Data tracking and microtransactions cast a Death Star-like shadow over mechs with swords.
The encroachment of the mobile gaming business model on the Switch isn’t a new phenomenon. We don’t need to look any further than Nintendo themselves, and the release of Pokemon Quest as an example of how the free-to-play games with paid DLC have started to gain momentum. Maybe the most blatant example to date is the free-to-play but pay-to-advance space-shooting action title, Galak-Z: Variant S. What could have been a pretty good 2D space adventure (and by all accounts was on other systems) has been overshadowed by a tremendous amount of grinding meant to motivate the usage of micro transactions.
According to most space-based themed stories I’ve experienced, we should be afraid of some Galactic Imperial threat looking to enslave the universe. That’s also the case here. You play as A-Tak, a pilot who went missing in a void six months ago, only to reappear and discover that the evil Baron who controls the Galactic Empire has control over Earth. Regardless of the current predicament, the mood is rather jovial after you rendezvous with the resistance leader Beam and set out to free the Earth. Between each mission, A-Tak and his bot friend Bitsby, regularly give their superior Beam a hard time despite having the human race currently enslaved. Who said saving the world from evil couldn’t be fun.
The goal of each mission is to successfully navigate from end of the map to the waiting portal at the other end. Your choice of transportation to said is portal is either a Gundam-style mech, or a small U-Wing-inspired fighter ship. Each has unique attacks and specials, the mech uses a laser sword that requires close proximity to the enemy, the fighter ship has a blaster that allows for attacks from a distance. A special maneuver charges as you progress, for the mech, it’s a tractor beam that brings in the enemies and allows you to throw it at objects. For the fighter ship, homing missiles charge up and can locked onto an enemy for a strong attack. The combat actually doesn’t feel that bad, both vehicles are equally fun piloting and can be switched up from mission to mission. The maps don’t really change a whole lot, the environment has some different skins but at the end of the day your still trying to traverse through caverns looking for bad guys to explode. The missions don’t take long to feel repetitive.
After successfully completing a mission, it’s time to take care of that RPG fun stuff like repairing and upgrading your ship and developing bots. It’s at this point that I really lost most of my interest. Upgrades come in the form of relics that are found during missions. Once the mission is over, you can provide one of the bots with the relic which it will decrypt, after awhile. Don’t want to wait 60 minutes for a new upgrade? Well it just so happens that you can use Crash Coins to skip the decrypting period. The caveat is that those Crash Coins are purchased with real world money. That’s not all the Crash Coins can do though. If things go sideways in a mission and you really don’t feel like having to start over, just use some Crash Coins to revive and reset your health. You don’t have to get good if you’ve got money.
Essentially most of the experience ends up feeling like a grindfest, and how much grinding you have to go through depends on how much money you care to spend. If that wasn’t enough, the developer tracks and stores your gameplay data, IP address and any interactions you have with customer support. Don’t think that playing offline is a clever way of avoiding big brother, you can’t get past the title screen without an internet connection so portable for most is not an option. But wait, what about that opt-out button in the settings, well clicking on that doesn’t actually opt you out from data collection, it's just a cruel reminder that if you don’t want to be tracked than you can’t play. All of this is essentially a reminder that you get what you pay for, and I would probably just save my money.