Best Space Games for PC
Best Space Games for PC
It's odd that most companies don't want to produce space simulation games. Space games have unlimited potential and lots of fans. To fly in the cockpit of a spaceship, shoot bad guys, and wander through massive imagined universes can be utterly absorbing. The genre includes RTS (real time strategy) games and 4X games (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate).
The games I write about here I have personally played for endless hours and days (with a few exceptions that will be obvious). I know from experience what's good and bad about them.
Elite, the Father of all modern space games
In the early '80s, David Braben and Ian Bell made a great space simulator game: Elite. Elite was a huge success, because of the immersive play. You were in the cockpit of your own ship, flying around different solar systems, trading and fighting. You planned every flight: fueling, checking the market for products to buy and sell, upgrading your ship.
The game came out using a vector graphic design, using just four colors. Versions were released for many ancient computer models: the Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari, the British ZX Spectrum computer, and the IBM PC (using IBM's very first graphics card, the CGA with 4-bit color).
A 1995 revision of Elite, called Frontier: First Encounters, exists in both DOS and Windows versions. You can still play the DOS version using a MS-DOS emulator like DOSBox. A great community of modders has changed the game to use D3D. If you manage to get the Windows version, you can download a patch made by fans of Elite that improves the graphics for DirectX as shown in the video below.
Trust me, it is worth it!
Frontier: First Encounters
Elite Dangerous, a new Elite project by David Braben, was released in beta in August 2014. Donors who contributed money to kickstart the project were offered goodies such as their name on a solar system or ship. If the game delivers what was promised—amazing graphics, multiplayer capability, and a newly redesigned flight system—it will be great.
David Braben's Memories on the 25th Anniversary of Elite (2009)
The X Universe
The X series of games, like Elite, has no multiplayer mode. The X games are for the lone player who wants to play in a massive sandbox, do whatever he wants, and wander whatever path appeals to him.
The Amazing Games of the X Universe
If you are new to the X games, you could start with X3 Reunion, since the first games are so antiquated by today's standards, but if you want to follow the story from the beginning, Amazon and EBay carry versions of the older games, improved by Egosoft to play on modern hardware and Windows 7.
Even though Reunion is my favorite, maybe because I spent months playing it, I have to say that Terran Conflict is one of the best games ever, bringing together everything the developers learned from the previous games, the community of players, and the mods that were created. X3: Terran Conflict is a gem, a work of art, with a beautiful soundtrack, great interaction with the virtual world, and stunning graphics detail (which can be tuned for most machines with older processors or video cards).
if you are looking for instant gratification, and want to get into battle within 15 minutes and finish the game in three hours, do not buy Reunion or Terran Conflict; get some space arcade shooting game. But if you love to explore, to plan ahead, to deal with a dynamic economy, to develop a long-term strategy over hundreds if not thousands of hours of gaming, these games are for you.
Of course, danger is always present, depending on your actions. So "trade, fight, build, think." In all the X games, the player must build an economic empire in order to buy ships, weapons, and space stations, so he or she can discover and explore.
History of the X Universe
The backstory of the X Universe games is told in the Farnham's Legend series of science fiction novels by Helge Kautz.
In the 21st Century, mankind researches and builds two jump gates between Earth and Mars, giving ships instant travel between the two planets using wormholes. A jump gate is sent to Alpha Centauri to claim a foothold in interstellar space.
In the meantime, scientists discover that many wormholes in space are actually jump gates constructed by aliens, connecting a vast number of solar systems. The scientists build self-replicating ships controlled by a single artificial intelligence and send them from the Earth jump gate into the X Universe to terraform and colonize these distant planets to make them suitable for human life.
But when the scientists peform a routine software upgrade of the Terraformer fleet, they introduce flaws into the fleet's artificial intelligence (AI), causing a radical change in behavior. The fleet ships re-terraform the planets, wrecking them and destroying their ability to support human life.
