Review: Cargo Commander
A great look back at the genres roots before it became popular through FTL and Rogue Legacy.
A weak art style let's the package down slightly.
Limited in scope.
This has been a long, long time coming.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to play more games. Not more as in the amount of time I spend on them, that would be very difficult to do, but to play more games that aren’t Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2. I’ve played a load of Dungeon of the Endless and War Thunder as a result, but recently I’ve also started playing Cargo Commander again.
Cargo Commander is, now I look back, one of the first rogue like games that I ever owned. Before the days of the popularisation of the genre through games like FTL, Rogue Legacy and Binding of Isaac, Cargo Commander led the way in terms of the accessible rogue like. Having played it again, though, I’m amazed at some of the things it still does exceptionally well.
At it’s base Cargo Commander is extremely simple. You’re placed in a little, floating cube in space with nothing but a radio for company. You can operate your base’s magnet to pull in containers to your location; smashing a hole in your walls and allowing entry into the container. Once you’re inside you begin Cargo Commander’s main activity; collecting cargo. Some rare, some junk, but all of it contributes to both your score and any potential unlocks you might get as you rank up.
The rogue like element comes in as the long you leave your magnet switched on the more containers you attract and, should you choose to venture into them, the further from your home container you become. Naturally the cargo becomes more valuable but there’s also a chance that the magnet can destabilise and open a worm hole, causing all connected containers to shatter. It’s a risk/reward system that, I think, is still far and away above any similar system in any of the popular rogue likes out there today. If you get a poor start, you just reset the magnet and call in another container. A good run can see you gliding between containers, collecting amazing loot and scavenging the odd thing off the bodies of other players who died in the same sector.
In each sector you visit you can acquire a Sector Pass which you can use to unlock another sector; choosing ones players on your friends list have visited, choosing more unpopular ones or going for the ones that players have had the most success in. As you collect different types of cargo you rank up, with rewards becoming available as you do so. You gain the ability to repair your home container as you play and be able to change the song on the radio (though I don’t ever see why you’d want to.) You can also unlock ammo drops in your base which, considering the scarcity of ammo, is a great incentive.
Cargo Commander remains an unusual beast, though. The simple art style and limited music is a turn off for some, though while it doesn’t share the flashy heights of some of the genres more populist entries, this is a simple, honest rogue like with an enormous amount of charm and personality. With a little more integration of social elements, and maybe if it were a little sharper on the audio-visual side, I think Cargo Commander would still be being spoken about today. As it stands it’s a game that I heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys games like FTL and Rogue Legacy; it’s cheap and you’ll get a good few hours out of the game.