Brought to us by Blowfish Studios, Subdivision Infinity DX is a 3D action game set in a distant galaxy, against a sci-fi backdrop and set to a synthesized soundtrack reminiscent of Tron. Having been originally launched on iOS in 2017, has the developer done enough to make the jump onto home consoles in 2019?
The campaign in Subdivision Infinity DX tells a linear, somewhat lifeless, story which we won’t spoil here. For most of that campaign you are alone, playing as the plucky young pilot thrust into an intergalactic conspiracy but accompanied by an AI who tries a little too hard to be funny. Eventually a few allies show up but you are for the majority vastly outnumbered and more importantly outgunned.
Subdivision Infinity DX encompasses five different areas, each with a selection of missions which need to be completed before the story progresses and new areas are opened up. At the end of every set of missions await a boss fight (imaginatively named Boss fight) and an exploration option, allowing free roam for mining resources or other rewards. Rather than utilize the in game engine and cut scenes to drive immersion in the story and universe, each level ends back at the hanger. There is also no real free roam between areas despite the usage of the unlocked jump gate at the end of each set of missions. I would have liked to have seen something that flows better without abruptly ending a mission; keeping the player in the field and allowing docking for upgrades and shopping with an ability to roam through the unlocked gates to the later areas. This would likely break the current pick up and play style.
You can at any time choose to replay previous missions to gain credits, gear crates and rewards you missed the first time around allowing you a potentially easier ride through those difficult later areas. Replaying those levels won’t deliver the full reward if you already earned it previously though, just a marginal one in any credits or salvage from destroyed enemies. The grind could be tedious if you make some poor choices in spending your credits. The game also opts for a third person outside ship view only which seems like a missed opportunity to show off the skills of the designers since the environments and models are amongst its greatest strengths and the game starts with an interior view as you first leave the hanger.
Each exploration level offers a number of hidden containers to locate, these are a nightmare to spot, and a number are very difficult and confusing to navigate to. You can purchase radar drones to locate one of said containers at 5k a pop — this turns very quickly into the only viable option without burning days searching every nook and cranny but grinding the mining of asteroids for resources to sell is fairly monotonous. Patience and commitment here however, rewards the player with blueprints to allow you access to a number of exclusive ships which can only be crafted.
Between missions you have the choice to check out your hanger where you can purchase new ships with credits and crafting materials or choose to evolve each craft into a better, meaner version. Unfortunately evolution of each craft means the same upgrade in every case, 25% more armour & cargo space, you also get a new paint job but it would have been nice to see some other variety here like speed bonuses or weapon slots dependent on the ship upgraded. The shop is also present here for offensive and explorative upgrades, each having a unique set of statistics for damage, cool down and clip size. Weapons purchased can be swapped out in the inventory and again upgraded with the right components into higher damage variants.
Upgrades aside, the game really lacks variety in its campaign missions and by the time you reach mid way you will most likely be sick of the idea of flying to point A, shooting bad guys and then flying to point B, repeated ad nauseum. This isn’t helped by the lack of radio chatter, voice overs or any contact whatsoever. Even story cut scenes are told with pre-rendered flat images and overlay text. There’s nothing to connect you with the characters, heroes or villains and it just kind of feels soulless and dead — I don’t think I cared about the actual story after the first three missions. With the right score instead of the pounding arcade soundtrack, the ambiance could have been haunting and beautiful given the scenic views on offer. It’s not terrible in the midst of action, but when it’s still blasting out whilst navigating tunnels of a mining station or asteroid it generally feels out of place.
All ship weaponry comes with auto targeting within a specific field, there’s no option to turn this off and every weapon or ship has the same targeting reticle. This feels like each weapon then functions in the same way; they don’t as they fire in different patterns and speeds but very quickly you just hold the fire button and unleash hell. You can also reload manually or automatically if the clip empties, its meant to be strategic but since ammo is unlimited it very rarely makes a difference, it just prolongs a firefight for another five seconds.
The action is fast and frantic although some variation would have been welcome in the enemy types, since again, repetition sets in fairly quickly, the main differences being additions of shields and more armour points as you progress. Boss enemies start to appear in regular missions although if you are upgrading regularly both your ship and weaponry it becomes trivial to take out the battleship who caused so much trouble in Mission five.
Utilizing Unreal Engine 4 to render some pretty spectacular vistas, Subdivision Infinity DX looks great considering it’s install size, light sources reflect nicely from metallic and crystalline structures and some complex shadows are created from distant stars beaming through asteroid fields or ship debris. The Xbox One version we reviewed also played at 4K with no issues and looks crisp and fresh.
Asteroids weirdly can only be cracked open with the mining tool, it seems odd since the weapon descriptions in the shop and inventory suggest mini nuke capabilities. Also once smashed open they simply disappear from the field after 5-10 seconds. The hardware obviously has no issue with the complexity of the design as there is no slowdown at all and maybe a better option would have been to remove them from the field after the player had moved a certain distance away.
Instant gratification through a collection of short gaming sessions is likely the best way to consume Subdivision Infinity DX, this likely stems from its heritage as a mobile / tablet game but I do feel the developers missed a real opportunity here to address another audience with plenty of new features and upgrades, instead it feels like a re-release that falls flat due to the lack of variety, atmosphere or depth. It’s a shame since the game controls well and looks the part.
We also encountered an annoying bug in our play test. Randomly the save file would corrupt showing your current progress but act as if you just started the game and remove all your weapons, cash and level leaving you with some asteroid dust at back mission one. A reinstall didn’t fix this and we had to start again after eight hours play twice. Hopefully this gets patched out fairly quickly on release