The Terrans try to stop the rogue Terraformers, which ends up in a war between the humans and the machines' AI.
When the Terraformers are about to destroy Earth, a group of ships, led by Nathan R. Gunner, tricks the Terraformer fleet into entering the gate that leads from Earth to the X Universe. Earth is saved and the jump gate destroyed, sealing Earth off from the X Universe.
These events happen about 750 years before the first game in the series, in which Kyle accidentally strands himself in the X Universe with his experimental ship. He learns that many races there are in constant war with a race called the Xenon; the Xenon are actually the Terraformer fleet, which evolved and conquered many sectors of the X Universe.
X: Beyond the Frontier
X: Beyond the Frontier, the first X game from Egosoft, came out in 1999. Like all the X series games, it has a great story, amazing graphics, and the ability to utterly immerse the player in a new universe, with moments of beauty, danger, and fun.
X Beyond The Frontier - Intro and the beginning of a saga
X Beyond the Frontier storyline
The player takes the role of a test pilot, Kyle Brennan, in the year 2912. Kyle is testing an experimental ship which has the ability to jump to other solar systems using a wormhole.
During the test jump, something goes wrong and Kyle is hurled thousands of light years away into a strange and unknown region of space. His ship is damaged and its jump drive breaks down. Kyle's accident damages a huge carrier from an alien race called the Teladi, a capitalist race that focuses on profit (Ferengi anyone?).
The Teladi captain loans some money to the hapless player, and fixes some basic systems on his ship, for which he of course expects to be paid. He then tells the player about other races in the X Universe and about trading, in a conversation that comes with interactive menus. He also mentions, if the player asks, a race called the Argons, much different from the other species in the X Universe, who turn out to be descended from humans.
More X Universe Games (X Tension, X2: The Threat)
After Beyond the Frontier became a big hit, an add-on called X Tension brought improvements including a larger universe (more sectors for the player to visit using jump gates), and better graphics, sound, and music. Also it gave the player more control over the interactive menus. X2: The Threat arrived about three years later, with even better graphics, a new story about a deadly alien race, music, more ships, a bigger universe, and finally, the best feature: the player was not restricted to flying just one ship.
As in later X games, a player can both fly his own ship and control a huge fleet of additional ships, manually or not. Want to be a trader? Buy a transport ship from the four races, improve it, and buy a few fighter ships of different classes to protect yourself. At any time, eject from your current ship to another that you own: it is just a matter of getting into a space suit and flying to it.
X3: Reunion - One of many capital ships
X3: Reunion - Bala Gi Expansion
X3: Reunion is my favorite game of the X series. It introduced a new graphics engine, with beautiful results, especially for 2005. The universe contains about 160 sectors (solar systems connected by jump gates). New A.I. introduces pirates and other enemies flying in groups or small fleets. There is a great story, beautiful music, new ships. and a reputation system that forces the player to work with different races to achieve a status of trust.
This new way of playing means that, in contrast to the previous games where the player could buy anything he wanted if he had money, in X3 Reunion the player must cooperate with various races, for example by trading, to improve his or her status and buy ships, weapons, or stations.
Two major elements of status are a player's trade level and his/her military level. Shooting pirates in a sector is seen as a good thing, increasing the player's status with the local race, while doing the opposite, for example destroying a station, will turn the player into public enemy number one. "Contraband" complicates the game; some races consider contraband legal while others do not. The police in each sector may randomly scan your ship looking for illegal contraband. They may attack you unless you jettison the contraband into space.
One change that I enjoyed (though tastes differ) was getting rid of the cockpit. In X3 Reunion, a player flying a craft enjoys a full, unobstructed view of space, plus a minimal HUD (heads-up display). In some ship types, using a cockpit mod, you can see a bit of the outside of the ship. But since the cockpit in the X games is not interactive, I don't miss it.
