Thursday, April 19

Review: Manticore - Galaxy on Fire [Nintendo Switch eShop]

I can’t quite express how exciting it is for me when I hear about a new space combat game coming out. As a massive fan of the classic Wing Commander series I’m always on the lookout for the next title that can help rekindle that fire in me, blending terrific space combat with great support characters and story elements backing it up. Manticore gets a fair amount of that formula right, and will deliver some thrills over its many missions that should span at least 8 hours, but still has some things to learn if it wants to compete with the best.

First and foremost if you’ve seen screenshots of the game you’re aware that it looks absolutely fantastic. The icing on that cake is that it looks that good and also maintains a very steady and silky-smooth 60 FPS pretty well at all times. That it manages this is quite a feat while you’re flying in fairly large zones of space with some structures and ships that get to be massive along with multiple enemy ships. This helps to make the combat very fluid and satisfying as you work to line up enemy craft to take them down or go into evasive maneuvers to avoid being shot to pieces. As you progress you’ll begin to have your choice in spacecraft to fly, and you’ll be able to change out and upgrade your weapons as well, helping you to find a balance of speed, performance, shields, and firepower that suit you best.

The missions only tend to come in a few flavors, with dreaded escorts probably being the easiest to fail on if you allow enemies to draw you away from the ships you’re trying to cover, but are generally satisfying. You’ll typically face a boss of some kind at the end of combat missions and between special shields or tricks they have up their sleeves they can take some time to take down. There are some missions where bosses seem to have a never-ending supply of ships to act as distractions for you as well, forcing you to take them out while under serious fire, but if you’re mindful of your shields and know when to bug out to recover a little this can be managed. After the combat is through you can then typically explore the space you’re in to search for bits of lore and plans for a new ship. These serve as a nice cooldown and help you appreciate the scale of the spaces, though sometimes finding every item (though not mandatory) can be aggravating. There are also, on occasion, missions that will require you to test your flying skills, and these also provide a nice change of pace while making sure you’re on top of your game.

Getting into the areas that are a bit more lackluster while there is certainly a story going on it’s a bit by the numbers and lacking in real intrigue. A little more disappointing, though, is the characters on your wings who are utterly bland and really contribute little aside from occasional filler info and random shots at enemies. Even if you’re getting blown to bits they never seem to be at risk or in distress, there’s no option to let them engage on their own, and they’re not terribly bright as they’ll fire on enemy bosses with their energy shields up, meaning they’re effectively helping them replenish their defenses while you’re holding off. When pitting Manticore up against any of the Wing Commander series or even the likes of Star Fox this is probably the game’s biggest disappointment and spot that I hope will be worked on in the future.

As a total package if you enjoy space combat there’s quite a lot to like about Manticore as long as you reign in expectations you may have from other series. It looks great, plays smoothly, and throws enough variety and surprises at you that it’s quite satisfying. However, if the goal is to try to take on the best in the genre there’s no questioning it has room to improve. I look forward to seeing more of the series and hope they continue to flesh out more ambitious missions against even larger-scale targets (rather than just flying around them for the most part) and make the pilots on your wing more dynamic, interesting, and even varied.

Score: 8

  • Looks amazing while keeping a steady 60 FPS
  • Combat is generally satisfying, with bosses that can take work to take down
  • A variety of ship and weapon options help you find the combination that work best for you

  • Your wing pilots are generally lacking in personality and usefulness
  • Some boss fights can wear a bit long and feel like you’re wearing them down more than outright defeating them
  • Post-combat exploration can be aggravating when the boundaries of the space you’re in aren’t clear until you hit them and it’s difficult to tell which objects are inside it