Full of Stars is an exciting combination of arcade gameplay and choose-your-own-adventure style narrative, which is extremely well-executed. You are the salty captain of a volatile spaceship during an intergalactic war which has claimed the lives of much of humanity. Directing your dodgy hunk of metal, journey from planet to planet avoiding asteroid fields, moons, radiation fields and other dangers while making difficult decisions about saving passengers, searching for resources, and taking care of the ship which is keeping you all alive. At first look, Full of Stars is everything we’d expect from a top tier game: beautiful graphics, emotive soundtrack, compelling storyline, and motivating decision trees.
The resource system is very tight and there is a lot you’ll need to track. Earn “leadership points” on challenges during a flight or through interactions with other characters. You’ll lose or spend leadership points when your crew or passengers need to be convinced of things. Your number of passengers needs to stay above one to survive, and you’ll find passengers or lose them along the way. Your ship capacity is also limited and will cause some major problems if you try to carry more passengers than you can handle.
The soft currency, found in abundance, is Idium which you collect as you fly your spaceship; you can spend Idium on ship upgrades or lose it in crashes. The hard currency (which you can actually purchase), is Idium Crystal which is more rare to find as you travel, but the opportunities to spend it are, of course, many. Finally you have the core, which recharges with energy every ten minutes; each journey out costs one energy unit, and you only have three at a time.
With your limited resources, do you want to upgrade your laser, your overdrive, your bombs, or your capacity? Full of Stars is a robust experience with some nice upgrade trees for people who really want to invest in the details of gameplay. And invest you must, because though the game is free to play, much of the progress is heavily gated by monetization. In fact, the monetization structure is so aggressive that it often undermines the very immersion the game would seek to have.
With such a tight resource system, it’s inevitable that you’ll get stuck without something you’ll need. And even worse, there is a noticeable moment in the game where all of your resources are draining and you know you’re only one crash away from dying. At this point there is no ability to restart the game from scratch unless you uninstall and reinstall the game. I’d like to see this option for those among us who would rather start anew than die a slow death.
As of the most recent update, there is no IAP to remove ads. I understand that I choose to watch ads to skip forward to better achievements or to get a continue after a crash. But for a game of this quality, I would so much rather have the option to pay with money (instead of time) to skip ads, get continues, or pass on an achievement that is too difficult. One IAP that guarantees you get one or two continues after a crash (without having to watch an ad) would undoubtedly be very popular. The storyline is engaging and has the potential to be deeply immersive, but the ads are undeniably disruptive.
Additionally, the responsiveness is not as finely-tuned as it needs to be when you only die so easily and so often. When attempting to deploy the bomb, laser, or overdrive, I very often crashed right before I was able to implement it. Similarly, navigating between tight clusters of asteroids often felt like I was just a moment behind. It took some time getting used to the finicky controls which also felt like they changed after the latest update.
If you are willing to slog through ads and a lot of waiting, Full of Stars gameplay is exceptionally strong. It’s beautiful to look at, thoughtfully designed, and fun to play, when you’re actually able to do so. I would love to see a premium version of Full of Stars which still includes its tightly constructed resource management and decision trees, but that would remove the ads so I could keep my head in the game, and my ship in the air.