My first experience playing Space Pioneer must have been a couple of years ago now, when the game was still in early access. I had lots of fun playing what was a very polished top-down shooter with RPG elements, hopping from planet to planet recovering artifacts, defending probes, and repairing crashed spaceships all while blasting away hordes of angry aliens.
Having revisited the game this week, I was pleased to see that it has continued to develop well beyond the single-player campaign. It now includes co-op and PvP modes that offer more diverse ways to play.
Space Pioneer does a good job remixing the limited elements in unique ways, although it inevitably starts to feel repetitive by nature. There are five different planet types that you visit, and each has its own alien species. Each planet offers a rotating set of mission objectives along with secondary objectives for you to discover. Fortunately, if the solo missions start to feel like a drag, you can mix things up with PvP multiplayer.
The controls are straightforward. Your character will automatically aim at the nearest enemy and you have three slots to assist you in your travels. You can choose from deployable turrets, grenades, health packs and more, with each requiring a cool-down period that adds an extra wrinkle of tactical strategy. Everything is upgradable using the coins and cards that you collect as rewards for completing missions. There's also a slew of weapons to unlock and upgrade along with three different player classes to unlock.
The solo mode offers 12 chapters, with each chapter offering up to eight planets to explore and at least one mini boss fight against a super-sized alien. It all leads up to the final battle against the biggest and baddest boss in the galaxy, Xeldar. Defeat Xeldar and you unlock endless mode where you can continue to explore new planets and collect rewards.
Speaking of rewards, this free-to-play game is chocked full of in-app purchases and options to watch ads to double your rewards. The game is pretty generous with coins and gems so you certainly don't have to spend money to enjoy it. However, any in-app purchase removes all ads so that might be a trade-off you're willing to make. Considering that Space Pioneer is also available on the Nintendo Switch for around $10, you would absolutely be justified in throwing the developers a couple of bucks to help upgrade your weapons or armor faster.
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