Game Info:

Absolute Territory: The Space Combat Simulator
Developed By: Dan I.B. Woods
Published By: Digitum Software
Released: September 1, 2020
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: 1 with online leaderboards
Price: $18.99

Thank you Dan I.B. Woods for sending us this game to review with no embargo!

Outside of my long-standing love for RPGs, one of my most memorable games growing up was for a space combat series called Wing Commander. It was released for MS-DOS back in 1990, and just nailed the fun factor. Even though the graphics and especially display resolution are quite primitive compared to games of today, I picked it up again a few years ago and found it just as fun as it always was. Some games are truly timeless. That's why it surprised me that I hadn't found a game to recreate that winning formula in quite the same way until now, with Absolute Territory.

For those familiar with that gaming classic, I could easily summarize this one thusly: Wing Commander space combat, with no Tiger's Claw segments or branching storyline and with text-based exposition between missions instead. For everyone else, I'll explain it in more detail.

In Absolute Territory (I have to say, not a huge fan of the title - sounds like a strategy game), you take the role of an Imperial Hegemony space pilot, who is fighting to reclaim the region of 'Bold Peace' from the invading forces of the Endophora. There are twenty one levels, where you get to pilot a variety of ships, as you shoot them or be shot first in real-time combat.

You sit in the cockpit of your fighter where you look out of the window blasting enemy ships to bits with your laser-style blasters, or your limited number of missiles. Everything is 3D rendered and in first-person, though you can choose to fly your ship with a third-person view. Every ship has both a shield and armor meter; shields repair over time, while armor damage sticks around until the end of the level. When the armor level reaches zero, your opponents (or you) explode.


Strong Points: Combat mechanics are a blast; graphics are pleasant if not overly detailed; nice music; perfect joystick support; level editor included, with Steam Workshop support
Weak Points: Gamepad controls could be better; I wish storytelling was done with more than just text
Moral Warnings: Space Combat against another group called 'The Order'

Most missions are some variation of ‘blow up everything in sight’, though there are some notable exceptions. Some levels have asteroid fields, where you have to avoid or destroy any large rocks headed your way, or the much more dangerous minefields, where if they get too close they will seek you out and explode; if you’re not careful or moving quickly, things can get rough in a hurry. There are also nav points, where you have to fly to either trigger an event, or to activate your autopilot, which is used to go to the next one, or eventually complete the level.

There are a couple of aspects of this game that really put a smile on my face. The first may seem silly, but the joystick support is excellent. I know that most people nowadays play games with a keyboard + mouse, or an Xbox 360 compatible gamepad; those work more or less as expected. But when you’re flying a space ship, you use the right tool for the job – in this case, a joystick. (If you sprung for a HOTAS setup, even better.) I played all of my Wing Commander games with a joystick, and when I was able to make it work almost exactly the same way here, I was thrilled. Thankfully, configuring any controller is a breeze, and common control schemes like keyboard + mouse and gamepad have sensible defaults. The only tricky part is that gamepads are difficult to fine tune the analog aim with at the best of times, and I find that the defaults move your targeting reticle quickly, but fine-tuning shots takes a lot of skill and practice. Neither joysticks nor mice have this problem, since they have a much larger range of motion.

The other thing that made me smile is quite simply the feel of the combat as well as the mission structure. Like I said, I'm a Wing Commander veteran; I beat several and played at least some of all of the main entries. The combat and interface really feels almost exactly like those games. Once I got a feel for everything, my long-latent skills came roaring back and I was smiting the Kilrathi Order scum like old times. While the story is interesting, I do wish it was told in a more immersive way than just a large text box on the screen. However, given that it's basically a one-man project, it's an understandable limitation.

Absolute Territory: The Space Combat Simulator
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 92%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

The Campaign is of decent length; I was about to beat it in around 6-ish hours. I also checked out the editor (I'm not one who typically creates levels, but it's there and seems usable enough) and the online leaderboard modes, Squadron and Gauntlet. Both are based on waves of enemies, but with Gauntlet your missile and armor pool are static; you only get what you started with. With Squadron, you are given a set of waves per mission. Once you complete the mission, your missiles and armor are reset. While I currently have the high scores in both, I don't expect that to last; I never 'completed' either, nor do I know if they are endless or not. Regardless, if this game gets a larger audience, I'm sure the Steam Workshop support means that there will be endless missions to play around with.

Graphically, it looks really nice, though not too complicated. The starfields look interesting, though not super detailed. Ships look good, and your cockpit shows reflections off of the nearby stars, which is a nice touch. You can even tell when things explode behind you. While hardly a jaw dropper, it's pleasing on the eyes. The same with the music - it's pleasant and sets the mood. There isn't a ton of variety, but what is there is very nice.  It ran great on all of the PCs I tested it on, including my GPD Win Max, though it does suffer from gamepad control issues like all gamepad users.

Morally, there is space combat where one ship shoots another until they explode. Since ships are shot out of the depths of space, there is implied death. There are no other moral issues I noted, other than some missions requesting you to do some deception. To be fair this was a really neat mission!

Absolute Territory: The Space Combat Simulator is a relatively simple but fun game that is not only a blast to play, but hit me in the nostalgia feels as well. I'm honestly surprised that no one else has done what Dan did here: make a solid clone of the gameplay from Wing Commander. There have been other space combat games, but nothing quite this clear of an homage. Considering how many other games are out there with obvious inspirations, I don't consider this a bad thing. If it works, and is underrepresented in the current marketplace, why not fill a need? I've really enjoyed my time with Absolute Territory, and it's totally worth a buy if the price is right. I just highly recommend dusting off the old joystick; it's way better this way.

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Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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