I thoroughly enjoyed Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy on PC back in June of 2015 when I reviewed it and when it was announced that Star Hammer would be coming to consoles I blanched. Here was a deep, tactical space simulator full of laser beams and space missiles, and it was going to be ported to console? "The controls! The aesthetic! Strategy/Simulation on console? BLASPHEMERS!" I screamed ... Amazingly Slitherine and Black Lab Games made me eat my own words. Dare I say it, but Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is actually better on Xbox One that it was on PC. While the game has not changed much (and much of my original review still stands), the Xbox port brings in a new level of enjoyment.
Hear me out, the PC version was great, controls decent, graphics great, framerate smooth at times; things worked, and worked well. The console release does all that, but better. The controls are really the highlight here; in Star Hammer there is a certain elegence that comes with the restriction of keybindings caused by the controller. Whereas some console ports, like Elite: Dangerous, simply "work" with their control scheme (which admittedly, can be downright confusing ... deploy hardpoints or cargo hold?
You better be a finger-ninja), Star Hammer simplifies everything. Want ship-based sub-menus? Press X. Select something? Left click. Cycle ships/targets? Left / Right bumpers. That's it. Nothing more. For a deeply tactical title with about 400,000 (perceived) options, everything, and I mean everything, is just a button press or two away.
After a long stint on the Xbox One last weekend I fired up the PC version and just nope. While the PC version's controls are not bad, the Xbox One was just so ... so EASY. I love it.
Beyond the necessary change in control scheme, Star Hammer remains largely untouched. I did find that framerates were smooth and crisp whereas on the PC they seemed a bit jagged at time, but given the age of the PC I played on, and the fact that there are far more factors that could affect framerate on the PC than on a console, I wrote it off as "my machine sucks" not "Star Hammer struggles on PC" because, well, it doesn't. Interestingly enough, I did find that there were times I wish I could zoom in more, because Star Hammer on a 55" TV, while great looking, does lead to some really small ships that, with the crazy HUD, can be difficult to locate (an issue hardly unique to this title when looking at games that transition from PC to console). All in all, though, it remains largely untouched and true to the original PC release.
Star Hammer: Vanguard Prophecy is easily on of the best console ports ever, sitting up there with Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2: Director's Cut, and Diablo 3 (the crown jewels of PC-to-Console ports). With an utterly brilliant remapping of controls, Star Hammer's deeply tactical play-style is easily approached and managed through such a smooth and simple control scheme. Sure, there are a few things, like voice acting or hiding of the HUD during setup, that I would like to see, but in truth? Those are minor wants; Star Hammer is the complete package and is spectacularly satisfying on the Xbox One.
Black Lab Games
Article by Robert