Derek Heemsbergen
E3 2016: The Mandate Preview
Spaceships... in spaaaaaace!
06.17.16 - 12:52 AM

I briefly caught up with Perihelion Interactive at this year's E3 to discuss The Mandate. Successfully Kickstarted in 2014, the game is a space exploration sim inspired by the likes of Battlestar Galactica (yes!), Star Trek, and Firefly. In a market saturated with copycats, Perihelion's angle is unique: The Mandate is large in scale, but takes an intimate approach to crew management. Instead of controlling large fleets of ships, the player takes the role of a ship commander and micro-manages his or her officers down at the individual level. Each member of the crew stands in for one of the ship's attributes and can be leveled up, promoted, and customized. As the adage goes, "a captain is only as good as his/her crew."

The player's ship itself, meanwhile, is more or less the equivalent of a character's armor in a standard RPG. It can be upgraded with modular parts that are represented graphically in addition to affecting stats. When it comes time for combat, the player controls their ship at the macro level before boarding an enemy vessel to finish the fight as an elite squad of soldiers. The action plays out like an RTS, but can be paused to issue commands to individual units. This zoomed-in style of resource management is more evocative of Mass Effect than Starcraft. Perhaps more interesting is the adventure mode that fills up the wide expanse of space with dynamic, randomly-generated events. Some manifest as skirmishes, while others incorporate more story to supplement the single-player campaign. My presentation was too brief to go over the game's story, but what little art I saw was easy on the eyes. The design of Empress Anastasia was particularly impressive, the blue gem in her tiara alight in a regal blaze. The game's visual design otherwise is fairly genre-standard — no flourish, all function.

I admit that I'm skeptical of the far-reaching promises Perihelion has made about each player's ability to craft their own space opera. It remains to be seen whether their words amount to little more than a fancy frame for a frayed photograph. We'll know for sure when the game releases for Steam Early Access in early 2017.