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Callum Williams - BigfootNZ

22 April 2023

Lightracer Spark

​Playing god to developing civilizations has always been frowned upon, but what if it was for the good of the universe? What if the only way to stop total domination was to aid these early civilizations? Helping create more advanced tech, increase their military power, or simply just sit back and observe to truly see what they are capable of. Lightracer Spark does just that, this Indie sci-fi visual novel delves into the unknown effects of what happens when a deity directly interferes with under-developed civilizations. Developed and published by Smartmelon Games, Lightracer Spark is available on PC and was released on April 12, 2023.


Off the bat, players are thrown into the control room. With a brief rundown of what is happening in the universe, who you really are, and what your goal is, you are given a quick tutorial to show you the ropes. Basically, the universe is under threat from a Highly advanced civilization that is purely focused on domination. This threat is still a while away, however, and the universe’s best defense is to become proactive light years ahead and mold early civilizations into technologically and militarily advanced planets. You are the Amender, a powerful being from a highly developed civilization. You have been hand-picked among hundreds of other Amenders to prepare these lowly civ's for an all-out galactic war.

The concept is amazing, it takes the usual 4X formula but adds a somewhat more comprehensive story and approach. I mean, who doesn’t want to manipulate and twist underdeveloped civ's into doing their bidding? The concept is, however, where this approach somehow ends. The gameplay can feel super slow, with in-game years passing by while waiting for your puppets to claim glory in a battle or the development of a new technology. I mean, it makes sense for it to take years but when it transfers to game time it feels like it takes forever. Sometimes you are just sitting there thinking what is actually happening down there? Essentially on every planet, you can embark down 3 different paths, technology, might, or simply sit back and watch to see what happens. Through pure military power, you can over-run the planet and take direct control, fashioning the planet's government into a dictatorship and what you say goes. You can take a more passive approach, and manipulate the forces from the shadows while showing them how to discover technological advances while bribing government officials to claim land and spread your influence.


The game has a city-building overview where you can upgrade cities through military, government, and resource buildings. These are very limited functions, however, and only stem to be filler to make the wait-in-between story progression bearable. On top of city upgrades, you can also upgrade the space station that you pull the strings from. Much in the same way as upgrading cities by applying upgrades to nodes on the ship. If you choose to rule with an iron fist, military and population upgrades are a must. Upon creating a small army, the troop will be assigned a combat value, if you are to invade another territory, the territory will also have a combat value. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the higher the combat value over the enemies, the better. To send your troop on a mission for the motherland, you simply click them, then the land you want to send them to. I found in some instances, the combat value of the territory overlaid the node to click to send the units on their way. This was super frustrating and it almost took 5 minutes to get them on their way. Clicking the combat power bought up a breakdown of how that combat power was calculated. I simply did not care too much for that, I just wanted to lay waste to the enemies. But the interference of this extra button caused issues.

The visual novel aspects are made up of some stunning hand-drawn art. With slight animations played during mission cutscenes. The slight animations gave the cutscenes more depth over using static images and were a nice touch. The drawings, my gosh the drawings. I’m always in awe when I see good art, and the art within Lightracer Spark was top notch, the digital artists have some amazing talent. Other than the artwork, the rest of the visuals are kind of boring, essentially you stare at a neon-lined world, and you cannot inspect the armies or the ongoing battles. The only sense of activity you get is these artworks during missions.


The only thing that tops the artwork is the immersive and atmospheric soundtrack. With symphonic music that slowly increases in intensity while you are playing, it's very easy to get lost in the world. The soundtrack is composed of all things symphonic, brass, strings, drums, and keys. That is where the depth of the audio ends though, during battles, there are no battle sounds or special effects depicting a battle taking place, and new discoveries don't make any noise just to name a few. The only special effects in the game are from clicking options and completing objectives which give an ‘Among Us’ interface selection vibe. These SFX noises can be a little overbearing and annoying in quick succession.


All in all, Lightracer Spark is an OK strategy game. It has a unique premise that a lot of modern games fail at getting a grasp on, however, due to the slow gameplay and depth, it could have been so much more. If you enjoy good Sci-Fi narrative stories, and easily get hooked on strategy games, I would recommend picking this title up but be warned, the slow nature of this game could make you become bored quickly.


The Bad

- Interesting Game Style
- Deep lore
- Appealing art
- Immersive soundtrack

- Interactive issues
- Lacks any real depth
- Very slow
- Fails to have any real interactivity

The Good

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