The action-RPG genre has come a long way since the glory days of Diablo. Ahh, Diablo, how many hours did gaming fans spend exploring under the little town of Tristram, population: about six NPCs and countless monsters? This gamer spent literally hundreds of hours there. In fact, Diablo was the game that got me into PC gaming. So, when I got a review copy of Space Hack, I had to thank the gaming gods. Then I started playing Space Hack, and I realized the gods must be crazy. When it isn't crashing to the desktop, which was pretty often, Space Hack is a mixed bag regarding quality.
Now before you think it's all bad, remember three things while reading this review (things that were pointed out on the GF! home page): Space Hack is a budget game AND and an indy game. That means it's inexpensive and didn't have a ginormous budget - which in itself automatically earns it an extra star in the minds of disgruntled writers like myself. The third thing to keep in mind is that you should take any review with a grain of salt - if it sounds like it may interest you, pick up a copy of Space Hack. Support indy games just like indy Web sites. Please! It's why you're reading Web page.
Anyways, here's the premise – A space dude named Hack finds himself on a ship headed to another galaxy to find new planets for people to colonize. See, it turns out that we were a little too greedy with the land in our own solar system, and now it's busting at the seams. Naturally, the ship finds itself stranded in the middle of nowhere and all hell has broken loose, in the form of giant bug monsters. Interesting plot, no? Well, unfortunately, this info is pretty much all you have to go on for about 9/10 of Space Hack. So for the vast majority of Space Hack you're basically hacking your way around with no new developments to interest you.
The ship you're in is pretty interesting. There are 15 biospheres, each broken up into three levels, connected with teleporters to get you from one place to another. There are about five different terrains. Now do the math here: 15 biospheres x 3 levels each / 5 terrains = not much level variety. You have your typical ice levels and forest levels, even desert and swamp levels. However, they all look pretty much the same. And generally, there's only one way through each level, too.
Enemy design gets pretty blah, too. There's short-range melee fighters and long-range projectile-launching fighters and, oh, that's it. Seriously. Throughout Space Hack, you basically get only these two types of enemies, and they're broken into several groups. Some enemies take one hit to kill, some take two, and the tough ones take three. There are bosses, too (which take about 200 hits to kill), but not nearly enough of them to keep Space Hack interesting.
And then there's Hack. With a name like that, how could he go wrong? Oh, right, he looks like Elvis Presley with an eye patch. And I'm not talking about the hip Elvis from his early career in music, I'm talking about the fat, pill-popping Elvis who was known for eating ginormous sandwiches and watching three TVs at a time. Well, according to The Simpsons, at least. Come on! His name is HACK, for crying out loud. Why didn't you just call him Nameless Hero 2.0? It would've been better than Hack.
Even the NPCs in the game are tired. You have your shopkeepers and quest givers. That's it besides some nameless people who wander aimlessly around the base. How am I supposed to get excited about saving these people? Just let the monsters take them, Hack.
Admittedly, not all of the NPCs are terrible. There are interesting twists towards the end regarding two of them, albeit a bit confusing. The story itself is pretty confusing towards the end, as well.
Speaking of story, not only is it pretty weak, but there are absolutely no cutscenes to tell it. Even the beginning of Space Hack is told through a black screen with white writing on it. There's also no voice acting, aside from the grunts of Hack and the enemies' annoying noises. For example, some of the enemies sound like they're saying "Nerd hat" in a high-pitched voice. It's also weird how the sounds don't match up with what the enemy is doing. Some of the enemies will make a certain noise when attacking, while other ones make the exact same noise when dying. It would be a nightmare to play for the visually impaired, and I had to learn to completely ignore everything I heard in Space Hack because it didn't give you any idea what was happening. This forced me to stop blinking and watch Hack work, which gave me huge headaches. Not fun.
On the "Ups" side, the weapons are pretty cool. There are three groups of them: melee weapons, old-school ranged weapons and high tech ranged weapons. Depending on what kind of fighter you want to be, you choose which weapon style you want and increase the attributes that relate to that style accordingly.
Melee weapons are a pretty odd lot, but work very well. They include two-handed swords, sword-and-shield combos, axes and clubs. I found the best of these to be the sword and shield because they have a fast attack (which helps when you're bombarded with enemies) and good defensive value.
Old-school ranged weapons are even weirder. They include bows (but thankfully no need for arrows), slings and saw throwers, which are neat looking weapons that launch buzz saws at the enemy. Why on Earth (or, in this case, space) anyone in the future would use a composite bow in a laser fight is beyond me, but then again Space Hack is a weird game.
High tech ranged weapons are undeniably the coolest to use. They are made up of different guns that shoot magnetic, plasma and ice energy. An added bonus to being a master of high tech weapons is that you can use the really cool high tech items. These items allow the player to use energy shields, camouflage and mind control, among others.
In regards to attributes, melee weapons rely on strength, old-school ranged weapons rely on dexterity and high tech ranged weapons depend on knowledge. The only other attribute you can increase is endurance, which affects the amount of health you have. I quickly learned that you have to ignore the other attributes that don't relate to the weapon style you use. Unfortunately, there's no way to be a multiple-skill soldier. This makes for a very uninteresting game for stat nerds. There isn't much role-playing in this RPG.
All in all, Space Hack is a questionable recommendation. If you're a hardcore action-RPG gamer, you can do better. May I recommend Diablo II: Lord of Destruction or Sacred? Keep in mind, though, that they're games with uber budgets (well, not as much with Sacred, but you get the point).