In space, no one can hear you scream. And when it comes to Salvation Prophecy, that may be a good thing. Salvation Prophecy tries to do a lot of things, from action-packed shooter scenes on alien planets, to high-octane space battles, to the more strategy-focused management of an entire empire. The game seemingly offers everything under the suns, but Salvation Prophecy fails to deliver a satisfying experience in nearly all of its endeavors.
Regardless of which of its four factions you select, the game greets you with a holo-room that charms you with snarky humor and wit. The female AI in charge of teaching you the game's basics rivals GLaDOS in crotchety banter with your character. As quickly as you can grow to love her, though, you are booted from boot camp and sent off to war against any of your empire's rivals.
Early on, you are limited to following orders--orders that solely involve fighting battles on opposing factions' planetary colonies. Although the third-person infantry battles distinguish the factions' play styles, from the high damage focus of the Drone Unity, to the more mystic feel of the Salvation, to the quirky explosion-focused inane babbling of the Wyr, the early battles are unfocused and the shooting lacks oomph, leaving you feeling as though you are nothing more than a cog in the disorganized galactic machine of your empire. Your role is to merely stay alive and shoot whatever the rest of your army is shooting. The AI does most of the work for you in many of the early battles.
As you level up and unlock new or more powerful weapons, empires increase their fortifications, and as a result, planetary battles become a bit more engaging due to the greater diversity of enemies and the fun of trying out new toys. Flying drones patrol the skies, and hulking mechs capable of absorbing several clips of firepower impede your path. However, combat still lacks any significant challenge, and the only threat of death comes from attempting to bite off more than you can chew and charging headlong into a cluster of enemies.
Salvation Prophecy is a game that does much but yields too little.
The game attempts to spice up the planet-side missions by feeding you information on each faction's backstory as you engage an enemy empire. While stories involving the Free Nations are standard human fare, the game weaves more of its humor demonstrated by the tutorial into the backstory of the insane robots known as the Wyr, who adore violent conflict and greet you with gibberish that communicates broad ideas in amusing ways. ("Explosion implosion deplosion mechsplosion!" your combat trainer tells you in a cartoonish robot voice, revealing all you need to know about the upcoming mission.)
Salvation Prophecy's most attractive gameplay comes from its space battles, which you can enjoy once you gain the keys to your own ship. The simple act of speeding across insterstellar space keeps your eyes locked to the screen, given how jump space navigation and wormholes both initiate enjoyable minigames to jump-start your heart rate before an impending battle.
Battles over the assault or defense of space stations erupt with laser beams for you to weave your way through as you take on enemy fleets. Much like planetary battles, early space battles are messy and dull, and your limited arsenal leaves you to rely much on your AI companions while you serve as support fire. As you level up your ship's weapons, however, you can earn an increasing reputation among the empires as a legendary fighter pilot as you systematically dismantle enemy fleets, all while evading their missiles with well-timed EMP blasts and chasing down stragglers.
Space battles lack thrilling dogfights, however, since most enemy ships attempt to flee you once you have engaged them, rather than fight back. The space missions lose their luster once you're forced to hunt down fighters one by one and finish them off with a missile to stop their shield regeneration before it starts. Because of this, the only risk of death comes if you completely stop paying attention, or boost into an entire fleet as a lone wolf before your backup arrives.
If you want to channel your inner Spike Spiegel between assigned missions, you may elect to take your ship out for bounty hunt missions and put a stop to space pirates and their lackeys. While these missions don't offer much contrast to regular space battles, you'll find yourself needing to be a little more careful because you have no backup to draw enemy focus away from your ship. The ship designs for pirates, such as the Grim Lobster, are much better than the empire's mass-produced ships, and offer a bit more of the game's quaint charm.
Once you've conquered both land and space to the fullest extent, you rise to the rank of commander of your faction, unlocking the ability to construct space stations and colonize planets, as well as launch the missions to assault enemies yourself. Resources come in at such a fast rate that it's nearly impossible to run out of troops to supply your colonies, but you can maintain only one global mission at a time, rather than allowing space stations to launch missions simultaneously or to request reinforcements from one another. The feature adds little to the game but frustration, as it often seems as though you aren't making progress. Enemies take back other colonies and destroy other space stations just as quickly as you conquer theirs, leaving the game to spiral into an extraterrestrial "ring around the rosie" with no end in sight.
Interlaced throughout the game are sparse missions to investigate unstable wormholes that lead to primitive alien planets, upon which you find ancient runes related to the game's titular Salvation Prophecy. Although these missions are few and far between, the game receives a huge spike in both difficulty and tension as the game's mostly absent narrative finally culminates as portals from another world rip open and aliens threaten to destroy friend and foe alike. This alien threat brings the most tense gameplay the game has to offer; planetary battles make you feel like you're defending from the bugs of Starship Troopers, and space conflict becomes a frantic race to seal the portals at their source to save a star system.
Salvation Prophecy is a game that does much but yields too little. The game offers satisfaction not in its individual mechanics, but in how its disparate pieces, various factions, and space travel minigames keep you doing something different from one moment to the next. Be prepared to grind for several hours before the game's rhythm picks up and its diversity compels you towards the exciting closing battles that reveal Salvation Prophecy's best attributes.