Although the job might seem glamorous at first, being a starship captain is a lot of work, as evidenced in the mobile game Star Traders: Frontiers. In this mobile open-world sim, RPG and strategy game, players step into the role of Captain, which means making sure that everything on the ship is, in fact, ship shape. Becoming a Captain means making sure that the ship stays well-maintained, keeping the crew stays happy and taking on good-paying missions to earn reputation with various political factions.
What's fascinating about Star Traders: Frontiers, which is a port from a PC game, is that all this work is kind of fun, even the day-to-day management of the crew, the ship's monies and cargo supplies. When the game begins, players can create a customized Captain and choose from over 26 jobs that include smuggler, spy, explorer, merchant, pirate, and bounty hunter. After that, a great adventure begins that allows players to do whatever they want. This means players can choose what missions they take (all are optional), where their spaceship goes and what they trade for goods, services, and money. The game combines a variety of styles to create this hodgepodge of an open world where nothing is off-limits. Although this kind of gameplay is a little overwhelming at first, it is incredibly liberating.
It's also incredibly challenging: throughout the spaceship's travels, which seem to happen in an endless open universe, there are random events that will affect the ship's standing with the various political factions that rule the universe. Sometimes that means submitting to government inspections, sometimes it means fighting, and at other times, it means bribing one's way out of a situation. Players can choose how to govern their ship, but they can also choose to support or not support particular political factions based on the missions they take. The game is dynamic, and because of that, all this choice means that players will never know what will happen next.
However, Star Traders: Frontiers gives the player so much choice that it often feels like it's too much, especially at the beginning. There are also no good tutorials explaining how everything works, so learning the game is a trial by fire: it takes some time to figure out. Players will probably face crew mutinies often early on because figuring out how to keep such a diverse group happy is very nearly impossible without understanding the game's many facets. And yes, that can happen: the crew will revolt if morale gets low enough.
There are also battles, which, fortunately, are easy to understand. In fights that happen on the ground, the captain chooses which crew members will engage. Everything is turn-based and functions much like any other RPG. Ship battles are also relatively easy to manage and work in much the same way. In particular though, ship battles often feel monotonous, and the game could use a way to speed through them without having to watch them occur in real time.
Star Traders: Frontiers' smaller details are really where the game shines. There are random chats with crew members that give the player a chance to get to know them and their personalities better. The character design is exceptional. Each planet also has its own look and feel with sci-fi artwork that adds to the game experience.
At times Star Traders: Frontiers has so much going on that it feels impossible to keep up with but that is also part of the game's beauty. It offers a truly open environment where the possibilities are endless, providing players with a good time while they're on the go.
Star Traders: Frontiers is available now on iOS and Android, as well as PC. Screen Rant was provided an early copy for Android for the purposes of this review.