Not the Death Star, but Dead Star, rather, combines the best elements of Battlestar Galactica, Star Control 2, and arcade-style combat. Developed by Armature Studio, Dead Star had a dedicated booth at PAX South for attendees to get their hands on the game. It features fast-paced 10v10 battles with spaceship customization, upgrades, and matches which are played on procedurally generated maps. For those who may not be aware, a procedurally generated map means that the match’s shapes, buildings, and hazards will be different each time you play.
Dead Star is set at the farthest known recesses of space, in ancient battlefield ruins where convicts are banished to live out their sentence under the watchful eye of the Guardian AI. You would be hard-pressed to find out much more about the backstory of Dead Star just by visiting the booth at PAX South, but the demo could shine even without knowing the full story. I was particularly interested in knowing about the 4 races in the game, each with their own 3 classes of ships. The 4 races are the Kurg, Estari, Valant, and Ithid, and the 3 classes of ships for each race are the scout, raider, and frigate. Each class of ship, respectively, will trade speed for more armor and firepower as you choose between the three. During the demo, I wasn’t picky about which race I would be playing as, so long as I wasn’t being the most human-like Valant race. As luck would have it, I happened to be selected for the Valant team in the end anyway, but it turned out alright.
The goal for each team in the PAX South demo was to battle your way through the intense dogfights and capture outposts to expand your team’s presence, and ultimately capture every outpost to win. This is called the “Conquest” game mode, and is the primary game mode in Dead Star. Mining ore allows you to upgrade your defenses for your team, and repair any damages done to your outpost base. The game was a little tough to pick up at first, as I noticed it is very easy to die if your moves aren’t calculated (or cohesive with the rest of your team). But in the 10 or 15 minutes I had with the game, I eventually found that once you get the hang of it, Dead Star can provide many fun and hectic battles. It would have been helpful to have a little more control over where I was aiming, as the game relies on a twin-stick shooter format, which means your right joystick effectively targets where you would like to aim your shot. The aiming, however, felt a bit too fast on the smaller ship classes, thus making it hard to get a clear good shot off at times. However it does become quite a thrill when you do finally get that kill or capture an outpost, especially when coordinating with your teammates.
All in all, Dead Star was certainly a contender among 3 or 4 other space-themed combat games on the PAX South show floor (like Dreadnought). Dead Star is currently in early access on Steam, and is available for preorder on PS4 (preorder allows closed beta access). The game will fully release in 2016.
Sources: PAX South hands-on demo, and Dead Star official website.