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An unrealized potential that warrants more polish | CBT Preview - Starstride

An unrealized potential that warrants more polish | CBT Preview - Starstride

1K View2024-01-18
Starstride is an online hack-and-slash action MMORPG that combines elements of high fantasy, sci-fi, and some monster hunting gameplay. The game features a unique premise where two allied factions, Neoterrans and Wokens, engage in a war against a mysterious alien civilization, as players take on the role of powerful fighters tasked with becoming the ultimate Star Warrior.

I previously reviewed
Starstride's closed beta test last September 2023, and today, I have revisited the game on Mobile in preparation for its upcoming next closed beta test, which is coming real soon scheduled on January 20, 2024, to February 4, 2024. The test will be available on both Mobile (Android via TapTap) and PC platforms, featuring crossplay between them, although cross-progression is not available at the moment.

📖Story and Premise
Starstride's premise features an intriguing blend of high fantasy and futuristic sci-fi. The two allied factions, Neoterrans and Wokens, engage in a fierce battle against a mysterious alien civilization. As one of the remaining powerful fighters, players choose a faction and embark on a journey to become the ultimate Star Warrior. The campaign was initially only around 1 hour worth of gameplay last year, but it has now been expanded with more content for players to test.

🎨Visuals and Art
The graphics are clean and crisp, and sometimes looks like something that came out of the PS2 or PS3 era.The character designs seems heavily inspired by the Phantasy Star Online series of games. Notably, there are significant texture and model pop-ins that are still left unresolved, with a very close draw distance. I can't deny though that some of the details are already gorgeous to look at. I do hope it’s just a matter of optimized the game further for mobile phones, as the game is also available for PC.

Starstride's gameplay is basically a hack-and-slash ARPG with a open-world MMO functionality wherein you can travel across the vast land, visit a central city hub to interact with NPCs, and enter various dungeons to farm rewards. The game features many character archetypes and weapons to equip, all of which can be used on your character without the need to create new ones. Weapons come in many shapes and sizes; Sword, Dual Blades, Shield, Spear, Hammer, and even a Whip.

The game features a pretty intuitive questing and auto-pathing system where the character can easily sprint towards its next destination, albeit slightly comically due to how fast the character runs, and sometimes overshoots its pathing AI — which is still not fixed in this version. There are no idle game elements here though such as auto-combat or passive resource generation. I was only able to play solo, but there is an option for creating a party with other players to raid rifts together.

Starstride showcases a potentially satisfying combat system with flashy action-packed animations and powerful feeling abilities, although as of current state, the gameplay still comes with semi-clunky controls, messy visual effects, and unstable performance. All weapons comes with a basic attack command as well as a bash ability, plus two abilities and a special flashy ‘QTE’ attack for regular enemies. Every weapon has their special attack animations, including the QTE attacks, although I would love some more variety as they could still get repetitive.

Most of the enemies you face in this game consist of animals / monsters —both regular and massive—that you can hunt for materials and exp. Additionally, you encounter cyborg alien beings, as highlighted in the game’s introduction battle. During combat, there is a high level of visual clutter that can make it challenging to track the action, especially when trying to monitor enemy attacks for dodging. Successfully dodging grants you a temporary slow-motion boost, enabling you to unleash more attacks than usual.

⏫Progression and eventual Monetization
The characters’ power armor and energy cores are the main centerfolds of the progression and character power. Upgrading them is the best way to get stronger. You have the freedom to create your own character (up to five on the same account), customize their appearance and gear, and choose their starting class.

With this test version, Starstride now includes additional tutorials and systems designed to introduce players to the mechanics. However, it can consume a significant amount of your time, especially when farming materials to craft gear for each slot. There are also additional missions I haven’t encountered before, implemented interactions with traders, and microtransactions are already in place, including a gacha system — although I can’t seem to interact with these in-app purchases yet, so it must be a placeholder for now.

📊Technical Performance
I haven’t experienced any crashes in my testing, nor have I encountered any disconnects, which is a significant improvement compared to my testing last year. However, the game is still marked by bugs, clunkiness, and performance issues. There are various UI and questing issues, control clunkiness, especially with the camera and combat. When facing multiple enemies, the game’s performance still bogs down. Having said that, it's crucial to remember that this game is still in its early stages of development, and improvements are likely.

Exploring the fusion of Starstride’s MMO-Monster Hunter dynamics within a Sci-fi high fantasy backdrop is indeed a refreshing take. It shows promise, but it still obviously needs more and serious enhancements as it heads into the upcoming closed beta, if it were to be a success upon release. Even if you are a regular beta tester of mobile games used to early versions, you may still find this version feel very early in its development. Nonetheless, I would recommend giving the test a whirl to see the core idea of the game.
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