to be frank. Unless you have millions to spare, or you’re personal friends with Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, you’ll probably never explore space with anything other than a telescope. Luckily, Fast Travel Games and Paradox Interactive have got you covered with their upcoming VR game Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game. Unlike the grand strategy series it’s based on, you don’t really expect to use diplomacy or trading to advance. Instead, you’ll pilot your own ship, traverse the solar system, battle enemies, and install upgrades – all in search of mysterious ghostly signals.
The game was just announced, but at Gamescom 2022 about a month ago, we jumped into the cockpit for an early journey into uncharted territory and are now allowed to share our impressions.
Catch Stellaris a feeling of
While Ghost Signal: Stellar is an action game, it does retain some aspects of the strategy game it’s based on. The most obvious is the viewing angle. You don’t control your spaceship from a traditional first-person or third-person camera like in No Man or Star Wars: Squadrons. Instead, you view the action as a window through a distant vessel. This gives you some much-needed overview as you are often surrounded by enemy ships. To have a chance of survival, you have to constantly adjust your course with the analog stick, while pointing at enemies and shooting with your favorite hand.
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Quick reflexes and some precision will definitely come in handy. But mostly Ghost Signal: The Stellar Game is about making deceptive tactical decisions on the fly. Switching from a far laser to a far laser may help deplete an enemy’s shield before they get into range of a rapid-fire gun, but leave your gap open to smaller, faster enemies. Planning a new route might show you avoiding enemies, but it takes time and slows your momentum. Those decisions, combined with the far-end cameras, make you feel more like a commander than a real pilot.
Roguelite elements and features
The emphasis on tactical action also makes sense in terms of roguelike elements. As is usually the case with the genre, each battle is a separate encounter, and if you win, you can choose where to go next. For example, you can go to a shop that lets you upgrade your shields, weapons, etc., or you can try your luck in a random event. If you’re brave enough, there are bosses to approach as well. Losing will let you start over, but there are permanent upgrades to unlock in the process. While I’ve only managed to clear one star system, the fast travel game promises the following features in the full game:
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- Alien species to fight or become friends.
- Heavy artillery can fend off fearsome creatures or defeat an enemy armada.
- Powerful upgrades like Freezing Light, Atomic Missiles and Dragon Companions.
- Random maps, daily challenges and leaderboards.
Wait, haven’t we seen this before?
While homage to Stellaris in terms of tactics, visuals and lore, playing Ghost Signal: Stellar Games on Gamescom actually reminded me of an even older title – the original Asteroids released for arcades in 1979 .
Just like in the fabled Atari games, in Ghost Signal, your ship has a real weight, battling enemy ships while blasting asteroids from (sort of) an overhead angle, Brings a strange nostalgia to this modern VR game. It’s truly a testament to how great game design is, even after more than four decades of incredible technological advancement.
A more action-oriented VR game, probably not what Stellaris fans secretly hoped for when they stared longingly at the night sky and suddenly saw a shooting star. Still, Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game feels pretty polished, and if you’re looking to do some space exploration on your Meta Quest 2 headset, it’s certainly worth watching when it releases in early 2023.