Destination Ares (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 05.10.2017

Review for Destination Ares on PC

Taking quite a bit of inspiration from FTL: Faster Than Light, Destination Ares aims to be the next addictive spaceship simulator. There are two main factors separating the two from each other, however: presentation and price. Where the former's presentation is slick and price is fairly in line with other indie titles, the latter is a bit sore on the eyes and costs twice as much as FTL. That said, aesthetic, while important, isn't the only factor that makes a good game, and price can be easily offset by high quality content. Is Destination Ares worth the price of admission?

It's not unfair to expect a certain degree of quality when concerning price, especially when the developers get to set their own price tag. A full-priced AAA title is expected to have, at least, high production values, while a cheaper indie title is typically expected to stylishly offer a few hours of content. In the long run, as certain games lose their value and begin to price drop, prices start to lose meaning, but it's a bit different for online stores, a la Steam, where prices are usually set in stone save for sales. That's why it's all the more important to make note of when a video game is overpriced, because otherwise it'll always be sold for more than it's worth.

Destination Ares is overpriced and not worth $20. It does not deliver on the most basic of gameplay expectation. The Steam store page boasts of "deep mechanics, simple controls, responsive difficulty, and short sessions," but only the controls and length ring true. All the content as advertised is present, but the execution is wholly lacking.

Screenshot for Destination Ares on PC

"Deep mechanics" presumably refers to the concept of controlling an AI in charge of a spaceship and managing said ship's systems and crew. As the AI, the goal is to keep everyone alive, manage the ship's energy, and act as the primary decision maker. Mostly, this just means keeping an eye on whatever's eating up energy on the ship and toggling the equipment on and off.

To its credit, equipment management does have some depth to it, as each of the main pieces require a form of "currency" to produce more "currency." The crew members need air to survive, so the simple scrubber needs to be turned on. The ship needs energy, however, and the durable generator creates energy at the expense of dirtying the air. Leaving both on is simple enough, but having too many pieces running at once leads to the ship's energy being drained. Once all the energy is depleted, it's best to just restart the run.

Even if there is some depth, it takes more than just toggling between units to make a mechanic "deep." Serving as the ship's AI is not engaging. There's a skill tree to go through and an option to build a custom ship once enough of the game is played, but neither feel fully realized. A big reason is because of how unpleasing the UI is.

Screenshot for Destination Ares on PC

Destination Ares is not pleasant to look at and does not feel responsive. The skill tree and the ship builder are okay, but they're just that: okay. Picking a new skill to unlock does not elicit an emotional response. Building a ship is similar, as it's just going through a few bland menus and clicking around to find the right pieces. It sounds like every other builder simulator out there, but the difference is that the good ones at least embed some atmosphere into the experience. Here, it just feels plain and lifeless.

The flavour text just scratches the surface of having a personality, but nothing stands out as particularly charming. There are a few random scenarios that can occur which are humorous, but nothing that could be called novel. On top of that, it gets a bit tiresome seeing the same lines over multiple runs. It's funny the first time one of the crewmates vomits in anti-gravity, but it loses its charm by the third.

Screenshot for Destination Ares on PC

Bafflingly enough, asserting any agency as the ship's AI is blocked by one of the worst minigames imaginable. Making a decision requires traversing through a maze with invisible walls in, typically, under a minute. Bumping into a wall causes the timer to go do and the timer reaching zero means that whatever action the AI was going to take has failed. There are some Minesweeper-esque elements that give an idea to where the invisible walls are, but being on a timer makes assessing the situation far too difficult to justify.

Difficulty ends up being Ares' biggest flaw. It's designed to be challenging, but it feels more frustrating than anything. Making progress isn't a reward, it's a given. A developer shouldn't handhold a player to the end, but they shouldn't make a scenario hard just for the sake of it. Overcoming a challenge is rewarding, but there is little to overcome here. Destination Ares is hardly the hardest game ever, but it's more frustrating than most.

Developer Patrick Scott wrote in regards to reaching Ares, "Most players will never see any ending other than tragic defeat," and that's true, because most players won't have the willpower to endure flaw after flaw. Especially when there are far better - and cheaper - games to choose from.

Screenshot for Destination Ares on PC

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Destination Ares settles the age-old argument of whether it's worse to be shallow or overpriced by adopting both banes as a core part of its identity. What praise can be given to the premise of managing a crew and ship to their destination is better directed at the far superior FTL, which Ares lifts most of its ideas from. Even with an excellent base to build off of, however, just about every feature and gameplay element fails to capture the fun of managing a spaceship. The flavour text is mostly bland, making a dynamic choice is always accompanied by a grating minigame, and all sense of progression is surface level at best. In no way whatsoever is Destination Ares worth the price of admission. Price accordingly, or don't price at all.

Developer

Patrick Scott

Publisher

Patrick Scott

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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