Nexus is an exciting and gorgeous space combat game that should definitely appeal to sci-fi and strategy fans.
- Gorgeous, high-end graphics
- Intriguing plot
- Everything a space game should be.
- Stealth missions can be frustrating
- Not too many playing multiplayer.
Fans of the space game genre haven't had much to cheer about in recent years, but Nexus: The Jupiter Incident is a game that any self-respecting space game fan needs to play. This gem of a space tactics offering is everything that fans of the genre have been waiting for, as it takes gorgeous, next-generation graphical technology and applies it to an exciting game about starship combat, rogue artificial intelligences, galaxy-spanning wormholes, and more.
In Nexus, you play as Marcus Cromwell, an already legendary figure employed by SpaceTech, one of the megacorporations that's colonized the galaxy. Put in charge of the frigate Stiletto, you must patrol the far corners of the solar system while on the lookout for rival corporations. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg regarding the plot, because before you know it, you'll be sucked into a galaxy-wide war between alien races and a lost remnant of humanity.
At first, Nexus looks a bit like Homeworld and Homeworld II in that you control a starship or a fleet of starships in interstellar combat. However, the key difference is that Nexus isn't a real-time strategy game, so there are no resources to gather or units to build, much like there are in the Homeworld games. That lets Nexus focus on its strength, which is starship combat that looks so good it's literally cinematic in nature...from the way your shields glow when they absorb an incoming energy beam to the manner in which a ship's thrusters fire to swing it about.
The control scheme is elegantly simple, once you figure it out, but that masks some of the game's depth. To move or attack, simply select the ship you want, click on the corresponding action icon, and then select your target. You'll then watch as your ship fires its thrusters to accomplish the task. Using this control scheme, you can control a small fleet of ships and their accompanying fighters and bombers easily. The game lets you pause at any time to issue orders or to simply swivel and zoom the camera around to soak in the view.
There's quite a bit of tactical depth in missions, depending on your ship's loadout. If you're armed with shield-draining devices, you can try to knock down an enemy's shield and then switch to hull-battering weapons to finish him or her off. Or, if you have disabling weapons, you can target specific components on a ship. That way, you can take out a ship's weapons, its shields, its engines, and more. This is particularly helpful if you need to dispatch a boarding party of commandos to search a vessel. Or, if you have a complement of fighters and gunboats on board, you can launch them to protect your ship by targeting incoming fighters and missiles, or you can have them assist you in taking down a target. There's a wealth of options at your disposal, and when you multiply the number of ships in a battle, the action becomes even more cinematic to behold.
You also have a fair bit of energy management to think about, as all those weapons, shields, and devices require a lot of power. Part of your job is to manage your ship's power, and you can boost it to different systems, such as those for shields and weapons, at the cost of draining your energy reserves. This is simply done by clicking on the various settings in the energy panel. And if you're even more of a hands-on player, you have the ability to manually tinker to a greater detail by opening up the ship's systems panel and moving sliders about, though you can easily make it through the game without doing so.
Though the 15-to-20-hour campaign is presented as a linear story, it does offer some strategic depth between missions. You can outfit your ship with the latest weapons and devices; however, you'll be limited by the number of resource points available to you. This means that you'll weigh the trade-off between arming yourself with, say, shield-draining devices and device-disabling devices. The former is useful in a no-holds-barred battle, while the latter can be used to cripple and disable ships that you may need to seize. If anything, it's hard to know what you'll need until you play the mission at least once to see what you're up against. As a result, it would be helpful if the game would give you more of a clue as to what to expect beforehand.