I first tried From Space as a demo at a recent Steam Next Fest with some friends as we looked for a quick co-op hit. The colorful pink aliens, top-down squad shooter of From Space was a quick hit, but the rough edges also showed in that one session. With some more time with the full game I’m left feeling largely the same way: smooth production values, fun with some friends, but it wears a bit thin and it shows more when you play solo.
On the technical front, From Space runs perfectly with Proton on both my desktop and the Steam Deck. Controls are clearly laid out for controller (how I preferred to play this one) and co-op is easy to setup. You can even “call” your friend from in the game to get them to join your current session. There are a few weapons and items (like mines, traps, grenades) to juggle, which can be a bit tricky to select the right one in the heat of battle. Overall the controls work well enough though, as you’d expect from this style of game.
The overall art and music style is fun. A sort of throw-back style alien invasion (think classic sci-fi movies of the 80s or so) where new big enemies get a few second cutscene introduction and a fun name. The bright pink of the aliens is also a nice change of pace from the usual art direction in this genre. So there are several types of enemies, ones that spit or jump, ones that are bigger and tougher, and so on, all generally coming in big swarms. Expect lots of kiting or backing up and firing or you are quickly overwhelmed.
The weapons run about what you’d expect: pistols, miniguns, flame throwers, and so on. You can upgrade them and carry a few at a time, the rest you can store in a shared locker. This can make item juggling, with the many items you can use, a bit tricky in both selecting and if you like to switch characters.
On the gameplay front it is your standard squad-based twin-stick top-down shooter. You have some different classes you can pick from that get a signature weapon and some abilities, you progress with experience over time to unlock perks/item slots, and throughout the world you find different weapons, ammo, grenades or other devices like barbed wire, and health pickups. Each class has a different bent, like more defensive or specializing in using certain items, clearly meant to work together with a group.
And that brings us to the main strength, and weakness, of From Space. With a few friends in co-op much can be forgiven if the experience is smooth. It is just more fun to play with some friends, gunning down aliens and trying to save the world. You have each other’s backs, literally. It all works well in From Space and is a fun co-op experience.
On the other hand, when playing solo it is more grating. There tend to be a lot of enemies and some are real bullet sponges, so while the weapons have a nice feel, it grows tiring more quickly. Even when you get an NPC, largely with tiny health and not very powerful, it is more fun than by yourself. But they inevitably die quickly and need you to revive them. This makes them more trouble than they are worth usually…except you may be escorting them as a mission. Thankfully you can tell them to stay put as you clear out an area just ahead.
There tends to be a shortage of ammo, or at least for whatever weapon you favor, despite the world having plenty of pickups and enemies dropping ammo as well. Dying is also no fun, as you save in certain safe zones between objectives. With long treks and multiple stops, the chances of dying and have to repeat a whole long mission objective when you die just before the end, is high and puts a damper on progression.
Speaking of progression, you play various missions like turning on a switch or escorting someone, find some new weapons, and advance your character(s) perks. You find new areas or paths to areas you saw but couldn’t get to with areas you can save, stock up on equipment and talk to some NPCs. Nothing drastic really changes though and it tends to be more of the same, which if it clicks for you is probably all you want. I just didn’t find it compelling enough on my own to get too far.
All in all From Space is a polished experience, fun for some co-op and in smaller doses. But despite the polished production the rough edges in design and execution keep the game from being a complete hit.
(From Space was given by the developer/publisher for evaluation and is now available at various outlets, including Steam. There is also a free DLC called “The Scouts Specialists” which I did not try.)