Galaxy on Fire 2 in Review – This galaxy ain’t big enough for the both of us!

Quality space-sims are far and few between even on the PC, especially if we’re talking about the open-world variety. There is the classic Elite, Origin’s Privateer series and the fantastic X-series. That’s about it. Of course one might say it’s a bit of a niche genre, but I say – to hell with that, it’s just so much fun! So after spending a considerable amount of time with FISHLABS’ sequel Galaxy on Fire 2, I can attest that we finally have a worthy entry in the genre on the iDevice.

Galaxy on Fire 2 is a classic open-world 3D space sim, one of the few that’s ever hit the iDevice. Thanks to a malfunction in the warp drive our alter-ego of the previous installment is sent through space and time into the near future. And on a crippled ship no less! Now having lost everything and piloting literally a heap of garbage, he manages to reach his home system only to find it ravaged by the mysterious alien ships, appearing out of nowhere and wreaking havoc on the the general popualtion.

Playing Galaxy on Fire 2 reminded me a lot of the very first game in the X series, both in terms of gameplay and story. The whole galaxy is split into sectors with a number of stations in each. You can move around freely within a sector (with instant autopiloting between station areas) or use a jumpgate near one of the stations to warp to a neighbouring sector. And after you get the Khador drive you can hop across the universe in large swoops, though at the cost of energy cells. Most of the game you’ll find yourself gazing across the top of your vessel at the universe beyond, mercilessly destroying foes and exploring new horizons. Space IS the final frontier, you know…

The most welcome surprise for me was the wide array of ways to occupy yourself. You can stick to the story and conscientiously save the universe, go on a tangent and execute random missions, spend your time industriously mining the asteroid fields, trade goods across stations or even go and become a pirate to hunt such traders yourself. The hub of activity on any station is the Space Lounge where you can take up a mission (though only one at a time), buy some goods (and sometimes get ripped off) or if you’re really lucky – obtain a blueprint for a state of the art piece of equipment or a set of coordinates for a previously unknown system.

Another delightful surprise was the superb amount of customization opportunities. You’re not stuck with the same old bucket of bolts for the whole game, instead you can buy new ships with stats that best suit your game style on various stations. You can also outfit it to your liking with weapons, missiles and equipment with some original pieces, like a cloaking field (also eats up Energy Cells) or a repair bot. And if nothing suits your fancy you can also make some powerful devices using a blueprint and by supplying a station with the required resources.

Galaxy on Fire 2′s open-world environment really excels as it sparkles with distant stars and nebulas, casting beautiful shadows on the stations and ships around you. Taking full advantage of the Retina display, you’ll find it easy to get shot down by enemy ships simply because you were too busy gazing at stars and planets around you. To help you avoid this unfortunate event, the developers have included an Action Freeze function, one that puts the world on hold and allows you to rotate the camera as you please and create beautiful screenshots.

Of course Galaxy on Fire 2 isn’t quite perfect, with the biggest issue being the controls and interface. The latter works well in most cases though some simple things are missing, like an aiming aid (it’s almost impossible to see where and how fast the enemy is flying, so most of hitting will be done head-on and up close and personal) or the option to plot a course right in space, rather than at a station. Speaking of the controls, Galaxy on Fire 2 offers 2 schemes – an accelerometer and a virtual joystick. You can forget about using the accelerometer one right off the bat; they’re too imprecise and simply impossible to use. Why the devs didn’t include support for the iPhone 4’s gyroscope remains a mystery to me. The virtual joystick is the only method left and is workable after you get used to it. The real complaint is that it’s simply far too small and the slightest shift of your thumb can send you spinning off in the wrong direction.

Despite these issues, Galaxy on Fire 2 is still one of the most fun and addictive games I played in a long time and one of the few that I found myself thinking about even without the iPhone in hand. The deep and involving gameplay goes far beyond following the simplistic storyline, giving the gorgeously rendered and massive galaxy to you on a platter. If there is even a tiny bit of a space explorer in you, Galaxy on Fire 2 is definitely a must-have game that will suck you in for a good 20 hours or so.

With this I declare Galaxy on Fire 2™ officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Galaxy on Fire 2™Developer: FISHLABS
Reviewed Ver:1.0.1Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$6.99App Size:108.32MB
  • Detailed colourful high-quality graphics with full Retina support
  • A true open world for you to explore
  • Many ways of occupying yourself
  • Lots of customization options
  • Difficult to master controls
  • Absence of some intuitive interface features, like tap to lock or aiming aid

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In search of other Space themed games on the iDevice? Take a look at these TMA reviews:

  • Dominus

    Your gripes about the controls seem extreme. I use the iPhone 4 accelerometer control just fine while the virtual stick is awkward. GoF2 is fantastic overall, but I do agree that some “in station” navigation — such as mapping courses, or even being able to map to systems several gate away, being awkward. That said, for an iOS game it’s really stellar (ooo bad pun). I wish they’d add it some method of capturing larger vessels, or even smaller opponent ships, so you could board/commandeer them such as in the old EV Nova-style of space opera. The value to that is that it means not all ships can be purchased (especially the best ones), so you have to learn to be willing to board/salvage them; this could even be done as a FPS style mini-game or some puzzle game.

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