Ultraviolet Dawn in Review – More like dusk than dawn…

Open-world space shooting/trading games have not had much of a track record on the iDevice. On the upside there are the excellent Warpgate (TMA Review) and Space Miner: Space Ore Bust (TMA Review), though the former can’t really be called a space shooter and the latter isn’t quite open world. The title that could most closely fit the bill is Flatspace (TMA Review) but the poor interface pushes the game under. And now Sad Cat Software, authors of the highly acclaimed Project Phoenix (TMA Review) have released Ultraviolet Dawn to claim the genre for their own. Can they succeed?

Ultraviolet Dawn is an open world dual-stick space shooter that tries to deliver the spirit of Elite in the palm of your hand. There is no campaign or even any storyline to speak of and you’re immediately thrown into the fray. Instead the developers advertise “no single predefined way to play”. In reality this means that at no time do you actually know where you’re going and what you’re supposed to do.

Maybe the gameplay is so involving that the story doesn’t matter? After all, exploring the universe of 1000+ stars sounds thrilling! “Stars” isn’t the correct term though – there aren’t stars, or even planets to land on. Instead all “ground” interaction is done at Space Stations. And don’t worry about getting lost in space – you can’t leave a space station without selecting a new destination. No really, you CAN’T.

Moving through the void uses the classic dual-stick mechanic, or, rather, a single directional pad and a fire button. But how would I reach the far far away destination, would you ask? Yes, you guessed it, you gather your patience and hold the d-pad to follow the target arrow. You can use the hyperdrive with autopilot, though, which essentially does the same thing but faster.

Technology in Ultraviolet Dawn has reached unimaginable heights and space ships have no inertia whatsoever. And while this may sound like a nice choice for beginners considering the weapons are fixed to fire forward, this makes combat a pain, since all ships can immediately evade the barrage and there is no way to compensate.

Maybe the RPG element can salvage what’s left of the game? After all, there are “quests”, as well as trading and upgrading opportunities, right? First of all, let’s talk about quests – they consist of the good old search-and-destroy, escort and deliver cargo. Just take a quest and complete it, right? Wrong. In reality there is virtually no way to complete a quest, other than accidentally because there is NO quest-log whatsoever and NO way to track what missions you accepted and what you have to do to finish it.

Talking about trading – there is truly not much any developer can do to botch it up, so this area is fairly straightforward. But what to do with the earned cash? Well, you have 8 ships to choose from, with 6 being fighters of various shapes and sizes, one gunship and one trading shuttle. A strange decision is giving you a starting ship that is actually MORE powerful that 2 of the fighters available for sale. Top it up with a bunch of weapons and a bit of upgradable equipment to get a reasonable array of stuff to buy. Unfortunately you can get most of it in the first hour or two of playing the game and the rest of the stuff just doesn’t give that oompf feeling.

The only really polished side of Ultraviolet Dawn is the graphics. Space is gorgeous and the ships are drawn with detail. The performance is far from ideal on the iPhone 3G however, especially when there’s a lot of fighting going on the screen.

There are so many things wrong with Ultraviolet Dawn that it’s hard to choose where to start. Probably the thing that really kills the game is actually the advertised “Open Worldness” – with over 1000 places to go to and no reason to go to any one of them, the game leaves you feeling lost and pointless. The equipment is too easy to obtain and doesn’t give you any real edge and the missions are simply broken. The combat design doesn’t help even a little bit, with any battle resorting to head-to-head pummeling and players hoping that the enemy will simply die before they do. Sorry, Sad Cat Software, but at the moment there is no way I could recommend Ultraviolet Dawn to anyone, be it a starving fan of the open world space genre or a casual gamer.

With this I declare Ultraviolet Dawn officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Ultraviolet Dawn Developer: Sad Cat Software
Reviewed Ver: 1.0 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $1.99 App Size: 10.18MB
  • Nice graphics
  • 1000+ star systems to explore
  • No storyline at all
  • Quest system broken
  • Poor combat
  • Almost all equipment too easily accessible
  • Just plain boring and pointless


Check out some of our other reviews in the “shooter” genre:

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