X3: Terran Conflict
Terran Conflict 2.0 - Aldrin Missions
X3: Terran Conflict
Terran Conflict brings the best of the X games to the PC with a new redesign and an incredible graphics engine.
After the time of the Reunion story, the X Universe is once again connected to the Sol System, bringing the Terrans to a new conflict and a huge universe to explore.
Once again Terran Conflict introduces improvements: the graphics are superb, the interactive menus are simpler, and the flight controls using mouse or joystick are even better. Terran Conflict also brings in many new ships, products, stations, and weapons. The stations in the Terran sectors are massive in size, making the player feeling really small.
Apart from the storyline, the player can find thousands of smaller missions offered by stations and ships, which may range from a simple cargo delivery to protecting a ship from pirates.
A new concept focuses on capturing ships. Now the player can use capital ships and train marines who will fly to a target and attempt to capture a ship.
X3: Terran Conflict—A Few Tips
If you have never played the X games, you will need to know the following:
- You cannot land on planets. The only way to go to planets is by following the storyline.
- This is a solo game, a sandbox. There are no multiplayer, online, or LAN options.
- X3 and their predecessors are massive. Expect to be able to play for hundreds of hours.
- All X games are difficult to master and understand. They are not kids' games. It takes time to learn everything that is available to you.
- X3 makes great demands on computer performance, but it can play well on a dual core with a decent video card.
- X3 Reunion has a lot of menus and sub-menus to command and control everything. It is a bit confusing but with time it gets easier.
- X3 Terran Conflict menus and flight controls are much better than in previous games.
- This is not Freelancer or Wing Commander or your average space shooter game. Combat in this universe is deadly, and difficult if you haven't played before.
But isn't this what makes a great space game?
Reunion Plus Terran Conflict - Gold Edition
The Gold edition of X3: Terran Conflict includes two games and their expansions: Reunion, with the "Bala Gi" research missions that lead to the building of a massive station, and Terran Conflict, with the "Aldrin Missions" expansion (Aldrin is a Terran colony that was lost and became isolated from Earth and the X Universe).
X Rebirth: A Complete (and Disappointing) Redesign of the X Games
X Rebirth was released in November 2013, after fans had been waiting for four years.
Apparently this game is not the huge success the others have been. I have not played it, but videos and reviews show that many players are disappointed. Some huge changes were made that didn't make the game any better.
The biggest change was in the process for building stations and factories. In the previous games, you connected several stations into "Hubs" to make one or two products, using multipurpose raw materials. Sometimes you would end up with a few dozen stations to manufacture one or two products. The choices were always yours. In X Rebirth, you have to upgrade your manufacturing station with weapons and shields (in previous versions, factories did not require defense) and you specify what the factory produces by adding modules to increase size, production, and product lines. You can watch the production lines working on the station, but it's not as much fun.
Also, in previous games, you would travel long distances using a device called "S.E.T.A.," actually just a time-compressing option where the game would run at higher speeds, giving the player the impression that he was traveling fast from from gate to gate. The whole universe was accelerated. But X Rebirth puts you on space lanes, like highways. When you travel it seems like you are always in the same sector. Sure it is a big universe out there, but something has been lost.
When you dock on stations now, you get a lame FPS (First Person Shooter) mode, where the player walks around and talks to people. Judging by videos on YouTube, everything inside the stations, including the Non-Player Characters (NPCs), is so badly designed that it seems we have regressed 20 years.
In fact, X: Rebirth could be a great game, if the graphics, game play, and controls worked in the environment of X3: Terran Conflict. Many things were left out in order to implement ideas that really do not work, or that cause work for the player, or that seem to have been implemented in a few minutes without much thought.
Maybe in the future things will change, with patches, updates, expansions, or even mods made by the community, but now, it is just a space game for the eyes, nothing more.
I think I am going to stick with Terran Conflict for a while.
Best X Game?
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The Freelancer Universe
Freelancer, the sequel to Starlancer, is an old game, but still lots of fun to play, somewhat similar to the X series, yet so different.
