Lightracer Spark review | What would you do, if you were given the opportunity to shepherd the course of another civilization? Would you usher them towards peace and prosperity, or have them wage war amongst themselves until only one group remains? Would you spread knowledge fairly and freely, or let only your chosen hoard it for themselves? Will you work as a shadow in the dark, or make yourself known to all to forcefully speed things along? Some of these questions and more awaited me in Lightracer Spark, a strategic narrative game from Smartmelon Games where you use technology “lightyears” ahead of those you are quietly uplifting. Will you lead through the example of your proxies or take matters into your own subroutines and dominate via conquest?
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Gameplay | In Lightracer Spark you play as an Amender, an AI loaded into a highly futuristic space station that’s sent to different worlds to influence the course of their civilization until the point where they’re ready to join a universal coalition. To do this you’ll work by influencing VIP contacts, managing the economy, raising armies and personally intervening in certain key events. It are these interventions that will eventually move the story forward, since only time marches forward until you activate these “HOT” events. When you do choose to act on them (skipping them is entirely possible) you’ll enter a dialogue where your paramind, an AI subroutine taking care of the smaller picture, and you go to intervene in stuff directly. And this can range from sending a probe down to speak with someone directly, saving a fighter pilot from an enemy squadron or by planting the solution to advanced scientific queries right into the heads of unsuspecting scientists.
- Graphics | Being a management game, Lightracer Spark shines with its drawn art rather than with any detailed 3D models. Character portraits, stellar vistas and evolving scenarios bring all the story moments to life. when you aren’t looking at the art, however, you’re met with a functional and sleek UI. The planetary map kind of reminds me of the old Defcom maps, divvying up the continents into countries and those into districts. And with the press of a button, you can also see a countries-only view, handy for when you’re dealing with islands and such.
- It never changes | War, war never changes. Even among the stars, it’s more rule than exception for disputes to be solved violently more often than not. And planet Originium is no different. As soon as you take control of your first territory, you’ll be able to start recruiting armies to your cause. This is a simple affair that lets you draw on a pool of potential recruits generated from your districts, with a military index starting at 2 power per 1 recruit. These armies can then be moved according to how much energy is available and take time to move between districts depending on how big they are and how far they must go. Is your military index number bigger than the territory you wish to invade? If so you’ll start taking it as time goes on. Fighting against other armies is just a matter of who’s got the best tech and highest index number. Some special units exist, but I won’t spoil those as they’re tied to the story beats.
- Growing your districts | Now, to have the means for those wars the story will undoubtedly lead you towards you’ll have to build up your economy to support them. And if you’ve played other sci-fi strategy games before it will probably feel very familiar already. Each of your districts has a number of slots to build upon. Most of the time, you’ll be able to choose between one or two different buildings with slightly different outputs. As some will produce people and research, but no energy, and vice versa. You also have a special slot in some districts that let you build unique and powerful buildings. Get a landing facility for troops from your space station, a plant that manufactures microchips or a helicarrier dock that lets you deploy a mighty military unit. It’s a key part of efficiently growing to meet the challenges ahead, and luckily not overly complicated.
- Audio | It’s a pity, but Lightracer Spark doesn’t really have all that much going for it sound-wise. Now that’s not to say it’s bad, but it felt a bit subpar in terms of what it brings to your eardrums. Starting with what’s there, the background music is your pretty standard sci-fi tunes and hums. They even smoothly transition to more tense scores when the situation demands it. What’s dragging it down is what’s missing, because Lightracer Spark is eerily quiet aside from that. There’s no voice acting to speak of sadly. For the huge amount of dialogue present, it’s quite a wasted opportunity to not even have some voice work.
What we Disliked
- Who the what now | For all the good I feel Lightracer Spark does in telling its stories, it does suffer from a bumpy start. This is mainly due to being bombarded with names, terms and other specialized jargon right off the bat, with very little repetition later on. You can do some independent reading via the in-game knowledgebase, but that takes you out of the experience of overseeing your operations planetside. It’s not a huge gripe, but something I hope future campaigns will take more time for.
How long to beat the story | Roughly 12 hours
How long to unlock all achievements | Around 30 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Stellaris, Civilization
Lightracer Spark is a fun narrative game that will draw you in with its compelling stories and simple-to-grasp but deeper-than-it-looks strategy. Your choices matter and often have far-reaching consequences, both good and bad. I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer and can recommend you check it out if you’d like to try your hand at amending a civilization of your own.
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.