Phantom Galaxies is a sci-fi mecha adventure game developed by Blowfish Studios. The game launched in early access on Steam and Epic Games Store on November 15, and is free to play. This means that yes, there are items you can earn in-game but they can also be purchased in bulk on the Steam store for real money. The game also involves NFTs but thankfully the Steam build is separate to the Epic Games Store and Web versions. Despite these red flags, I did enjoy playing the first couple of hours of the game with the review build though there were some issues.
We start by creating a character however we have no way to customise it other than male or female, and then clicking randomise. There are no sliders or anything, you just have to keep hitting randomise which takes a few seconds to hold down the option and hope it’s a good look. Once you make your selection, a quick introduction plays and then we find ourselves on the concourse of the space station Halberd-001. Here we run over to Captain Olson who prompts us whether we want to complete the tutorial or skip it. I chose the tutorial and then had to choose between two starting mechs – Assault (agile with medium-range weapons) or Buster (slower but more armour and shields).
The tutorial teaches you the basics of flight controls and I used keyboard/mouse as it is how I played games like War Tech Fighters (another mech game published by Blowfish Studios) and Everspace 2. I would say Phantom Galaxies finds a decent middle ground between these two games and has potential to be a great mecha game providing the developers can make some decent improvements to gameplay and server connectivity. The tutorial does a good job at teaching us movement, combat against drones and shifting to our mech state to use melee or our ultimate abilities. The graphics of Phantom Galaxies run very smooth for the most part with the level of space detail comparable to games like Subdivision Infinity DX and Everspace 2.
However, a couple of glaring things kept breaking immersion. I first noticed in the introductory cinematic that the voice actors were saying words that were different to those on the hardcode subtitles. I dismissed it as perhaps a one off, but then I noticed when Captain Olson was giving me orders over the comms radio, his voice and accent would change as if he was in the cockpit with me. Then a few exchanges later, it would change accent and be back to radio quality. For these to happen in the tutorial and the first 15 minutes of gameplay was not a good start.
After completing the tutorial I started the main story missions and these were engaging and fun. We use a hyper bridge to jump to different systems and there is a waypoint system to show you where to go on the system and galaxy maps. I got killed on the second or third mission and respawned back at Halberd station. Getting back into my ship, the location of the system I died in was not on the map because of the way the story happened where I was in one system and then had to follow a pirate through the hyber bridge. The maps were a bit counter intuitive, but I eventually worked out where to head. Sometimes you have to fly to the next system’s hyper bridge location first before the waypoint updates. There are also moments where you can walk around on other space stations and the music is very good, helping to immerse you in the scene.
Eventually I came to a system where i had to locate a derelict ship. I looked in the immediate vicinity and there was no waypoint pointing me to the ship. I flew around for a while in between asteroids and I could not see any derelict ship. Eventually I flew so far that the screen went black and they said I was flying too far out of the safe zone, and respawned me back a bit. However without a waypoint I was so disoriented and kept flying out of the zone again to be respawned. Eventually I worked my way back to the hyper bridge, turned around and flew at what looked like metal fragments. It turns out that was the derelict ship, blown to pieces.
Here I had to fly a hacking drone with a beep on the radar trying to orient me to the power source, and after a frustrating 30-40 seconds, of going this way and that, I finally found the hackpoint. The hacking minigame is a decent puzzle to solve where you rotate pieces to connect pipes. It was a trap and after taking out some pirates, you follow one back through the hyper bridge and you find yourself in an even bigger trap. Story predictability aside, the combat here was good fun where you need to take out a mech character, then concentrate on dodging missiles from the capital ship while taking out it’s turrets and engines. Your mech’s ultimate ability comes in handy here. As you take out ships you will begin collecting loot in the form of ship upgrades.
Back on Halberd, pressing TAB brings up a menu where you can see quests, map, a codex of information and your mecha’s equipment. The mecha equipment has tabs for weapons, equipment and cargo. By now I had looted some weapons and a shield. Mousing over the items showed in my cargo showed me it’s statistics and it had green stats if they were upgrades on what I had equipped, but I couldn’t mouse over equipped items. I had to just equip the new one to see the old one which is a clunky way to go about comparing items. There are the makings of an exciting RPG aspect for upgrading our mechs, but the system really needs improvement to properly compare items.
From here on there was a long period of downtime when Phantom Galaxies officially launched, and no one could login to the servers. We would get stuck at a loading screen after creating our account and had to ALT-F4 just to close the game. Even this morning when it was non-US peak time, I was able to make a new character and complete the tutorial, only to lose connection to the server again. This time it wouldn’t let me back in because an existing session was still active.
Right now, Phantom Galaxies is difficult to recommend in it’s current state. It’s good that it’s free to play in that we can check back regularly to see if these immediate issues have been rectified. It’s also a big red flag to have pay to win as well as NFT involvement. I am glad I am using the Steam client which has NFT’s removed, so if you’re playing on Epic Games Store then be warned. There’s a big disclaimer on the EGS storefront anyway. It’s difficult to look past these immediate issues, but there’s the potential for a fantastic mecha game to be played here.
The graphics detail of space systems is great, as are explosions, and ship-to-ship and mecha melee combat is good fun. There are just some glaring issues in Phantom Galaxies that need to be addressed as soon as possible to give players a much better starting experience. Once rectified, I will gladly jump back into the cockpit for a more in-depth review further into the early access period.
This early access review utilised a Steam key provided by Uber Strategist and Phantom Galaxies is available now on Steam and the Epic Games Store.