Valerian: City of Alpha is the official mobile game of Luc Besson’s upcoming sci-fi movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Having seen the stunning trailers for the movie I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the game or how it could possibly compare.
For some reason games based on movies and vice versa, rarely seem to turn out all that well. They often try too hard to replicate each other and the result just isn’t as good which spoils the experience. With this in mind I was a little apprehensive before diving into Valerian: City of Alpha.
Developer Spil Games has created a prequel which begins in the year 2152, nearly 600 years before the events of the movie. I think this is a really smart move to allow more freedom with the material. If the game had been restricted to just the content of the movie it would have been very different.
Watch the Valerian: City of Alpha trailer below:
Valerian: City of Alpha is a free-to-play game that falls into the strategy genre. Initially it puts you in charge of a small space station, called Alpha, that orbits Earth. Your job is to manage the growth of Alpha over many years to turn it into the huge metropolis (The City of a Thousand Planets) seen in the movie.
Alpha is home to humans from around the world until a friendly alien species called the Kortan Dahuk arrive. Your first task is to get them settled by creating them a habitat in the starting district. Districts are the different zones of the station and are represented by a hexagonal grid. Each cell can contain a single habitat to home a species but many of them are locked to begin with.
When accepting a new species on Alpha and creating their habitat, some thought is required. You can place them wherever you like but it’s worth placing them adjacent to species that they can work with. Each species are assigned a category and have resources they are able to produce. However, to do so they need to be next to a species who can help.
For example, humans fall under Technology and can produce uranium but need a neighbour in the Culture & Knowledge category. The Kortan Dahuk are a perfect partner for humans. Similarly the Kortan Dahuk can create computer chips but need a Radioactive neighbour such as the Mercury species. These happen to need a Technology species as well, to produce their Carbon Fiber, so grouping these three species together allows them to help each other.
Once in the right configuration, each species will create a set amount of the resource they can produce every few minutes. When resources have been produced you must tap on it to collect. Each new production is only stacked until you hit the stack limit. To produce maximum resources you need to keep collecting what has been made or production will cease when the limit is hit.
The Command Center is the main place for you to visit. It gives you access to your objectives and reputation. Objectives show you what you need to do to complete the next story mission. Requirements for completion include missions, resources and crafted items. Reputation tracks your interactions with each species and when things go well your reputation increases.
Carrying out missions requires a space ship and crew members. The game gives you one ship and one crew member to begin with. These are based on Alpha and each has a power rating. When you want to leave Alpha you need to assign a crew member to a ship and then launch the ship.
Ships each have an energy level that is consumed by relocating your ship or tackling missions. A ship will recover small amounts of energy while away from Alpha but it takes a long time. A better option, when energy is low, is to fly a ship back to an Alpha docking bay where it will recover energy much more quickly.
Another important area is the space map which lets you see where all your ships are and the missions discovered. Initially you only have access to a small sector of space that contains six galaxies, including the Milky Way. Each has a set range which indicates the power level you need to tackle missions there.
After dispatching a ship to a galaxy you need to scan the area to find missions. These appear on the space map and you can tap them to find out the mission briefing. This also tells you your combined ship and crew power rating, the recommended rating for the mission, the energy requirement and the level of risk involved in attempting it.
When you tackle a mission you are given a brief couple of sentences explaining what it entails. Missions are split up into three parts and each presents you with an often humorous dilemma. To complete each part you are presented with three possible solutions, each has it’s own risk and rewards. For example you might find an apparently empty ship floating in space. Do you scan for life, board it or destroy it?
Choosing a successful solution will reward you with all kinds of things including units (in-game money), reputation boosts, resources, items and blueprints. Failing will often cost you energy and decrease your reputation with a related species.
The initial missions are easy to get you into the game. An early one sees you needing to relocate the entire Alpha station away from Earth. Later on when your technology improves you can push deeper into space to discover new sectors and galaxy clusters to explore.
The final thing for you to manage is your factory aboard Alpha. Here you can use your resources to craft new items to improve your crew and ships. Accumulating the resources needed takes a lot of time and you also have to wait as items are built. Before you can build most items you need to find the relevant blueprint. Some of these are permanent while others are single use.
Graphically the game looks gorgeous with absolutely stunning artwork throughout. The areas you can visit on Alpha have full 3D environments in the background. My favourite was seeing the Alpha space station growing and full of detail as hundreds of space ships zoom around the screen.
View some Valerian: City of Alpha screenshots in our gallery:
Being a free-to-play game, Valerian: City of Alpha needs a way to make money. There are crystals called Simors that you occasionally earn through play that can also be bought with your hard-earned real-life cash. These can be traded for units, used to buy resources or to speed up research and building. As usual small packs of these are cheap starting at £1.49 for 165 and go up to £79.99 for 15,000. As an example, in my hours of play I’ve earned almost 100 Simors. To buy the resources I needed for the third ship you can make would have cost me almost 7,000 Simors which is nearly £40!
Valerian: City of Alpha is a brilliant introduction to the Valerian Universe. It’s well worth playing if you’re planning on seeing the movie or a fan of strategy titles. It takes a bit of getting into but once you do it’s hard to put down. There is so much to do I can see myself coming back to it for a long time. Recommended.
Valerian: City of Alpha was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the developer. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will launch in the United Kingdom beginning August 2, 2017.
Publisher: Spil Games Developer: Spil Games Release Date: July 12, 2017 Reviewed On: Android Also Available On: iOS