Tuesday, March 5

Review: Space War Arena [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While for the most part the strategy genre on Switch has been a bit on the thin side for numbers when compared to other genres at least the general quality of the titles has been above average. Ranging from more casual fare to the more hard core the blend has also been pretty good. Falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum we now have Space War Arena, which offers up a fair challenge and some variety while also keeping the style of play relatively light. Best of all, in general there’s nothing quite like it on Switch so it manages to shine just a little more brightly than some of its competition.

The name of the game, on a general level, is the active defense of your space station. In order to do this effectively you’ll eventually amass (depending on which mode you’re playing) 20 pretty diverse units, though in any given battle you’ll only be able to choose between 8 of them, and in battle only 4 of them will be available to you in a somewhat random order. Each unit requires a certain amount of resources to produce so you’ll generally want and need a balance of both high and low-cost units in order to prevent yourself from either always working with light-weight stuff that will get wiped out easily or struggling to defend yourself waiting to unleash more powerful units while the enemy is knocking at your door.

The units themselves vary quite a bit and this will make choosing which ones to use on a per-mission basis more challenging since they can be effectively remixed in a variety of ways. It can pay to keep what you’re facing in mind, whether you’re looking to destroy an enemy station or are merely trying to outlast an onslaught from waves of attackers. While I think you can work effectively with the same units if well utilized there are some advantages to being mindful of what you’re up against. Cheap offensive and defensive units allow you to react quickly while some tougher units, especially when sent out in combination with one another, can really put a dent in your enemy forces. Experimentation and staying a step ahead of your enemy is always vital, and if you’re not paying enough attention be aware the enemy will be able to take you down if they can get ahead of you with some smart builds early on.

Solo play will break down into the main Campaign which in many ways acts as an extended tutorial, slowly introducing new units and letting you understand how to use them effectively. The Evolve mode in the vein of matching you up against opponents with a variety of strategies and who work with different combinations of units. These step up the challenge a bit and for your efforts they’ll slowly level up and add some bonuses to the units you use the most. Versus is well-suited to Switch, allowing both players to easily share the same screen and battle it out. Variety then would become a matter of whether you and your friend are wily and determined to out-think each other or whether you fall into predictable patterns but mutually refuse to evolve your tactics.

While overall Space War Arena is only a middle of the road strategic challenge, it fits into the Switch lineup pretty nicely without too many competitors in the same semi-casual space. Well-suited to playing on the go or in docked, and managing to do a fair job of balancing being accessible while still satisfying genre fans it sits in a nice sweet spot where either could likely get some enjoyment out of it. Managing to counter your enemy, turn the tide, and squeak out a tight win is always a thrill, and helps make the game suitable for just about anyone.

Score: 8

  • 20 unique units make for quite a number of potential combinations to suit your style
  • The single-player campaign acts as a slow and excellent tutorial to get you up to speed
  • Timing and placement can be critical in close matches as you try to get the upper hand

  • If playing with a friend, them jumping in without the slow burn tutorial can be a challenge
  • While Evolve mode keeps changing things up, and you’ll be able to get bonuses for the units you favor to help as you go, things slowly get more repetitive