Traversing the vast expanse of space, building ships and stations. Having the freedom to float weightlessly among the stars. Got your attention? Since the beginning of our race, we have been creatures of exploration and curiosity. After we explored most of the planet we found ourselves on, we starting looking up, wondering what else was out there among the stars. Most from my generation grew up with dreams of being an astronaut, stepping on ground no human has explored before, their names being etched in the stones of history. Some of these kids kept their passion alive and actively sought out this dream. I simply wanted to be a Pokémon master who sidelined as an expert of fire magic. Traveling to distant planets was also on my to-do list. After hearing about Space Engineers by Keen Software House, my inner child’s ears perked up and I had to check it out for myself. Space Engineers is a sandbox, creative game that takes place in space. At the time of this review, the main activities you will find yourself partaking in are building space stations, ships, equipment used for construction and survival, and mining asteroids. Keen Software House is actively working on many exciting updates which makes this a title worth marking on your “epic game” radar.
Journal entry #1: After a conversation with my close friend, I was convinced to begin my adventure on his space station, with the assignment of assisting in its expansion. With no prior space training, my first task was to formalize myself with the tools at my disposal, which included learning how to utilize them properly. Before I could focus on using the grinder, welder and drill, I had to figure out how to move effectively. I felt like a baby taking their first steps. Seconds after spawning in the medical bay, jet pack training became my first lesson. With the assistance of the station’s artificial gravity, I was able to make it outside without any problems. Things became interesting once I activated my jetpack and ventured off into the vast unknown. Like any piece of technology, it took a while to familiarize myself, but once I figured out how to take advantage of the inertial dampeners, I was in control of my movement in ways I never experienced on Earth.
This experience doubled as my first realization about my new life in space. Out here, even the most simplistic of tasks will become epic adventures that will force me to put my very existence to the test. Man, we have it easy on our home planet. Once my friend saw that I had my jetpack controls down, he offered me the chance to take his scouting ship out for a spin. I jumped at the opportunity to pilot my first spacecraft, wasting no time taking a seat in the cockpit. Once I did, all I could do was stare at the controls before me, completely dumbfounded. My first attempt at flying ended with me destroying the ship I was in by blowing it up with a rocket…that I fired from the ship. Even after I learned how to fly properly, I never did figure out how I shot myself with my own weapons.
Space Engineers is complex and intimidating for newbies to this genre. I have logged a good chuck of time into Minecraft, and experienced another sandbox game of this nature called Besiege. Compared to Space Engineers, these games were basic algebra, and I just jumped straight into pre-calculus. I highly recommend watching the tutorial videos and learning about the basic functions of the in-game items instead of rushing in. I can also assure you that the time and effort that you invest to learn the game’s basics will be worth it. Once I figured out how to navigate the menus and how to control my character and ships, I gained a deep appreciation for the depth of control you have. Once you master the controls of a spacecraft, you feel like you could jump into the cockpit of a real ship. Well, I highly doubt I would ever trust myself to pilot any type of ship, let alone in space, but you get my point.
I do want to caution gamers that are playing on an outdated computer. This game is graphics heavy, and will require above-average specs in order to gain the most out of this game. That being said, I’m happy they choose to go the realistic route when dealing with visuals and the physics of the game. I know the term “immersive experience” is commonplace, but this game is the text-book definition for what an immersive experience should feel like. If I was playing this game with a VR headset, it would be hard to convince myself that I was still sitting in my house. Even playing the title the way it is, I was pulled out of my chair, and sucked through my screen, no longer bound by the limitations of the planet I live on. For this being an Early Access title, the base mechanics, features and visuals are breath-taking, and from the research I have done, I know this is only the beginning.
Journal entry #2: I continued to practice after the rocket incident, and got to a point where I felt like I had a decent grasp on how to control a ship. I was then giving the task of collecting minerals for my friend. He directed me to his mining ship and off I went. This ship was slightly smaller than the first with two large drills located in the front, one on each side. 1,000 meters into the journey, I realized that I was having issues reaching max speed. My friend explained what the problem was and how to fix it. Instead of using the logical part of my brain, I instantly jumped out of the cockpit to add a thruster to the back, as instructed. I’m not sure why I didn’t think I needed to come to full-stop before exiting my vehicle. Due to this oversight, my body shot one direction, the ship going the other. I spent over ten minutes trying to align my trajectory with the ships in an attempt to fling myself back into the cockpit, traveling 50 meters per second. Luckily, I was able to force myself back into the cockpit and gained control of the ship. This time I brought the ship to a dead stop before I got out to add the thruster, which I did with no issues.
