After I got the game to run I played the tutorial and through the first sector missions. It's a neat little hybrid of fps and tactical space sim. Ships are piloted with the mouse and keyboard so the game feels like an fps even though you are "flying" in space and there is no strafe (why?). Ships only fly in 3rd person view and there is no radar or targeting at all which makes combat feel very arcade like but it's still fun. You can pause and switch ships at any time and give basic commands (attack, hold, patrol, follow) to one or all wingmen while paused. Ships level up, I'd say pilots but I haven't seen a way to transfer a high level pilot to a newer ship yet. They get 3 skill points per level which can go into weapon power, firing rate, or repair. Manually repairing ships is both costly and tedious so I've been putting at least the first 3 or 4 points into repair. I'm not sure what the level/skill cap is, if there is one. Combat like I said is arcadey but fast paced and fun. One thing to note is that there is no friendly fire, this is a very good thing, but ships can be damaged by running into each other (some pirate ships have ramming blades).
The tactical part is carried out through the "Super Cruiser" mothership. You can switch to it at any time just like any other ship but it does not move. You can also dock your fighters (manually only as far as I know) in order to repair, equip, or spend skill points. The cruiser has construction options that cost crystals just like any rts. Build a research center and a shipyard and the research and produce ships options are opened up. The research tree is pretty basic so far but the game promises more by linking multiple cruisers (haven't gotten that far yet). Mothership modules show up on the cruiser which is a nice touch. Techs include weapons, ships, mining efficiency, special abilities (equipped to ships like weapons), and plot based items (like jump gates and next tiers).
The game looks like it's scripted with optional missions popping up around the scripts. I really like that at certain points the game lets you relax and take optional missions at your own pace before following the plot. The optional missions so far seem pretty fast and simple; some even require the player to complete simple yet entertaining minigames, adding to the arcade in space feel. They usually give rewards from ships to techs to crystals as well as all important XP for your fighters.
A few things that would make the game more fun for me (these are just my opinions):
1. Either the ability to strafe up/down, left/right with ships or joystick support. Ideally both would go along way towards fun/immersion of piloting fighters.
2. Radar and the ability to target other ships. This is a must for me in space sims and it is alarming to see it taken out of recent games that have hybrid space sim elements. I can understand the desire to save time and money but it's hard to keep a good situational awareness in space without a radar and locking onto a bad guy has been a staple since tie fighter or earlier.
3. More advanced tactical options and a tactical map would have been nice. I can get into a fighter and order everyone to follow but what if I want a group to stay with the cruiser or just send a group to a part of the sector without leading them there? Maybe this shows up later, I haven't seen it. I'd also LOVE to be able to dock fighters by giving orders and not have to do it manually every single time someone levels up.
4. Maybe just me but I still prefer a cockpit view for immersion. The 3rd person view is fine and pretty but being in the fighter is always more fun.
5. Some easy fixes to make the game a little more user friendly:
* Add date/time stamps to the savegames, it's really hard to know which game is the most recent unless you have good naming conventions
* Let me skip the docking/launch sequence. I know it's short but after 50 times I'm wishing I could skip it.
Overall it's a casual-fun hybrid game with fast paced intense action, decent voice acting and nice sounds and visuals. I'd say it's priced well too, if the price goes down any in the future it's a good deal.