When many games come out at the same time, a few tend to get overshadowed and missed. Nova-111 was a title released on the last week of the Summer Highlight, which featured eight ID@Xbox games, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Madden NFL 16, Dishonored Definitive Edition and Gears of War Ultimate Edition. I consider myself well-informed about most games, but even I had very little knowledge of this one.
Nova-111 is heralded as a tactical rogue-like, turn based, real-time strategy in a sci-fi adventure about finding lost scientists in a an alien world. While featuring turn and tile-based movement, the overall feel of the game lacks the effects of the full rogue-like experience — like random dungeon generation — and as such should not be considered a rogue-like. There isn’t much for me to say about this game other than, while it’s not bad a game, it did not win me over in the slightest.
Here’s what I liked:
Turn-based action — An odd sense of satisfaction occurs from watching the spacecraft shuffle from panel to panel. Turn-based actions are simulated to great effect, including combat with enemies. Unfortunately, when the real-time aspects started appearing, the turn-based effects start to diminish, and so did my enjoyment of the game.
Music — The soothing melody sets a pleasant atmosphere for partaking in Nova-111‘s scientific adventure. While not distinctive in its own right, it doesn’t overpower the ambivalent nature of the game. I found myself on more than one occasion stepping away from my controller for various reasons, but was perfectly content on letting the game run to have its music playing in the background.
Here’s what I disliked:
Fog of war — I grew up playing Warcraft 2 and Warcraft 3. Fog of war is nothing new to me, but it just doesn’t work here. The initial blanket covering up untraveled locations isn’t an issue, but having the explored areas that the player isn’t occupying grayed out irritates to no end. Only a few panels have visibility at a time, which means the player has to blindly progress through the level. Enemies are always hiding and dealing with them becomes an annoying game of peekaboo. It works in tandem with the next point to bother me a bit too much. At best, this visibility impairment is a nuisance that adds nothing of value, not even a challenge. It should have been optional, and I would have turned it off in a heartbeat.
Real-time combat — Whether it’s an enemy charging at you from all the way across the screen, a vine grabbing you from the unknown or any other constantly moving enemy, hazards that move more than one space at a time feel very out of place. Maybe I’m taking the turn-based aspects too much to heart, but the transition to real-time strategy is too clunky for my liking. This game performs at its best when the enemies are slowly closing in, and the player has to make smart and cautious moves to survive the predicament. Pressing buttons and hoping the game reacts to the inputs in time to get you out of danger in conjunction with the fogged pathways made me miserable.
Time stop ability — Time stop is a very good ability for players and makes the game a lot easier. It’s also where my suspension of disbelief was thrown out the window, and I called it quits. It freezes time temporarily and allows the player to freely move around but not cause damage to the environment. At this point, it felt like an action game with too slow of a pace to hold my interest.
Conceptually, I love what this title is trying to do and enjoyed the gameplay mechanics. However, I couldn’t stomach playing through the entire game. Nova-111 continued to get more fancy and intricate throughout its levels, but the core concepts remained the same the entire time. As such, the combination of the fog and real-time action bogged down the tempo of the game to the point where I got frustrated and bored. Readers should follow their instincts with Nova-111; you’ll enjoy it if it looks interesting, and if it doesn’t appeal, then stay far away. I don’t hate it; it’s more like an average game, which may be more dangerous to a game’s reputation than being “bad.” Thirty days from now, I probably won’t remember a single thing about Nova-111.
Score: Skip It
Achievement notes: This is an Achievement hunter’s worst nightmare. The finding all scientists and finding all secrets Achievements appears to be glitched with the Xbox Achievement app showing faulty tracking of progress. Finding all scientists also happens to be 111 Gamerscore, and most people really don’t like Gamerscore when it doesn’t end in 0 or 5. There are a few other odd Gamerscore numbers, but otherwise, the Achievements are fairly straightforward.
Nova-111 was developed by Funktronic Labs and published by Curve Digital on Xbox One. It was released on August 28, 2015 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Curve Digital for review purposes.