SPHERES OF CHAOS
When World of Tanks rolled out ten years ago, proving that vehicular multiplayer shooters could be just as accessible as those on foot, it seemed only a matter of time until someone would launch a space equivalent. However, while there have been a couple of decent attempts, what has been surprising is that none have been particularly successful. Arguably the best of them, Edge Case Games' Fractured Space, seemingly the least of all - despite the studio being consumed into the Wargaming collective.
Thankfully, where some developers have struggled, Gaijin Entertainment has pressed ahead, first releasing Star Conflict in 2012 ("think World of Tanks, but in space") and then following it up a few months later with War Thunder, a more direct competitor to Wargaming's free-to-play behemoth. Having long been a thorn in Wargaming's side - typically by engaging in blatant one-upmanship - Gaijin recently returned to the stars with Space Thunder.
Unfortunately, Space Thunder isn't a standalone game, but was a short-lived event for War Thunder that started on April 1st and ended just this morning. Like War Thunder it required two teams of players to battle for dominance of the map, though not with tanks, biplanes and jet fighters, but with rather less convincing space vehicles; ones reminiscent of the capsule Felix Baumgartner fell to Earth from, or if you are a certain age, Sputnik 1 crossed with a fairground dodgem. Little wonder that some players quickly referred to the temporary new vehicles as space balls.
The sole battleground for Space Thunder was dominated by a space station in orbit above the Earth, arrival at which granted you access to one of four space ball variants - Assault, Scout, Close Combat and Support, each requiring a specific number of Spawn Points . Once chosen you then appear at one end of the station, with the enemy at the other, and your collective aim is to notch up 50 kills before the other team can do the same, and of course, earn back enough Spawn Points to continue your assault when eventually you take a fatal hit.
In spite of the event's limited availability, Space Thunder did look and feel like an authentic space game rather than a reskinned dogfight built as a joke. The station backdrop wasn't most inspired map, being a series of concentric columns, but it offered some interesting contrasts in terms of light and cover, while the muted sounds of thrusters and weapons helped underscore the effort. The absence of gravity and introduction of inertia-based movement was handled well, which, thanks to the underlying game's broad options meant you could fine-tune the controls depending on how deep into the simulation you wanted to go.
What let Space Thunder down can be attributed to its limited availability. A couple of more interesting maps, a better selection of vehicles and different loadouts were clearly beyond the scope of a game intended to only be accessible for five days, but that is where Space Thunder is the most lacking in terms of being a game in its own right.
Had it been more substantial or stuck around a bit longer, I might be more inclined to compare it to another briefly accessible EVA-based team shooter, Shattered Horizon. That game managed to last for a good couple of years before it disappeared from Stean, although, given it's tiny community of players at the end, perhaps it would have burned far brighter had it been designed to exist for a fraction as long.
SUMMARY: First released in 2012 as a response to World of Tanks, #GaijinEntertainment's #F2P #multiplayer #arena game isn't normally known for its spaceships. However, during April 2020 the #SpaceThunder event offered up a few days of #EVA-style #spacecombat set in near #Earthorbit. It was #3star fun while it lasted.