Ceres is a 3D space combat simulator with RPG elements, published by Iceberg Interactive and developed by Jötunn Games, this is also Jötunn Games first ever title. While there isn’t a lot of information regarding Tryggvi Hákonarson, the project manager, readers might find it interesting that the development for Ceres originally began as a programming exercise for the Unity 3D engine.
“The solar system is ravaged. The Earth is gone, shattered to pieces. Nothing remains but a huge ring of rocky debris. Nobody knows why The Gate malfunctioned. It was built to connect our world to other stars, but only a handful of colony ships were sent away before disaster struck. The Gate is believed to have unexpectedly connected to the wrong star -one just going nova. Torrents of gravitational waves flooded our solar system and the Earth was immediately obliterated. The Gate then started connecting to random stars, spewing ashes from dying worlds, radiation from younger suns or even drawing in alien lifeforms.”
Ceres: Windows [Reviewed], Mac
Developer: Jötunn Games
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release Date: 16 Oct, 2015
Price: £14.99 [Disclosure Game Copy provided by Developer/Publisher]
Firstly, let me get this out of the way, Ceres has a fairly steep learning curve, it is however helped by an extremely in-depth tutorial. Players, after selecting their starting captain and ship from a choice of three, will start off with a frigate sized ship armed with basic equipment. The initial mission tasks players to travel to a region known as the Khaos Cloud, a place where the player meets up with a station captain, who offers the games first mission, at the conclusion of which the player will encounter the titular Ceres, or Artificial Intelligence. From that moment Ceres explains to the player how she, well technically it, but has a female voice came to be and requests the players help. The gameplay then begins to open up, allowing the player to take on the many side missions on offer. The game is filled with a fair amount of humour and is completely mouse driven with a number of useful keyboard shortcuts.
Players have the ability to fully customise their ship, they can also hire, buy, capture or sometimes even salvage additional ships that join the players fleet, up to a maximum of six ships, there is also a range of various sizes of ships. Players will generally hire the many available captains (hired ships can be purchased with their existing captain) to pilot the various ships in their fleet. Doing so will provide a bonus to the various stats of the ship. Captains can also level up and provide additional bonuses. An AI can also be purchased, which will also help prevent and boost hacking attempts as well as provide additional bonuses to the ship stats. Finally, crew can also be purchased and trained who also help by providing bonuses to the overall ship statistics. One of the most useful things the player will have at their disposal will be the drones, which will perform many of the smaller tasks like mining, for example. Players can also purchase various materials and trade them across the various sectors.
One of the main mechanics that requires a little bit of getting used to is the way in which the ships move, ships are not directly controlled they are given move orders. Whenever a move order is given the ships will move along a plane represented in hexes, this plane can be moved up and down providing the 3-D space movement. The rest of the game mechanics are pretty much straightforward. One feature that will be of great help is the ability to pause and speed up time, useful in the larger battles, or if you get ambushed. You can have time “auto pause” on certain events just in case you attention waivers. Graphically, Ceres looks are extremely dated when combined with the gameplay, reminding me a lot of Starpoint Gemini 1. The soundtrack is extremely celestial sounding and adds to the overall atmosphere. The sound assets are also equally excellent with lasers, missiles, cannons all sounding like you would expect, all of these elements add to the overall atmosphere of Ceres.
Overall, if you can look past Ceres graphics then this is a pretty good game. One of the major changes I would make would be with the games tutorial, it’s done separately from the main story, which although is not a bad thing, it is extremely long and unfortunately a little bit boring, if you don’t like reading a lot of text. Having it all in game or an overall shorter tutorial with the advanced features being explained within the first mission/s would be a lot better. There is a bug with movement, sometimes ships and more likely drones will “wig out” and get stuck, however stopping a ship or requesting the drone to return and then reassigning the order seems to fix it.
There was also a minor bug with one of the captains, upon levelling up it would appear I’d levelled up twice, when in fact I had just levelled up the once, also the second (selected) level up would always overwrite the first. Another issue I found was with a particular story mission that changed how a faction reacted to me, making the continuation of unfinished missions in a sector extremely difficult. Finally there are issues with normalisation and localisation. However, it should be noted that the developer is more or less a one-man team, so a little leeway should be granted.