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Stellar Shifts Perspectives of Roguelike Space Shooters – Hands-On Preview from PAX South 2015

by Kyle Hanson

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The indie area of PAX South 2015 was full of space shooting games. Something, probably the success of Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous, had brought the genre back with a vengeance. This is great for fans, but it also means that developers need to do something a little extra to stand out among the crowd. Dog Eat Dog Games is trying to do just this with their upcoming roguelike space shooter, Stellar. The game is very early in development, simply using some test elements to hammer down the gameplay, but the core concept is certainly intriguing. In Stellar you can completely shift your perspective, creating a 2D and 3D experience all in one.

How does this work? Quite well if my time with the game is anything to go by. You take control of a single ship, flying around a randomly generated starfield that is filled to the brim with enemies seeking your destruction. Flying in 3D feels as natural as it ever has, as you perform the usual pitch and roll maneuvers using a controller. When things get a bit too hectic however, then you get into the unique stuff. By pressing a direction on the D-pad the game flattens out, pushing all of the enemies onto a single plane.

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Want to finish off some enemies R-type style? Hit left and you’ll fly to the side while controlling your ship in 2D space. Feeling more like Ikaruga? Tap up on the D-pad to get a top-down perspective on the action. The perspective shifts make for some interesting moments, as you figure out how to deal with a swarm of ships that might have been more hidden in 3D space, or as you wipe out that same swarm much easier thanks to the simpler geometry. It is a fantastic idea to base a space shooter on and Dog Eat Dog has certainly pushed it to some great limits.

There’s more to the game than just this one idea though. The developer is working on a system where you can take and use weapons from enemy ships, allowing for a bit of variety in your universal destruction. Planets will also be generated in the environment, with enemy ships swarming around populated areas that you might want to attack. To conquer the planet you’ll have to do your best Will Smith/Jeff Goldblum impression and blow up the mothership.

Dog Eat Dog is a musically inclined developer, and Stellar shows it with a totally unique soundtrack created especially for the game. While the music doesn’t directly impact the gameplay, your shield will pulsate to the beat, creating a sense of immersion for music fans.

Steallar is set for a PC release later this year, with an ultimate goal of hitting PS4 and Xbox One as well. The team is also interested in Oculus Rift support, though that might come later on in development. With only six months of work under their belt, Stellar already looks to be on its way largely thanks to its interesting gameplay mechanics. There are a few rough edges to work out though, so keep an eye out for updated previews as the game gets closer to release.

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