From Wing Commander and Starlancer, comes Freelancer
Chris Roberts, the creator of the famous Wing Commander, released Freelancer in 2003. He was under some time pressure because his company Digital Anvil had been bought by Microsoft Game Studios. Originally he had wanted Freelancer to have a dynamic economy, like Elite and today's X Universe series, where players and NPCs could trade.
Although Freelancer as released didn't include all its creator's original ideas, it got very good reviews. The graphics, already a bit outdated at the time, were still considered very good. The player can fly his ship around 46 solar systems using a jump gate. Travel inside a solar system is done on well-designed "space lanes," and if he wants to, the player can fly off the lanes and explore debris fields or asteroids, running the risk of being attacked by pirates.
Freelancer is for people who want instant action without too many things to worry about. The controls are easy to learn; the flying is done in a intuitive way using the mouse. The dogfights are great, though a bit predictable.
The player can purchase different ships, but can only own and command one at a time. He can be a good guy or a bad guy in "factions." If a faction accepts a mission, some A.I. ships may join the player.
The best thing in the game is the sensation of a living universe. Diverse ships pass by—police, military, convoys—and the player can attack any of them, giving him a positive or negative status (reputation) with different factions and their allies.
Freelancer: Multiplayer Features, Modded Ships
Freelancer has a multiplayer mode, and even though Microsoft no longer supports the game, there is still a great community, with mods, and servers where a player can test his will against other players.
The game's LAN (Local Area Network) mode lets you use a private server that when disconnected saves all the players' information. This is a good choice if you want to have a LAN party at your house and play with your friends.
The multiplayer capability allows a group of players to carry out a mission too difficult for a single player. Trading is enhanced when players play together. One player can get a ship to haul a lot of cargo and the others can get good fighters to protect it. The ability to fly in formation with your friends means the lead ship can select the route and choose a space lane, and all the ships will automatically join in formation.
The story is not bad, in fact it's well-written. The player will discover a plot by a government allied with an alien race that wants to take over the universe. In the story, the player's character is wrongly accused and forced into an outlaw role, taking refuge in other systems, some of which are not very friendly.
The ships are highly customizable, and some mods go even further, adding weapons with different powers, recharge rates, and energy depletion: missiles, torpedoes, mines, shields, turrets, and so on.
Hundreds of missions are available, from simple patrol duty to capturing a criminal or eliminating a group of renegades. Some missions advance the storyline.
Freelancer runs well on Windows 7 with no problems, provided you install all the patches. Many mods are out there including TNG (The Next Generation), which adds more systems, and provides well-known ship designs from many great Sci Fi series like Star Wars and Babylon 5. You can fly a TIE Fighter or X-Wing.
If you have never played Freelancer, the game is so cheap today that there is no reason not to. It's great fun and full of action, though a bit dated.
The Homeworld Universe
Homeworld came from the now-defunct Sierra Studios, a company that made some of the best games ever in different genres. Homeworld is not a space simulation but an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game in space, with a 3D environment. This means the player can have a 360º view of his ships in 3D.
Homeworld (1999 Version)
Homeworld made its first appearance in 1999, when most people were playing RTS games like Warcraft and Command & Conquer. Homeworld picked up where those games left off, and made an amazing RTS game in space.
A great story, good graphics (for the time), and a simple interface to control hundreds of ships made this game a success to be played solo or online.
Research—to discover new ship designs, weapons and so on—can mean defeat or victory. The research tree is small and easy to unlock.
Many players, even gamers, have difficulty playing in a 3D environment, where you can order your ships to fly in all sorts of ascending and descending angles.
Still, by practicing and using the tutorial, players can get the hang of this, especially if they are used to playing Red Alert or Command & Conquer.
To better understand the atmosphere of this game, think about Battlestar Galactica, where you command a mothership, plus smaller ships for different tasks.
