This Early Access title from indie developer Team V, is a wonderful experience. Stardrop provides tension, a fascinating story, engaging characters and an environment that draws you in. An extremely competent effort in game design with a minimal list of flaws, that shows great promise of a wonderful finished product.
In Stardrop, you play as Aryn Vance, who is part of a two-person team responsible for carrying out salvage and rescue operations in the distant future. You and your teammate, John, take on a mission to investigate a ship with an unconventional ID code, stranded far away from your usual routes. This ship presents a mystery before you even get on board, but the intrigue continues to increase steadily as you progress.
The pace of the game is ideal. There is minimal danger but plenty of tension, resulting in a game that often keeps you feeling as though something is about to go wrong. As you move through the game this sense of tension gradually dissipates as the lack of actual danger becomes apparent. However, this is a false sense of security and the timing of the events at the end of the current last chapter is perfect. Stardrop is not a horror game, but it uses thriller elements that are implemented very effectively and create wonderfully constructed moments of calm contrasted with brief spikes of fear and prolonged segments of uncertainty. These elements present an emotionally engaging experience that moves at an ideal pace for the player to partake in the exploration of each level without feeling rushed or pressured, but while remaining slightly on edge for the most part.
The gameplay itself is very simple, featuring fairly basic puzzles that present no real obstacle to the player. It is apparent that the gameplay elements are not the focus and that this is a casual experience with regards to gameplay difficulty, but for a lot of players, the story will be engaging enough for the lack of gameplay difficulty to not present a drawback. The UI interaction is generally quite smooth, although in segments when you need to refer to the map regularly, it can start to feel quite clunky and potentially frustrating.
As well as the story being great, the dialogue is very well done. The relationship between the two main characters feels very natural and their interactions with each other move between being more professional and more playful at a pace that is believable, at no point feeling forced or awkward.
Graphically, there is nothing especially phenomenal about the game, but the visuals are nice enough and work well with the rest of the story and gameplay elements. The light effects are good and the textures are generally well made with plenty of detail invested in the smaller objects around the levels. This certainly enhances the feeling of completeness as you make your way through the game. Each room has a sufficient level of detail and no room feels too cluttered or too empty.
The soundtrack is fantastic, fitting in well with the atmosphere of each part of the game. Music is subtle where it needs to be and more prominent at appropriate points, adding to the immersion and investment in the story.
In its current state, Stardrop features three chapters and ends on a cliffhanger. It’s uncertain what the development speed for this game is and there isn’t an obvious roadmap for updates, but so far it seems updates have been occurring on a monthly basis. As it stands with 2-4 hours of gameplay, the price tag may feel a bit much for some, but the story is so far shaping up to be excellent and offers the player a lot of confidence in the finished product being well worth the time and money