Ancient Frontier-Steel Shadows (PC) Review
Very Deep Gameplay
Fully customizable units
Insanely customizable units
Might not be the best part to jump into the series
Some people are happy to just have a cast of characters that have a detailed back story, some make an entire universe in background. Then you have Ancient Frontier-Steel Shadows that raises that bar even higher with entirely customizable units, tech trees, and pilots for aforementioned units. The amount of nuance that the player is able to achieve in any one battle is staggering, which is then doubled down by the fact that everything is then back by a universe of lore.
The giant elephant in the room is, of course, the fact that Steel Shadows in not the first game in the franchise and is not the place to get used to the experience. The title makes all efforts to allow new comers to become adjusted to the gameplay, but sometimes this feels like throwing someone in the deep end with a pool noodle. It is doable, functional, and the entire process can be staggered through, but at all times it feels like it would be more enjoyable if it had been started at a gentler incline.
When the game is in motion, though, there is nothing but a deep and enjoyable hex-based RTS title that is refreshing in the fact of its space battle setting alone. At no moment does Ancient Frontier do anything that other games haven’t done before, but it manages to it well and competently. It also manages to never make the player feel like any one move is their fault, and that there would always have been a better tactical way to handle most battles—something that most RTS titles struggle with.
Steel Shadows is a good game, it only suffers because the first several titles are a requirement before starting it. It is almost a certainty that with those experienced this would have been a more enjoyable game. Sadly that was not the case at the time of this writing, and it ends up being a more confusing title that simply leaves everyone wanting more—which the series is happy to supply. For any hardcore RTS fan out there, think about picking up this series during the next Steam sale.