Subdivision Infinity DX Review: Star Chores
I’m always wary of games designed for mobile devices when they make the transition to home consoles. Generally speaking, mobile titles are designed with short burst play sessions in mind, with gameplay loops that are intended to be enjoyed in 5-10 minute spells. Often this doesn’t translate well to console, and whilst Mistfly Games’ Subdivision Infinity DX is capable of delivering a decent space dogfighter experience, it’s unfortunately held back by its mobile DNA.
Overly Simplistic Space Dogfighting
Despite being released on PlayStation 4 and other platforms in 2019, I went into this PlayStation 5 re-release totally blind, having missed the original console port. Upon entering the main menu, Subdivision DX’s mobile heritage becomes immediately apparent. You’re greeted with three options; credits, an extremely bare-bones options menu, and the option to play the game. Jumping straight in, no time is wasted in throwing you into the action by way of a short tutorial, which does a decent job of getting you used to the simple controls.
As a game originally designed for touchscreens, I was worried that the controls would suffer during the jump to console, however, that isn’t the case. Horizontal and vertical ship movement is assigned to the left stick. Aiming is handled via the right stick, with your ship’s boosters and firing functions mapped to the left and right triggers and shoulder buttons. It’s all very intuitive and welcoming.
If anything, Subdivision Infinity DX’s mobile origins have resulted in a control scheme that’s almost too efficient and simplistic, largely due to the inclusion of an aggressive lock-on system that removes almost all difficulty from combat. No matter what weapon you have equipped to your ship, combat mostly becomes a matter of ensuring your crosshair is vaguely pointing in the direction of an enemy, and holding down the right trigger or shoulder button whilst the aim-bot-like lock-on does the rest of the work. I should flag, that you can turn this off in the menus. However, doing so seemed to make little difference. Disabling aim assist just means the lock-on is replaced with a large target on or near each enemy ship, with your projectiles guaranteed to connect with the enemy craft as long as your crosshair overlaps with this target.
Whilst I appreciate how crisp and responsive the ship movement is, a must with any space dogfighter, I just wish there was a little less handholding when it comes to the combat. I’m sure this accessible approach to enemy engagement was a welcome touch on mobile. However, on console, it just comes off as cheap and robs the player of any sense that they are becoming more proficient with their ship’s weapon systems.
A Surprisingly Substantial Campaign
In a twist that I found pleasantly surprising, Subdivision Infinity DX features a fairly substantial campaign. Immediately upon finishing the tutorial, you’ll be greeted by the campaign menu. Here you can browse the assortment of ships there is to unlock, as well as the various weapons you can equip.
Most of these additional goodies are gated by your level, requiring you to level up via mission completions before you can purchase bigger and better ships and equipment. The experience and in-game currency you’ll need to then actually complete the purchase are both earned via clearing missions. Thankfully, there are no microtransactions to be seen, with the in-game economy that was used in the free-to-play equivalent having been rebalanced to provide a more streamlined experience that reflects the up-front price tag.
With well over thirty campaign missions to take on across five different regions of space, players are afforded plenty of opportunities to flex the various toys on offer. Each region contains five objectives to complete which must be done in order to progress the narrative, as well as two optional side-missions. Side-missions became a welcome distraction, providing the opportunity to explore freely, whilst mining for resources and blueprints that can be used towards rare ships that can’t just be bought outright via leveling up and earning currency.
It’s within the missions that span the critical path, however, where Subdivision Infinity DX’s mobile roots really begin to bog the experience down.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream With Boredom
Pretty much every level boils down to taking out wave after wave of enemy ships. To be fair to the developers, they do attempt to provide a little variety by inserting additional objectives into the mix, from hacking missions where you need to fight off the enemy whilst staying close to a specific freighter, to larger-scale set-pieces that see you trying to destroy a station’s defense turrets. Each region also culminates in a boss encounter, though these generally just have the player take on a bigger ship amongst the waves of fodder that pepper you on a moment-to-moment basis. Whilst I welcomed the attempts at shaking things up, I can’t deny that toward the end of the campaign, I was struggling to maintain the motivation to continue playing.
You might be reading this and thinking, “what were you expecting?” – and that’s fair. This is a space dogfighter after all, and the genre by its very nature is going to involve a heavy reliance on ship-based combat. Ultimately, I think what it boils down to is a lack of personality. Titles such as Star Wars: Squadrons or the Rebel Galaxy series, take the space combat shooter, and contextualize the repetitive nature of the gameplay with story beats that add meaning to your actions via an engaging narrative. Subdivision Infinity DX, however, doesn’t frame its action in a manner that is engaging enough to distract the player from its one-dimensional gameplay loops.
There is an attempt at providing a narrative. You play the role of Rebel 1, a freelance pilot hired to investigate a distress signal being sent from a station. From there you’re sent on a journey that sees you uncover experiments to create artificial black holes and various other mysteries that have you cross paths with shady organizations and mercenary groups. It’s all delivered in such a bland manner that it becomes really hard to invest yourself. The story, which is told between missions via voiceless characters who appear on-screen with dialogue boxes beside their portraits, soon serving as little more than a vehicle to transport you from one combat encounter to the next.
These drawbacks clearly result from the mobile DNA which the experience has been built around, and on that basis, it may seem like I’m being a touch harsh. However, this is a console port, and as such, I can only base my view on the four or so hours it took me to breeze through the campaign on PlayStation 5. Had this been a title I installed on my phone whilst on the bus commuting home from work, I think I might have been pleasantly surprised by the package. As it stands, however, Subdivision Infinity DX, played anywhere else apart from mobile, becomes little more than a competent space dogfighter, bereft of identity and struggling to stand out.
Despite its accessible controls and decent space dogfighting action, the mobile roots of Subdivision Infinity DX don’t stand up to scrutiny as a console experience. The bare-bones story and repetitive gameplay loops simply don’t hold up when removed from the platform they were tailor-made for, which ultimately results in a game that is difficult to recommend.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available On: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC; Publisher: Blowfish Studios; Developer: Mistfly Games; Players: 1; Released 22 September, 2021 (for PlayStation 5); ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $14.99