Sinclair User22nd August 1987
Published in Sinclair User #68
Solar Fire is a tactical space combat game from the same team that wrote the excellent Samurai for CRL.
You command six imperial Legionnaires - three human and three android 'Guardian Angels' - your objective: to wipe out the alien occupants of a secret base. Against you, the computer controlling a varied force consisting of two different types of aliens and some rather nasty warbots.
Your forces are armed with an assortment of weapons: laser swords, ray pistols, laser rifles and repeaters and the dreaded atomiser.
The enemy have laser cutters, energy swords, laser knives, laser rifles and phasers - which are never, ever, set on stun!
The battles take place in a variety of settings - asteroid bases, rocket sites, a shuttle base - but they all have common features. Each is divided into squares (which regulate movement) and have various walls and stairs and space craft and bits and bobs of odd equipment lying around which obstruct movement and offer some cover for hard-pressed combatants.
The screen is divided into three parts. The biggest, taking up about half the area, is a map window. Below it, you have a series of icons representing various commands you may issue to your troops. On the right of the screen, you have a series of status windows, which display who you are currently controlling, how fast he can move, how much damage he can take, how experienced he is and what weapons he has. I say he, but of course it could just as easily be she or it in this game. It's a bit difficult to tell the sex of someone in a spacesuit, and what do you call an android? (Answer: anything you like, but if it's carrying an atomiser you'd better be polite...)
You move first. There's a number of icons. The first ends your turn. The second allows you to cycle through your force to pick the legionnaire you want to move. The third is a radar device - this gives you a rough idea of where your troops are in relation to the layout of the base and the position of the enemy. The fourth icon governs movement: select it and you can move your people where you like, as afar as their movement allowance permits. The next four icons cover the weapons you have at your disposal.
Combat is simple. If you select a weapon, you get a window in the bottom right of the screen with what looks like a radar screen on it - a circle with a line on it. Move the line until it points in the right direction then hit Fire .
The game is deceptively simple, and easy enough to master at its easiest level But there are five levels to choose from, and the hardest is absolute murder. Combine that with the different maps you get, and you're getting a lot of play for your money.
Solar Fire is not original. A long time ago (three or four years) Red Shift put out a great little game called Rebelstar Raiders: not quite as good graphically, and handicapped by being a two player game only, but brilliant all the same. Then there was Shadowfire from Beyond, and, of course, Samurai, from CRL. In Samurai, you could design your own forces: it would have been nice to be able to do the same here. What's more, the computer doesn't always move its forces in a sensible way (luckily for the player, perhaps). The worst problem is the complicated instruction booklet.
But for all its lack of originality and its faults, Solar Fire is still a great game. I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone, whether or not they are already interested in strategy games. And when you take into account the fact that Astros is producing add-on scenarios in the form of new maps, then it's even better.
Thoroughly recommended. A wonderful tactical space combat shoot 'em up. Let's atomise those eeties!