Mission Europa Hands-On Preview

No astronomy buff in their right mind would pass up a trip to Jupiter’s most famous moon! That might be why  the player’s character in Mission Europa suited up for the long trip, but this is no mere Jovian sight seeing joyride: the titular mission’s goal is to discover what happened to a Europan mining outpost that’s gone completely silent. If the game’s startup screen doesn’t make it patently clear that whatever’s down there isn’t particularly friendly, the fact that the player character’s ship gets zapped upon approach to Europa should. Having survived a crash landing, the player’s character finds an ally in a ghostly holographic AI that will hopefully help him make a return trip home from what has become Hell frozen over — or at least help him survive long enough to unravel the mystery behind the mining colony’s demise.

From a game design perspective it’s difficult to decide whether Mission Europa should be categorized first as an Action RPG or a First Person Shooter. That should come as excellent news to fans of both genres, as the blended result furnishes an experience that manages to remain true to the core principles of each while providing something quite out of the ordinary for iOS gamers who have stuck exclusively with one or the other until now.

Scenario wise, it’s clear that iOS Action RPG fans – fed up as they must be with medieval fantasy tropes by now – will benefit more from Mission Europa‘s sci fi premise. It operates on the tried-and-true fetch quest model, but with an all-important difference: the quests are intuitive within the context of Mission Europa‘s plot. The player gets the impression that his or her character is one half space marine and one half technical wizard; when the supercomputer that keeps the player company finds this out, it immediately tasks the player with delving into Europa’s abandoned mine, dispatching unfriendly creatures within and fetching from their metallic carcasses materials needed to repair the computer itself. In return, the computer gradually satisfies the player’s curiosity by serving up bits and pieces of records from its memory banks. As such, the mine shaft appears to serve as the game’s sole dungeon, but with 50 levels in the full version and varied environments buried within, it’s sure to provide the Action RPG veteran as meaty an adventure as the genre is known for.

Mission Europa‘s First Person Shooter approach to combat – complete with dual wielding once the player character develops the appropriate skill – should be a real treat for Action RPG fans. Separate virtual buttons are devoted to right and left-hand weapons; a fluid joystick-driven movement system emphasizes careful dodging and re-aiming over button mashing. Game mechanics the Action RPG genre has implemented consistently well on the iOS – particularly minimaps, quest lists, item forging, stat management, and quest completion markers – all make a welcome return in Mission Europa. Also expected are the hundreds of items, weapons, and pieces of armor sure to flow in and out of the player’s inventory during the course of the game.

BansheeSoft wisely allows the player to re-define button positions via an in-game options menu, and this comes in handy for making sure the virtual buttons don’t interfere with the swipe-to-tilt camera system. The player will make judicious use of this swipe camera to keep enemies within the small target reticle, a process in and of itself thanks to the recoil of long range weaponry. First Person Shooter veterans might be surprised at how useful short range weapons are in Mission Europa thanks to their lack of recoil and reloading. If damage and experience numbers popping up onscreen strike the FPS genre vet as something likely to get in the way, why, the player can make those disappear at will. The preview build makes it obvious that BansheeSoft aims to please as many gamers as possible with the amount of customization on offer.

In addition to the single-player story mode, Mission Europa will offer arena style multiplayer deathmatches accessible through a portal on the moon’s surface. The preview build also suggests players can send items and messages to one another once the game releases, so there’s great potential here for organizing item exchanges and challenging other players to duels via social media or online forums. Mission Europa appears as if it will release soon with a pay-per-episode price model: the initial purchase price allows the player to access one set of mine levels and the associated story arc, and the rest of the game can be purchased in segments or all at once at reduced price.

Check back with iFanzine for a full review once Mission Europa releases!