I finally made it to the asteroid he directed me toward. My task was to find Nickle, Which I located right away, since a notification popped up on my HUD, indicating that it was straight ahead. Looks like things were finally starting to go my way. Instead of asking for tips on how to mine effectively, I immediately started drilling, forming a tunnel straight into the center of the asteroid. I’m still not sure how I managed to accomplish this, but as I was drilling I heard a metallic snapping sound followed by sparks. I stop the drills and exited the ship (making sure it was at full-stop). One of the drills were cut clean off the front of the ship. Confused on how I managed to do this, my friend asked me to bring the ship back. As I tried to reverse out of the Asteroid, I discovered that flying backwards is a weakness of mine. To prevent more damage to his ship, he flew out to the asteroid to remove the ship himself. I will never take a trip to the grocery store for granted again.
Like Minecraft and other similar sandbox games, Space Engineers has two modes, Survival and Creative. Creative is exactly what you would imagine it to be, a mode that does not require resources and allows you to build anything your heart desires, the only limitations being your own creativity. In Survival mode you start at a location of your choosing, and have to fight to survive by finding materials, with the end goal of building a space station capable of sustaining life. Every item in-game requires parts like computers, displays, tubes and batteries. These parts can be created with machines and minerals. The minerals can be extracted from the various asteroids scattered in the vast expanse of space.
Gathering the resources to make the items is not complicated, but it can be time consuming and annoying without a mining ship. In order to gather minerals by hand, you need to use a hand drill. After you drill into the mineral you require, Chunks will split off, floating aimlessly. You must chase them down and click the appropriate button once you get close enough to them. It felt like a fun mini-game at first, but quickly became tedious. Once you acquire enough materials to build a mining ship, this task becomes simplistic, since the ship auto-collects the minerals as you drill. Some resources are harder to come by than others, which adds an adventurous feel to the task.
Once you retrieved a decent amount of minerals, the creation process can begin. Building equipment like ships, doors, reactors, and solar panels is easy. This is when your grinder and welder are put to use, serving as your means of adding and removing parts. The difficult process is learning the uses for each item and figuring out how to connect it all together. If you take the blind approach I did, you will spend hours staring at the list of items, dumbfounded. Luckily, we live in an information age, which grants us the luxury of viewing helpful guides and lists for free. I strongly suggest you check out the Space Engineer’s Wiki page if you wish to jump into this game. Once you learn how everything works, endless hours of rewarding gameplay towers before you.
What the Future Holds.
The main reason why I will gladly recommend this title is due to the dedication Keen Software House has to their game. Every week since it became Early Access, they have released updates to the game. I am not talking about just bug fixes. I’m talking about new objects that can be used to build with, GPS in order to mark ships and Asteroids, and the latest addition of oxygen, which increased the realistic feel of taking long journeys in space suits. Sure, the game is not perfect. You will run into a lot of lag spikes in multiplayer and the occasional bug, but that is to be expected with an incomplete game. The fact that they are working to consistently expand the game has earned my respect.
Their next big update has me on the edge of my seat. If this works the way I imagine it will, Space Engineers has a chance to be one of the best games I have had the honor of reviewing. Keen Software House is currently working on adding Planets. Yes, fully rendered planets that you can explore and build on. They use the physic engine Havok that is implemented in their other game Medieval Engineers, and will use the same landscape generator on the planets in order maintain the realistic feel the rest of the game offers. I am looking forward to what the future holds for both of these titles. They are also working to add a campaign/scenario mode as well. If you would like to read more about the planet update, you can do so here.
Playing games like this makes me proud to be part of the P.C. gaming community. The walls between developers and consumers have been gradually falling apart, with Early Access titles being the embodiment of that. When you find a bug and report it, someone will jump on the chance to find and fix that problem. When you have an idea that could improve your gaming experience, like a new quest line or a type of item, most developers allow you to mod their game and share it with the masses.
Space Engineers fits nicely in this community, and I’m sure will end up being a title every P.C. gamer has heard about, and has played at least once. Since there are many updates lined up before the official release of this game, I plan on keeping my eyes open. I will make a follow-up review a while after the planet update is released, so they can work out all the kinks. I will also write a full review once the title is released. Until then, I recommend that you check out the game here, and support these amazing people by buying and playing their game.
Purchase Space Engineers and help support S1st: https://steamfirst.gamesrepublic.com/go/w129169400