Saturday, 4 October 2014

Space sims are coming back


I am really looking forward to the future of PC games.  Specifically the space games.  Honestly I wasn't really all that interested in titles like Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen but as time has gone on I have become more excited about what you can do in these massive games.  No man's sky is potentially one of the most engrossing titles I have read about with it's gigantic procedural universe that although online has the potential that you will never meet another player.  It's this kind of size and depth that makes these universes so interesting.

Now yes there have been titles in the past that have without a doubt kept the torch burning for the return of the space sim as a viable genre.  The X series of games has been a great experience until the rather limp offering of X:Rebirth.  The other and obviously bigger offering comes from EVE online which is impressive and regularly produces something news worthy at least once a month proves the viability of the space sim game. 

My issues with both titles though are different.  X is a purely single player experience which although fun and filled with potential, it really needed an option for a cooperative game type that would have really made it memorable as players could work together to create a massive empire of trading ships, stations and military vessels or even become notorious pirates, raiding sectors and building a fleet of ships to eventually take a sector of space for themselves.  On the flip side of this EVE is entirely online and requires a regular fee to play it.  The gameplay is archaic since it still uses a very clunky "click and play" style of gameplay that makes combat boring (visually speaking) and relies entirely on sinking hundreds of hours into skills to obtain the really cool stuff in game.  A rewarding experience for those who enjoy that kind of game but for me personally neither game hits the spot.

So why should Elite or Star Citizen be any different?  Well Elite is still being tweaked for release later this year but the feature that had me the most interested was the friend system.  The game requires all players to connect to their servers to play the game but when you start you can create a friends list that like any other game allows you to coordinate activities with them.  However Elite Dangerous allows you to set the game to only show your friends and no one else.  This means you can enjoy the entire Elite universe with just you and your friends and never need to worry about being jumped by player pirates or have your experience ruined by people who just want to kill other players.  Elite isn't a pushover of a game anyway since it requires a steady hand and good tactics for ship to ship combat and you need to keep an eye on the ever changing economy as a massive war erupts between two AI factions that allows players to profit from or even choose a side.

Star Citizen on the other hand is going for depth and plenty of it.  This is the game that if all goes well, will allow you to crew a ship with other players and have adventures a la Star Wars.  Travelling the galaxy fighting bandits, trading cargo, chasing down bounties, exploring new systems, salvaging wrecks or living the life of piracy.  Seriously the level of detail in even the most basic ship is stunning and flying them is a real challenge that is extremely rewarding to get a kill in.  Although the game is far from finished the current offering of a multiplayer deathmatch and AI horde mode is incredible fun with a few friends.  The universe is being fleshed out every month and each new ship is a work of art in the amount of effort that goes into each individual ship. 

My only complaint with Star Citizen at the moment is that they seem to ready to charge a small fortune for content that is months away from ever being in engine let alone in game.  Still when the items do finally arrive it's hard to complain about the quality. 

So yeah 2015 is going to be quite the year for those of us who fondly remember our space shooting days.  Is there anything I missed?  Got a complaint?  A suggestion?  Let me know in the comments.

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