First Look: Dangerous

Over the weekend we had a chance to jump into a Unity Web Player simulation of Binary Helix’s upcoming sci-fi debut, Dangerous! It may not have “Galaxy” in the title, but rest assured you’ll be interested if Galaxy on Fire 2 and Galaxy Pirate Adventure left you craving for more space station hopping. If you aren’t familiar with EVE Online, which appears to be a strong stylistic inspiration, it’s helpful to think of Dangerous as what might happen if Galaxy on Fire 2 and GPA married and had a baby.

Dangerous opens when a dude bearing uncanny resemblance to Viggo Mortensen gets kicked out of suspended animation by a secret agent. Not only is the amnesia from his century-long Rip Van Winkle experience a useful excuse for a live tutorial of the game’s systems, it leaves open the question of whether he really did destroy an entire planet before he was put on ice. It’s little wonder why his shadowy benefactor assigns him the code name “D” for Dangerous!

Before we took our first ship out of the station D was to make his escape from, we had a chance to look it over. Suffice it to say the player certainly doesn’t start off wanting for weaponry! As in GPA, numerous weapons systems are outfitted on the player’s ship at any given moment — a laser beam, two missile launchers, and two turrets in the web demo we played. There appears to be a pretty meaty RPG-style skill system for distributing experience points among all these, in addition to non-weapons skills to enhance navigation and haggling at shops.

Naturally the space station’s defenses sprung on us the moment we shoved off with D, so we got to learn the ropes of the game’s battle system. Dangerous offers something of a compromise to all those who loved letting loose a battery of different weapons in GPA, yet wanted Galaxy on Fire 2’s freedom to explore and pick fights with neutral ships. The player is free to treat Dangerous’ battles as manually controlled dog fights, in which case a laser and the UI’s speed slider come in handy. However, the many virtual buttons linked to weaponry and movement presets lend the game more heavily to an auto-pilot approach: instruct your ship to tail an enemy or keep a constant distance, flip on the missile launchers and turrets, and then focus on managing targets and regenerating your ship’s shields. Different movement presets appear to have advantages and drawbacks; maintaining a constant distance from the target improves turret accuracy but leaves the player’s ship open to enemy attacks in turn. No doubt each player will gradually develop his or her own creative strategy given the flexibility here.

Quite a few virtual buttons are set to populate the touchscreen depending on the number of weapons the player has equipped, so don’t hold your breath for a joystick on top of it all! The web demo indicated that touch and tilt controls are on offer for those who want to wander the cosmos without a leash. Again, exploration has taken the compromise approach; busting up asteroids for saleable ore is just about the only activity that requires free flying from what we’ve tried out so far. Otherwise, the player can select local ships to engage from a target list, or use virtual buttons for automated navigation toward star ports and warp gates. Dangerous features shopping and quest systems that will be familiar to any fan of iOS space sims by now.

The things that stand to set Dangerous apart from its genre predecessors are also those we haven’t had a chance to try out yet. In addition to an impressively multi-layered allegiance system and the possibility of traveling with two allied ships, Binary Helix appears to have some menu infrastructure in place for planetary visits. Like, the get-out-of-your-ship kind! A prototype of this feature was shown off in very early preview footage that’s over a year old by now, but no word yet on whether it will appear in the quests available at release.

We were also excited to find out that Sean Beeson’s scoring this one — that would be the same Sean Beeson who composed a marvelous steampunk/fantasy soundtrack for last year’s Steam Pirates. We’re grooving to the sometimes electronica, sometimes orchestral Dangerous soundtrack right now as a matter of fact, and you can too at Binary Helix’s bandcamp page! Also check out hundreds of tracks from the composer’s previous work. Binary Helix has yet to toss up a full social media blitz for Dangerous, but here’s their website under construction and latest preview video in the meantime: