STRACO: Episode One (of three planned) has effectively been re-launched after debuting in November of last year, to the point that my original review really no longer applies. To start, the bare, tileset graphics and character sprites have been revamped. Their plainness was not necessarily a critique before, but it was possible to lose enemies against the background in certain situations. The cleaner, sharper environments certainly make that a non-issue with the update.
Not happy with just rebooting the visuals, NVO Games has gone back and overhauled both the HUD and UI, making each much more appealing and simpler to use. All of the vitals and pertinent information are now easily readable and accessible, and just getting from one option to the next is smoother, cutting down on confusion / click-throughs. General difficulty and the game’s balance have been tweaked as well. Enemy fire is noticeably slower, giving the player more time to react to incoming waves and counter. These fixes also carry over to the Survival and TD modes that now support online leaderboards.
While the emphasis is still a proactive (think almost twin-stick shooter) approach to tower defense, an RPG aspect (mining gold for credits that functions as experience points) has been introduced, adding permanent, unlockable upgrades not just for the player / vehicles, but for a ready-set allotment of deployable turrets. Less a random purchase from a ‘store’, consider these turrets more as personal extensions of your own abilities. You can assign and reassign each as needed, opting for light to heavy firepower, or mining / repair. Leveling up these ‘sidekicks’ also permanently adjusts their effectiveness, with boosts to health, shielding, number of cannons, etc.
The story still may not be your type, relying on cheap humor and bizarre avatars to carry the typical alien invasion tale, but there’s no doubt the gameplay side of things has seen a huge boon to its playability. Even if you’ve gone through the game once before, you’ll essentially be playing a brand new one after applying the update. And for those of you that missed or passed on the game in November, this new version is undoubtedly the better starting point.
The much-improved format is good news for STRACO: Episode Two, which is in the early stages of development with a planned release date sometime in the summer. You can follow NVO Games here.