

Flotilla is wonderful game and a worthy first time commercial release from a longtime producer of PC freeware. The only thing it needs is more; more situations in the adventure mode, more multiplayer options, and, even though the current selection is well balanced and satisfying, more ships. Hopefully weíll see that. Buy this game.
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Old 04-15-2010, 01:10 PM   #2
Mike Kelehan
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What an interesting idea. I'll have to give this a shot.
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Old 04-15-2010, 01:19 PM   #3
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Wow, that actually looks pretty darn cool.
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Old 04-15-2010, 01:28 PM   #4
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I've got the PC version and it is a lot of fun. There's quite a few issues, it can be a bit slow and the controls can be annoying but for half an hour of fun you can't go far wrong
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Old 04-15-2010, 01:51 PM   #5
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Huh, I never knew about the Adventure mode. I may need to try this!
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Old 04-15-2010, 02:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lekon View Post
Huh, I never knew about the Adventure mode. I may need to try this!
I've been looking for something new to scratch the strategy itch. I'm going to give it a spin.
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Old 04-15-2010, 02:54 PM   #7
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I've had more fun with Indie titles on the 360 in the last 6 months than any other title on the system.

Some people have some great ideas and concepts. I may give this one a try as well.
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Old 04-15-2010, 03:14 PM   #8
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This looks too cool to pass up.
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Old 04-15-2010, 03:17 PM   #9
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I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this game. I will definitely be playing this.
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Old 04-15-2010, 03:36 PM   #10
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This sounds great. Will definitely check it out.
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Old 04-15-2010, 05:43 PM   #11
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Sounds like a lot of fun!
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Old 04-15-2010, 07:29 PM   #12
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Wow. This soudns kind of neat.
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Old 04-15-2010, 08:08 PM   #13
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I'll be on the road this weekend, so I'll give the demo a shot. And hey, if I win the 360 version, saves some scratch.
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Old 04-15-2010, 08:15 PM   #14
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I will have to give the demo a shot as well; I also need to start paying attention to community games in general.
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Old 04-15-2010, 08:32 PM   #15
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Is this anything like Homeworld? The screenshots remind me of the old spaghetti ball. If it has a vibe anywhere near Homeworld's I'm in.
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Old 04-15-2010, 08:50 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Is this anything like Homeworld? The screenshots remind me of the old spaghetti ball. If it has a vibe anywhere near Homeworld's I'm in.
Yeah. It's like Homeworld on a diet and drugs.
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Old 04-15-2010, 09:31 PM   #17
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Looks like fun! I will get the demo
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Old 04-15-2010, 10:13 PM   #18
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Definitely looks neat. Nice stylized visuals.
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Old 04-15-2010, 10:36 PM   #19
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Looks like a turn based Homeworld. I have to give it a try on that alone.
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Old 04-16-2010, 03:09 AM   #20
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Oh that's funny, I just wrote about this in my 'whatcha been playin' post. Heard them talking about it on Idle Thumbs and gave the demo a shot, it's awesome. Since bought it, which makes it the first indie game I've ever picked up, and it's totally worth it.

I like how you described it as an underwater ballet. My first analogy was that it should be called Death Waltzes in Space, but both have the same general description; the classical music, understated sfx, and counter-flow of ships and missiles makes each encounter play out like some kind of mercurial dance. With lasers. Looking forward to playing more.
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