In a time where space exploration combined with open world gameplay is a popular trend in video games, the Mass Effect series is a perfect example of how it should be done. The series has dominated the genre for a number of years for consoles. Those who enjoy the PC route more can get the same enjoyment out of space exploration, without the heavy PC specs. Black Market, a sci fi independent title, combines a great script, characters, exploration, and above all science fiction, for a fraction of the price for a AAA title.
Black Market‘s simple plot involves a pirate trader named Vincent Wake, who awakens after having a unknown surgery. To his surprise, he now has a eye patch with a talking voice in it named Hardgrove. Hardgrove, serving as the comic relief throughout the title, assists you on your journey full of space combat, criminal families, sinister corporations, and of course, illicit drugs! It’s a fairly detailed storyline that almost could have been developed a bit more, but the vast amount of enjoyable characters as well as the witty and humorous dialogue make up for the so-so plot. For a dark game like this one, the developers manage to go for more of the comedic route than a dramatic one, making the title ever more memorable.
The title can be said as more like space simulation rather than an entirely action game. Trading pays a big part in the title with many of the missions gearing more towards buying and selling intergalactic space goods. That’s not to say space combat isn’t thrown into the mix. The trading parts works in that there are literary hundreds of items one can salvage or buy to gain funds for improving one’s ship. Items range from gallons of water to illicit small arms. Space combat is nothing too special with players using their cursor to click on a ship to fire their weapons. Players can also move the ship left and right of the screen to dodge incoming enemy fire. It’s fairly simple to say the least, but of course it can be challenging at times. If one comes into battle without the proper weaponry, it can mean losing your ship, and collecting funds to find a new one (which is incredibly time consuming and ulcer inducing in the early parts of the game).
There are a wide range of enemies throughout the title coming from different factions throughout the universe. Depending on how friendly you are or how much of a dick you are to your enemies can result in a fight. On the game’s main screen map, players travel from planet to planet, but can wind up fighting an enemy on the way. The game does a great job giving you options on how to proceed whether that be fighting them, begging for mercy, bribing them, or just good old threatening them. Depending on each choice, the game gives players odds whether or not the option was a success. The actual enemy AI however is a bit unpolished. During battles, enemies would often not even fire at me throughout the duration. On the world map, I would get corner by at least five enemy ships. After defeating one and returning to the main screen, I was immediately set to fight another one. These instances can be incredibly frustrating.
One thing to note is the vast size and playability of the title. There are countless missions one can take part in with a galaxy size that is incredible. With a large number of planets plus at least 15 missions per planet, players can expect to be playing this title for a while. The missions themselves are different in terms of the situation, but the objectives remain similar to other ones. Blow up a ship, trade some drugs, repeat. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a bad thing, but those looking for more of a variety will be a bit disappointed.
The developers do a great job with the overall graphical and artistic design of the title. What’s the most impressive is that each location is designed much differently from one another, which gives the title a bit more creative flair to it. With the numerous amount of locations, each location has a different feel from the rest. The ship designs during the space combat sequences are rendered nicely with nice foreground and background imagery. Music wise, you get some fairly nice background music during exploration and combat, as well as different music for each planet you land on. However, the game really could have used a voice track for the dialogue. With all the witty lines, it would have be nice to have people act out the lines, instead of having to read them.
Overall, Black Market is well balanced and much enjoyable science fiction title that breathes fresh air into the genre. The title can be said to be similar to that of the 2003 space simulator Freelancer, which is equally well done. However, if you are burnt out from Mass Effect and want to try something new in the genre, definitely pick up Black Market. The scope of the title promises hours of enjoyable gameplay that doesn’t put a hole in your wallet with the title price and DLC.
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-Strong Script with Witty Dialogue
-Large and Unique Universe
-Several Hours of Playability
-Balanced Trading System
-Great Graphics Engine
-Fairly Average Space Combat
-No Voice Track