Throwback: SPAZ (Space Pirates and Zombies [And Bounty Hunters]) (Originally Posted June 27, 2014)

Man, SPAZ and I go way back. It was the first game I ever bought on Steam. Legit, the very first one. I don't know what it was that drew me to the game so much, I can't even remember how I heard about it, I just know that SPAZ is the reason that I am now back to PC gaming and own way too many games.

"But what's SPAZ?" you might be asking. Well friend, it's awesome, that's what. It's a top-down space shooter filled to the brim with ships, weapons, upgrades and mods.

The story is somewhat forgettable, but the world itself is pretty rad. The UTA, a military alliance that controls the warp gates around the galaxy; and the CIVs a group of militants, civilians and scientists attempting to remain independent of the UTA. Either faction can control a single star system, and either faction can love, hate or not care about you.

Either faction's base can sell you upgrades and goons for your ships, or if you're feeling like a helluva pirate and damn strong you can just blow their base up and take what you want from them. Just be warned, faction bases can be ridiculously hard to kill if you don't have the right ships.

You can bribe the UTA gate guards to make it easier to travel, or you can just kill them all and move on. Random battles between the CIVs and the UTA can pop up in each star system, each faction may have small side missions for you, or random ambient events like a resource laden comet to destroy.

The star map is incredibly customizable in the beginning of the game, randomizing the available tech, the amount of stars, difficulty and all that. 

My god, it's full of stars.

Where it get's really fun is the combat. You start off with a couple small ships, slowly working your way up through the ranks. Tearing apart enemies, reverse engineering their black boxes and building new ships. You work your way from tiny ships barely able to do anything to massive carriers and saucers capable of mass destruction.

An interesting point of the combat is that zombies can infect your ships, turning them against you in a battle. The amount of goons you have on-board, as well as point-defense lasers can keep them at bay.

Weapons range from your basic lasers to emp beams, mass drivers, ship-mounted shotguns, drones, bombs and a plethora of other things. You control a single one of your ships while the AI controls the others. You can directly instruct them where to go through a tactical interface as well. Going in cloaked, or with the toughest shields and armor; built for speed or endurance, any way you'd like to fight is completely viable with the right research.

Speaking of research, the tech tree in the game is ridiculous. You can research everything from more powerful weapons, to tougher armor, larger hull space, stronger cloaks, better goons; everything in the game can be improved through the tech tree.

"How do I pay for such upgrades, Gabby?" Well, blow things up and you get three different resources; goons, data and rez. Rez is essentially your money, using it to build ships, buy upgrades and bribe gate guards. Goons can be used to bring down your bounty, or even as weapons. Data is used strictly to buy research points to upgrade your ships.

Ships are incredibly customizable; weapons, armor, reactors, shields, everything can be changed.

The Bounty Hunters, a faction added into the game quite a while after release, are also pretty tough. They brought an entirely new set of ships and their own bases. Pay their toll and your bounty stays low, piss them off and they come hunting, trapping you when you try jumping between star systems, forcing you to defend yourself until you can escape.

As for the sound design for the game; it's alright. A lot of stock sound effects (perfectly understandable for a pair of devs working from home on a shoestring budget), but some of the ambient radio chatter you pick up get's really annoying on the 500th time playing.

One major issue I have with the game isn't even quite with the game itself, but with the Torque engine. It doesn't take advantage of multi-core processors, so the game can still bog down, even if you have a pretty decent system. The game, while pretty, isn't Skyrim, but I still dip down to 20fps from time to time in larger battles, which there's no reason for that.

Overall SPAZ(ABH) is pretty fun. Go buy it on Steam for $9.99 or your regional equivalent