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Rating Scale

Fun Factor:
Audience: If you read the above paragraph and found yourself agreeing with the sentiments found there, then this game might be for you. It’s got a lot of the action we love from our space sims, with none of the fat (i.e. heavy system requirements, tons of plot, bad acting, etc). It’s also very easy to get into and play for a while without getting bogged down by a scripted campaign. If you’re a fan of this genre, this game will probably appeal to you regardless.

Star Wraith
Publisher: Shareware
Developer: Topfiero
Review By: Brian Rubin
Published On: Monday, December 18, 2000


Space Combat sims have been around for a very long time, but it was the original Wing Commander that put the genre into the spotlight. These games give us heavy doses of sci-fi action, a lot of plot, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, one aspect of these games, the plot, can get old real fast, and many people find themselves skipping the usual FMV cut-scenes in order to get to the next action sequence. This is where Star Wraith comes in.

According to the website, the philosophy behind this shareware space sim is simple:

“I've always enjoyed a good space combat game. Most are fun to play and challenging to master. However, I was always disappointed by the fact that such games required putting up with dull movies, drawn out plots, and massive disk space requirements. Often, I didn't want to play the roll of an actor or become involved in a pointless plot, I just wanted to dogfight in a rewarding space combat simulation. I found that many other players felt the same way. There were a few space sims that offered straightforward combat action, but the graphics were frequently bland and the technology a little behind the times. So I set out to make a simulation that would include the graphics, sound, and combat action of modern space sims, but without the disk-space-hungry movies and plots. I asked other gamers what they would like to see in a simplified space combat game, suggestions included easy controls, intense action, wingmen commands, squadron options, performance tracking, mission creation, solid AI, and various weapon options. As a result, Star Wraith includes all of these in a small 7-megabyte download. If the game has enough interest, I plan to add more features that may include new ships, weapons, environments, options, graphics, sounds, and probably multiplayer support.”

Sounds simple enough, right? Does Star Wraith deliver on all of these promises while remaining a small download as well as a shareware product? Read on and find out my friend.


None was included, so this section doesn’t apply.


Game play in Star Wraith is exceedingly easy to get into, which is a good thing. The basic targeting, weapons, and wingman commands are all there, and they’re pretty intuitive to figure out. While we don’t have the complexity of, say, Freespace 2, we have enough here to keep us going for a long time.

Game play is basically the same as most other games of this type…get a mission, fly the mission, destroy a bunch of stuff, fly home. The nice thing about Star Wraith is that…that’s it. This minimalist approach to the game play is quite refreshing, and keeps the game quick and intense.

There are a few aspects to the game that can also keep it fresh. While you only fly one ship in the game (more may be added later), you have a variety of weapons to outfit your craft with, such as different lasers and missiles. These weapons differ in their power usage, explosive yield, and so on, and can help you find the perfect balance between offensive power and speed.

We also have basic wingman commands, such as attacking your target. Other than that, that’s really it. There’s no jumping between sectors, no mid-mission briefings, no fat, just get in there, do your job, and get home. While some might think this would get boring, the single player options (outlined below) keep the game fresh.

So how does it fly once you get into the game? Pretty darned well, if I do say so myself. The flight model is very reminiscent of the heavy hitters in the genre, such as Freespace 2 or Wing Commander, but a few added extras have been thrown in. When your ship’s shields are hit with a weapon, it’ll shake your ship off course, making flying under a laser barrage quite difficult. While this was frustrating at first, I actually appreciated its inclusion since it made evasion much more a tactic than other sims where lasers just bounce off your shield with no other effects.

Overall, this minimalist approach to the genre is a great shot in the arm, and the game play, while simpler in terms of scope than others, still manages to be a helluva lot of fun.


The graphics in Star Wraith are quite good for a shareware release. While the HUD might look to be a bit sparse in terms of graphical flair, it gets the job done. The environmental graphics remind me a bit of Freespace 2, definitely not to shabby at all. The ships aren’t too detailed, but that’s okay. The weapons effects are pretty well done, and the effects they have on shields are also well represented. Overall, as with any shareware release, the graphics aren’t the big selling point, but in this case, they’re pretty darned good.


The audio portion to the game is also pretty good. Weapons sound sufficiently “laser-y”, and missiles have that nice “wooshing” effect. When a shield is hit, it gives a satisfactory “electric-bolt” sound, letting you know that a hit has bee scored. There’s only music in the menu, but that’s not a bad thing, as it doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay. Overall, the sound is minimal, but gets the job done.


This game has two options to the solo player, a randomly generated campaign, and instant-action missions. We’ll first take a look at the instant action missions. In instant action, you have three choices, free flight, gauntlet, and create. Free flight is pretty self explanatory (fly around at your leisure), as is gauntlet (wave after wave of enemy coming down upon you). The create mode is the most interesting of the three, as it allows you to create your own missions based on a set of parameters you set up, such as type of mission (defend, escort, strike, etc), the amount of enemies, wingmen, capital ships, as well as what type of environment this will take place in. The creator allows you to create a wide variety of missions, extending the products legs.

The campaign is the real meat of the program, however. This campaign is randomly generated, so you’ll never fly the same series of missions twice. The goal is always the same (beat back the enemy), but the missions you’ll fly are always different. We have all the usual suspects here, from strike missions, escort missions, and scout missions, to shooting down enemy torpedoes before they hit your carrier. The variety here is impressive, and will keep you coming back. Star Wraith also allows you to track your statistics, and keeps you apprised of your weapon usage and accuracy in detail.

What’s missing here, that other games in this genre have? Well, character creation, advancement in rank, and a detailed plot are all thrown out here, but in a way, this is quite refreshing, as it allows you to quickly get into combat with little mess or fuss. Overall, we have here a VERY fun and playable space combat sim that gets rid of the extraneous stuff found in other games and just gives us the combat, which is why we’re playing these games in the first place. I’d have to conclude that, for $15, this is one heck of a game.


This feature isn’t in Star Wraith, but it is promised.

Fun Factor

I’ve actually had a ball playing Star Wraith. It’s fun, easy to get into and play, and easy on the eyes as well. One can actually lose a lot of time playing this game, as it definitely gives you that “one more mission” feeling. The missions are varied enough to keep you interested, and not worrying about a campaign or storyline was a real benefit, as it allowed me to concentrate on the fun.

Wrap Up:

  1. Does it advance the genre? Yes, for a shareware release, it’s far above anything in its class.
  2. Does it offer anything new? Yes, a lot of gameplay for a small price.
  3. Does it offer a decent amount of gameplay? Yes.
  4. Is the product relatively bug free? Yes.
  5. Does the documentation thoroughly explain the game? N/A
  6. Does this game have any features to keep it from getting outdated? Yes, multiple instant action modes, and a randomly generated campaign.
  7. Is the game worth the retail price? Heck yeah!
  8. Is the game FUN? Yes.

Positive Aspects Fun game play, good graphics, lots of variety, easy to get into. Negative Aspects Lack of heavy plot or depth may turn off some.

Final Thoughts:

While this sim won’t set the world on fire, for a shareware release, it’s outstanding. There are SCREENSAVERS that cost more than this game, yet this game has a LOT more quality invested in it than some commercial releases within its genre. I’d have to conclude by saying that, if you’re a fan of the genre, head over to the Starwraith website and check out the demo. It’s only eight megabytes, and at only $14, this is definitely a worthy investment. Hopefully, if Star Wraith does well, we’ll see more sims from smaller developers like this one. I can only implore you to check out this worthy addition to the space sim genre, because we need to support smaller developers like this one if our genre is to survive.

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