Earth is destroyed and all hope is lost. A familiar story seen a hundred times over in various movies, books, and video games. Drone Swarm is about survival after, you guessed it, Earth is destroyed and all hope is lost. The difference is Stillalive has done a great job of turning this familiar plot into a simple yet effective strategy game that sees you control 32,000 drones to fight back against the aliens that destroyed your home. As you search for a new planet, you encounter various enemy ships that must be destroyed, and to do so requires a range of attacks and defensive manoeuvres.
As Captain Carter, you pilot a spaceship called Argo. Whilst scanning new planets and travelling across the solar system and beyond, various factions of alien vessels try to destroy you. The way Drone Swarm allows you to do this is divided across three strategies: attack, defend, and the use of a kinetic blast. Each tactic has its benefits, and working out how to take on every battle has a satisfying trial and error system to it. Using the mouse to draw a wall of defence sends the drones to protect the Argo. Ships have a path of attack, all different in their approach, so acting quick to protect the hull’s integrity is important.
As you progress through the game, new defensive abilities open up and the wall becomes more capable of defending the Argo. However, enemy ships also improve, and you are constantly changing up how you tackle each new challenge. When it comes to attacking, you draw a path for the drones to wipe out the enemy, but due to the speed at which they move and the direction of how they move, you may miss the enemy all together. When you are engaged in battle, different enemy types attack through long range, whilst others fly directly towards the ship as if they are kamikaze pilots.
Upgrades to your defence can trap ships with this direct approach in the walls, but then other ships may charge a powerful laser canon that once fired can rip right through the Argo and destroy it instantly regardless of how many drones you have protecting it. This is where your third ability – the kinetic blast – comes in. By charging it, you can send thousands of droids directly at it, knocking it off course and disrupting the cannon. This can allow you to draw a line of attack directly at the dreadnought and do some serious damage.
Switching between your three strategies is done simply by pressing the three hot keys, Q, W, and E. It’s a fluid system that works well and allows you to make on-the-fly decisions in the fraught seconds of a tense encounter. The further you get, the tougher the battles become, and you can often come up with spontaneous decisions that might seem silly in your head, but watching them unfold is pretty damn satisfying. For example, using your kinetic blast to knock a spacecraft into the path of another ends up breaking the attack of two ships, and in this moment you can use your drones to destroy both of them. You don’t even have to draw straight lines, meaning if you have enough drones left you can send them in a ring of devastation to take out the enemy in one circular swoop.
Drone Swarm offers plenty of different enemy types and locations where you have to mix up your strategies, and I am a big fan of that. The main problem is how accurate you have to be with your commands. If you draw a line of attack a millimetre past your enemy, it doesn’t hit. This can be annoying when you’ve almost lost the fight. Also, some ships are overpowered, and a wrong move can result in the Argo being destroyed. 32,000 drones may seem like a lot, but when you are facing multiple ships coming at you from all angles, some of your decisions may fall on deaf ears as there simply aren’t enough of them left.
The story is told through comic book cutscenes, all of which look wonderful. The animation is fantastic, and whilst the plot isn’t exactly edge of your seat, the voice acting is rather good. As for the visuals in battle, Stillalive has made the drones look remarkable, and when there is so much going on, it’s easy to know exactly where you are and where your drones are positioned. Every new setting is colourful, the attention to detail on every ship is impressive, and the general presentation is pleasing on the eye.
Drone Swarm is a simple strategy title with great combat set amongst some pretty backdrops, where battles provide plenty of excitement. Battles can be tough when facing multiple enemy ships with different abilities, but the upgrades to you drones and the Argo do help you to cater to these threats. Precision of the attack patterns requires pinpoint accuracy, and some attacks against you can wipe you out if you are not completely aware of every enemy, but it is still a great strategy game that makes full use of the abilities on offer.
Unique approach to its controls
No room for error in attacking enemies
Some fights can be brutal
Story isn't particularly engaging