Stellaris is a large name in the strategy game genre, as Paradox’s sci-fi game has continued to grow and expand since its 2016 launch. Now, the Stellaris universe is growing with a spin-off title from a new developer. Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game is a VR action roguelite developed by Fast Travel Games that succeeds at providing a fresh take on the Stellaris universe, but doesn’t fully take advantage of the unique medium of VR.
Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game finds players as the captain of the Aurora, a small but mighty ship traveling through the galaxy. After receiving a mystery signal, a Ghost Signal, if you will, you’re tasked with finding its source. Thus begins a treacherous journey across space as you navigate asteroid fields and waves of enemies.
When it comes to adventure, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. While I wasn’t all that invested in the Ghost Signal and its source, I did enjoy jumping through space and interacting with various creatures, both friend and foe. This included my robotic companion that provided exposition and information about the universe. During my adventure, I used the logbook to register information about the variety of creatures in space as I endeavored to learn more about them and uncover the source of the signal.
In Ghost Signal, you make your way through different Sectors. You’re given the choice to take different paths through a Sector, which will bring you to a range of different encounters. This includes standard battles, shops, bosses, and more. Deciding how to chart your path through a Sector in a way that isn’t overwhelmingly challenging but remains beneficial and efficient is part of the strategy.
In battle, you command the Aurora as enemies attack the ship in real-time. Playing on the Meta Quest 2, the two controllers are used to guide the ship and fire weapons. The buttons are used to plot out a directional path and activate boosts. The triggers are used to fire standard ammunition, lasers, and missiles. The three types of attacks are suited to damage different ships and armor types, and quickly swapping between them is the key to mastering combat.
To upgrade the Aurora, you need to collect Scrap and other resources during your adventure. This is done through destroying enemy ships and asteroids. Using the left hand controller, you can scan resources to gather and store them in your inventory. When you stop at shops along a Sector, you can by upgrades to your hull, shields, and weapons.
While you can’t directly team up with or face other players, Ghost Signal has a few features that make you feel less than alone in the vast loneliness of space. There are global and local leaderboards that show how you stack up against friends and other players around the world. While on your own adventure, you can find the destroyed remains of other players’ ships and gather resources from them.
Lost in translation
The combat in Ghost Signal was enjoyable and I found myself getting into a comfortable rhythm of destroying ships, gathering Scrap, and upgrading the Aurora, I couldn’t help but feel like it was lacking in overall immersion. Playing with a third-person view, you primarily command the Aurora using buttons and analog sticks. You can grab and drag the landscape to properly readjust, which is fun when you place yourself in the center of the action, but that’s about as far as the immersion goes.
It would be awesome if Ghost Signal allowed me to physically grab a flight stick and steer my ship, or get a first-person view from within the Aurora’s cockpit as enemy ships try to crash into me. Since Stellaris is a very zoomed out, large-scale strategy experience, I was hoping that Ghost Signal would be more of an intimate experience. I appreciated the fact the game can be played while seated, but it doesn’t feel like Ghost Signal would play all that differently if it was on an Xbox or PlayStation.
Scattered like stars in the galaxy
Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game presents a neat take on the popular sci-fi universe that’s easy to understand and challenging throughout. It’s satisfying gameplay loop was enough to keep me moving through Sectors and upgrading the Aurora, but I’m just not sure it warrants being an exclusive VR experience.
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game is available now for Meta Quest 2.
Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game
- Solid roguelite gameplay loop
- A change of pace from Stellaris
- Expands the universe in a meaningful way
- Doesn't take advantage of VR technology
- Narrative didn't grab me