Master of casual King has been turning its attention to slightly deeper, meatier fare of late. Stellar: Galaxy Commander is the perfect example of its recent midcore offerings.
Having recently soft-launch on iOS and Android, I thought I'd give this interesting mix of match-three and sci-fi strategy a preliminary systems diagnostic.
Mighty and magical
It might look like a cartoony take on Battlestar Galactica, but in terms of gaming Stellar: Galaxy Commander will probably remind you of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes.
Just as in Tag Games's classic, you're shuffling around units - here star fighters - in an basic grid, matching them according to type and colour. Combining certain types into clusters will create all-new units with their own destructive capabilities.
For example, a vertical row of four ships will create a lancing laser ship that cuts straight ahead through multiple opponents. Four in a square creates a bomber, which can punch a wide hole through the first few rows.
Command and conquer
Your opponent is doing the same at the opposite end of the screen. After two moves each, the battle phase commences, and your two fleets open fire on each other.
The damage they cause depends on each unit's level and type. Should you blast clear through the enemy lines, you'll expose their mothership to a direct attack.
Each commander (there are loads to unlock and choose from) also has their own special move, which builds up several times over the course of a match. These take up one of your two moves, but can confer benefits like recharging your mothership's shield, calling in reinforcements, or blitzing the enemy's front line.
Aiming for the stars
The key point to note with Stellar: Galaxy Commander is the fact that its battles are PvP. Knowing there's a real player on the other end of game grid, as always, adds an extra frisson of excitement.
I've played through the first set of levels in Stellar: Galaxy Commander - there's a fairly typical freemium structure here of levelling up and unlocking new units - and I'm enjoying it so far.
As always, it will take some time with a finished build to discern whether King has the freemium balance right here. We also need to establish if the limited interactions you get in each match provide sufficient strategic scope, as it's a very brisk affair.
I'm not sure if the sky's the limit for King's latest offering, but there's definitely plenty of space for this kind of thing on the App Store.