Highfleet (developed by Konstantin Koshutin & published by the resurrected Microprose) is a 2021 game that's unique, tough, rough-edged... and utterly fascinating.
The overall premise feels like a cross between Dune and Star Control 2, if Dune featured giant flying battleships. The imperial house has been brought low by a noble rebellion, and as the legitimate heir to the throne, you must fight across the map with a ragtag fleet of airships, capture the rebels’ base, and end the war.
Mechanically, Highfleet is a genre-blurring action-strategy-simulator-roguelite. There’s a strategic layer where you move the fleet, send out individual ships, operate your sensors, order long-ranged missile or air strikes, and evade enemy fleets. Each individual activity has its own minigame: landing at cities, 2D arcade battles (which resemble a horizontal Star Control 2), intercepting enemy radio transmissions, and recruiting independent captains. There’s even a custom ship designer. As with FTL, there is only one save slot per run, but making progress before death earns bonus funds that will carry forward into the next run.
Just as interesting is the way in which those parts add up to a whole. This is a game about guerrilla warfare - appear out of nowhere, strike isolated garrisons, and disappear before the rebels' main fleet can catch up. Fleet composition is a series of tough choices, with a basic trade-off between ships that are good for raiding and ships that are good at pitched battle. Staying in one place too long leads to a barrage of incoming cruise missiles, followed by multiple capital ships.
The uncompromising approach to difficulty reminds me of the original 1994 XCOM, or maybe the Souls games. This game is hard. Really hard! And it expects the player to read the manual. I've lost three runs so far, but every time I've learned valuable lessons.
There are some notable technical quirks. The resolution is fixed in 1920x1080 and doesn't support ultra-wide or borderless windowed, so I end up blowing up the game into fullscreen and accepting the stretch. It's not entirely clear when it saves. The controls aren't remappable.
For all the rough edges, I think this game is brilliant. It won't be for everyone, but if it clicks I think it really clicks. If the design philosophy of '90s games -- before the modern genre boundaries hardened -- appeals to you, you could do much worse than checking out Highfleet.
I believe we have a few other Goodjers who've bought or wishlisted the game - would love to start a discussion!