Galaxy on Fire 3: Manticore isnâ€™t your run-of-the-mill Galaxy on Fire. Well, I guess none of them are, really. But Manticore is particularly different in a way that might make some happy and others ambivalent (possibly even a little irate): Fishlabs has stripped away all of the â€śadventureâ€ť elements to create something thatâ€™s almost entirely a shooter. For good or for ill, thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve been left with.
I donâ€™t necessarily think itâ€™s for ill, though. Sure you canâ€™t try to make a living (or at least extra cash on the side) by ferrying goods from one system to another, and the grandiose sense of scale is gone because you arenâ€™t flying to and docking with all manner of space stations, but those looking for more action wonâ€™t need to wade through a bunch of story junk or have to deal with travel time. Plus the other two games still exist and you can just play those if you want something that gives you a bit more to do than just â€śgo here and shoot the red things.â€ť
Being the most recent entry in the series and having been designed around modern mobile devices, Manticore is also incredibly good-looking. The lighting and colors of the various locations are quite something, and many of the zones youâ€™ll visit are filled with a surprising amount of objects to add a bit more visual interest and make space feel a little less empty. Creative license abound, of course, but it still looks darn good. Good enough that Iâ€™m really happy to see the inclusion of a camera mode that allows you to pause the action, reposition the camera, and take a screen shot.
While I do appreciate the visuals and did just make a case for the new (i.e. sole) focus on shooting, it does bum me out that thereâ€™s not more galaxy to explore. One of the things I always like in spacefaring games is being able to freely – or at least somewhat freely – trundle around the galaxy at my own pace. It was often void of activity, but thereâ€™s still something to be said for sitting back and relaxing while your ship autopilots its way to your destination over the course of several jumps and a few minutes. None of that is in Manticore. Instead, you just go to the galaxy map and pick a mission. Then your ship warps in, you do whatever it is you need to do – protect a thing by shooting the hostile things, usually – and you warp back out. It feels kind of… I think â€śsterileâ€ť is probably the best I can come up with right now.
Iâ€™ll admit that the streamlined combat controls are pretty neat, though. Instead of trying to multitask tons of different space-dogfighting related actions using a touch screen – which amounts to basically two â€śbuttonsâ€ť you can use at any given time, unless you hold your phone super-awkwardly – here you mostly just use two halves of the screen. The left half controls your shipâ€™s movement, and the right is used to speed up/slow down/roll to either side. Shooting happens automatically when youâ€™re within range and have your reticule pointed at the proper spot. Simple though it may be I actually really like this control scheme as it lets me focus all of my energy on moving and aiming.
I do miss the sense of exploration found in other Galaxy on Fire games (hey, it may not have been much but it was still there), but its absence hasnâ€™t prevented me from enjoying myself. Iâ€™d probably enjoy myself even moreÂ if the game wasnâ€™t just a gauntlet of meaningless combat scenarios (many of which are a variation on protecting a specific point) — but Iâ€™ve been enjoying it nonetheless. If youâ€™re a fan of the series whoâ€™s open to something a little different (for the series, not games in general), or if youâ€™re just curious, I think itâ€™s worth the look.