Space Miner Wars is a cartoonish but good looking mishmash between the kind of twin-stick space shooters that used to dominate mobile app stores in the early days (which makes sense seeing as it’s from the developer that made Space Miner: Space Ore Bust), and the more contemporary kind of town/base builder that has become the norm. It’s certainly an odd combination, but it’s one that works relatively well – excepting a couple of quirks, of course.
The main idea is to build your own personal space mining empire by salvaging whatever you can from wherever you can, and then become the dominant conglomerate by assaulting rival miners’ facilities in order to gum up their operations and steal resources from… wait a minute. What does any of that have to do with mining?
This is the first thing that bugs me about Space Miner Wars: the PvP feels out of place in a game that’s supposed to be about mining. On top of that, it’s just kind of unceremoniously dumped on players out of nowhere. The explanation is pretty much just ‘Oh, by the way, someone attacked you when you were logged off. Because that’s a thing that happens now!’ Granted there is an option to retaliate, but doing so will remove the temporary shield that’s meant to protect the base after an attack, so even that’s kind of awkward. Really though, it just feels like an option that was shoehorned in because so many other games do it, why not this one?
Thankfully it’s possible to ignore PvP for the most part. At least starting out. There’s plenty more to do by way of harvesting scrap and ore (i.e. money) from various map sectors, building out and upgrading the base, and completing story missions for a little variety and some sweet rewards.
Of course, then there’s the problem of ending up with too much scrap. This happens obnoxiously often, truth be told. It’s understandable that a free game needs to limit players somehow, but I ended up wasting scrap because my stores were full before I’d even completed all of the tutorial levels. I’ve been actively trying to burn through my excess scrap by constructing the most costly buildings or getting the biggest upgrades I can, but it’s never enough. And when the caches are full the only options are to wait for construction to finish in order to spend more, or dump whatever is still in the ship’s hold. Meanwhile, ore is in painfully short supply. Because of this I’m usually spending more time waiting for things to build than I am waiting for my energy to refill so I can go on more missions. Because what’s the point in going on a mission when all the scrap I collect will be wasted?
Time spent outside of the base is reminiscent of those classic (although they really aren’t that old yet) twin-stick shooters I’ve mentioned previously. The ship moves with one thumb and the other can be used to shoot (or the fire button can be flicked to the left to “lock” it in place for a continuous barrage). It’s basically a bunch of flying around blowing up asteroids, shooting down enemies, and trying not to get shot down yourself. There are a couple of interesting twists on the formula with the occasional derelict ship to stop and analyze, as well as timed missions that often involve tense sitting duck moments or frantically dragging objects to a specified destination.
All of this can be reasonably fun, though the movement stick for the ship can be problematic. It has this weird dead zone that will turn the ship without actually moving it, which often resulted in either accidentally crashing into things or accidentally spinning in place when trying to avoid enemy fire. The ship also won’t come to a complete stop unless the stick is released entirely, so there’s also plenty of unintentional drifting to deal with. It’s not so difficult to adjust to that Space Miner Wars is unplayable, but it does make things a bit awkward.
None of this is to say that I dislike Space Miner Wars. In fact, I’ve been having a decent amount of fun with it despite the annoying bits. I mostly just wish it controlled better and that the resource side of the economy was (a lot) more balanced.