Space Station: Frontier is Part Tower Defense, Part RTS and Completely Fun Chaos

Sure, tower defense games are fun, but they are a dime a dozen. However, what if you could combine the automated ease of such a game with the pacing and resource management of a real-time strategy game? Oh wait, you can! Space Station: Frontier, a relatively young iPhone app from Origin8 Technologies does just that. The OpenFeint-powered title forces players to carefully pick and choose what to build, when to upgrade, and how much they should start praying as wave after wave of hostile aliens seek to destroy humanity’s hope.

Basically, Earth is out of resources and it’s up to the player to mine asteroids for raw materials. Problem is, you are light years away from home and there is a race of less than hospitable aliens that want you out. To make matters worse, they have a rather sizable armada to throw at you, and this space station of yours is for mining, not battle.

The game is broken up into two major categories of play: Survival and Mining. While these both become mini-games, they are what make up the app’s campaign mode. Through a simple tutorial, players learn about the three basic elements of Frontier which consists of energy, miners, and weapons as they either survive for X amount of time or mine Y amount of materials. Since the space station itself cannot move, energy nodes must be built to extend how far structures can reach. The initial node is placed and powered by the space station, and the player spider-webs them out into a network of defenses and mining facilities.

Each node can only hold four attachments, so already there is not only a limitation on resources but space as well. Once nodes are in place, defenses and miners can be attached. Miners will automatically recover resource from nearby asteroids and defenses will automatically attack anything in range.

Here’s the catch: Without power, nothing works, so players must not only build a defense network to defend the central station but power nodes as well. One breach, and it could be lights out for half your grid. This is made further complicated by the fact that difficulty does begin to ramp up drastically once you start feeling complacent. What is nice, however, is that players are given enough time to make tactical decisions due to early warnings that notify the location of incoming enemies, in addition to formulating strategies as they apply to the balance of weapons, power, and mining.

To add further depth, players will earn credits from completing campaign missions or from the Survival and Mining mini-games. These credits are then used to purchase new weapons and upgrades such as a tactical nuke for dealing with swarms of fighters, or lasers for intercepting missile. Furthermore, with the campaign difficulty increases, making use of these other modes to gather money for new technology actually becomes very important.

Honestly, the only complaint to be had with Space Station: Frontier is minor at best in that many of the weapons and enemies look very similar. Of course, with the utter chaos that ensues as levels go on, it is hardly something most users will worry about.

Frontier is easy to learn and difficult to master, which means you won’t get tired of it fast. It is further bolstered through social features powered by OpenFeint. Of course, this means leaderboards, but worth noting is that unlike other iPhone games that make use of such social platforms, Space Station: Frontier has a very impressive number of achievements to earn and show off.

The game has only been out since late December, so it hasn’t seen a lot of ratings from users yet. Part of the reason is likely the $2.99 price tag, which, while inexpensive in the grand scheme of things, probably deters a lot of users that come across it. That said, however, this is an app that is more than worth the cost and, quite frankly, as fun as most fully priced PC games. Granted, it doesn’t have quite the longevity of a $50 game, but Space Station: Frontier is more than good enough to have that potential, and could easily be something great with such a scale.