From Space is a gorgeous sci-fi shooter with glaring accessibility and diversity issues

Posted on November 20, 2022

When first laying eyes on From Space, the stylisation and concept are what catch your attention. The bright pink aliens in an 80’s setting are endearing. The alien introductions and cute design make it a family-friendly experience, meant to be quirky and fun. Unfortunately, fun wouldn’t be the word to describe the experience I had while playing From Space.

From Space is an action shooter with online co-op play for up to four players. The aliens have come and it is up to you to save the world. The game opens with a gorgeous cinematic that explains the state of the world in 1986. You play a specialist that is Earth’s main defence. There are 3 classes and 2 jobs within each, offering a different set of abilities, featured weapons and a varied playstyle depending on your choices. From miniguns and snipers to flamethrowers and rocket launchers, there is a specialist for all. On top of the weapons, there are also different tactical items to pick up along the way like barbed wire, mines, and grenades. Whilst this isn’t a looter shooter, there are plenty of options available.

Whilst gameplay options are aplenty, fewer options are found within the cast of characters. As far as diversity goes, this game gets a big thumbs down. There is a single female and person of colour to choose from the lineup of white male characters. In a cast of six playable characters, it just didn’t seem like enough.

The gameplay is smooth and easy to pick up. The controller setup makes it easy for you to swap out weapons and tactical gear easily on the fly. Healing is also something that each player has access to so there is no need for a specific healing class. The accuracy of the weapon’s fire isn’t something to write home about. However, the game lends itself to be a ‘spray and pray’ style of game. The game offers plenty of ammo pickups when you find them, and there is no loot sharing as everyone gets their own chest and ammo, which is neat! 

The maps offer differing interactive environment objects that can help or hinder your game. Blowing up cars and trucks is a good way to damage lots of aliens, but it also runs the risk of engulfing your friends. Electric nodes and acid spills also provide environmental hazards for you to navigate through. It gives the world life and unpredictability. You find out quickly you aren’t the only survivors and you’ll find yourself assisting and escorting survivors with quests and side quests to achieve. This included retrieving items that you need to hold onto and not drop, and other times escort missions where you need to keep someone alive. This helped break up the mindless shooting aspect and helped give a different objective.

The soundtrack is one of the crowning features of the game. The banging music rises and falls depending on what your squad is doing on the field. It really gets the energy up and gets the player pumped up when aliens swarm and the music crescendos. It’s almost a shame when the swarm is over as the music slowly fades away to the silence of the empty city streets. The soundtrack is available to purchase alongside the game for those who appreciate the 80’s themed tunes.

It is really important to discuss the accessibility and the difficulty of From Space. There seems to be a really steep difficulty curve in the enemies alongside an old-school save system that causes a lot of frustration. The first map outside of the tutorial is always meant to be the hook that draws the player in, gives them the ability to understand how the game works, and grows their confidence and interest in the game. There are a lot of introduced enemies in the first map and one, in particular, put the game at a standstill. It is never fun to be repeatedly restarting to get a quest done. The game is punishingly difficult no matter how many people are in your squad. Attempting it solo is meant to be the challenge, however, this wasn’t the case. From Space markets itself as “an accessible co-op experience – perfect for everyone of all abilities to get involved”, however, we did not find this to be true. There is a lack of difficulty options or accessibility features which means it’s impossible to tailor your experience to your needs or skill level.

It’s never something one sets out to do, however, there is no nice way of putting it. From Space is a gorgeous sci-fi-themed twin-stick shooter with glaring accessibility and diversity issues. As it is currently, there is still a lot of balancing to be done. Frustration overcomes the fun and not being able to complete the first map without repeatedly having to restart causes the controller to be set down and the game turned off and forgotten. In a world where Styeam libraries have hundreds of options, From Space will be lost. It is a real shame because the concept of the game is brilliant. The execution just leaves a lot to be desired.