Cataclysm - A new story, a new enemy
In 2000, Homeworld: Cataclysm was released. It has a great story, like the original Homeworld, and improved graphics. The ships are modular, meaning that the items that you have researched and added can also be destroyed. Homeworld: Cataclysm gives you more control and more ship types, plus improvements in the mothership, research, and manufacturing.
Check out the screen shots and the trailer video below, do not let yourself fooled by the outdated graphics, when this game came out, the graphics were amazing. Even better is the tense game play it offers.
Cataclysm ScreenshotsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cataclysm follows the events of the first game Homeworld, with refined graphics, a great storyline, and new ships and technology. Still a great game to play.
Homeworld 2 brought new concepts to the Homeworld saga: a new graphics engine, ships and storyline. Attacking technique was refined by introducing subsystems: you can pinpoint your attack on a capital ship to do more damage.
The storyline is a bit weaker than in previous games. Also there is only one difficulty level for the campaign, making this a hard game to play and master. Still, it is an excellent game if you are up to the challenge.
Sins of a Solar Empire - simple and massive
Sins of a Solar Empire is something of a cross between Master of Orion or Galactic Civilizations with Homeworld. Sins is a 4x (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) RTS (Real-Time Strategy) game.
Sins of a Solar Empire
The graphics are good (though nothing amazing); the special effects are good; the multiplayer support is good; and the visual details are great, thanks to the zoom feature. You can zoom the view down in scale from the galaxy, to a planet, to ships, even down to a little fighter that in a "normal" zoom would be nothing more then a dot.
This feature is easy on the graphics engine, so you do not need to have a powerful computer and video card to play this game.
In many ways, Sins of a Solar Empire is a simple game. The tech tree is simple but effective. Game play is balanced among three factions. The lack of a campaign mode might be a turn-off for many players, but the ability to create an endless variety of random games is great. Let's just say that if you start a game with two or three stars with 30-40 planets apiece, you have yourself a game that will last days and days, or even longer if you play at the hardest levels.
You must develop a strong economy by developing several planets with various research requirements and building up your fleets from a simple corvette to massive capital ships.
Diplomacy is present, even if a bit basic, but the best feature of the game is the multiplayer option. While playing online or on a LAN, it is possible to save the state of a long game so that all the players can continue later. This is something that I have not seen in games for a long time.
The interface could be more refined, but still it is simple and clean and the player will not get bogged down in endless menus and options.
Sins of a Solar Empire: ScreenshotsClick thumbnail to view full-size
EVE Online - Probably the best Space MMO of all time!
EVE Online is one of the best MMO (massive multiplayer online) space games for the PC ever. It's massive, complex, and difficult to master, with deadly PvP interaction and endless items and options.
Most MMOs call themselves "free to play" and then send players to a virtual shop to buy items. EVE Online has always been a paid subscription game. For a monthly fee of about $20, every item, every ship, and every skill is available to the player from the start. Despite all the modifications, improvements and expansions over the years, CCP, the company that runs EVE, has never raised the fee.
With over 20,000 players playing constantly, peaking on weekends to over 60,000 players at once, no one is ever alone. There is only one server, one instance, one sandbox.
This is in contrast to many other MMOs today where players are divided into instances, or worse, forced to choose from different servers, losing the ability to have more than one character on a server. EVE, on the other hand, allows a player to have two or three accounts, for characters who play different functions and roles in the game. Sometimes CCP runs discount sales for players who want to open a second or third account.
Athough EVE Online can be played solo, this is really an online game, and sooner or later, the player will see the benefits of joining one of the many corporations (clans) in the game.
EVE Online takes time to learn. In many MMOs you increase one level in skills or XP by killing x number of enemies, but in EVE, the skills you need to fly different ships or be more efficient at mining or trading are gained in real time by training. Every skill in the game has five levels. For a basic skill, like flying a frigate, you can train to the first level in 15 minutes, but some skills take a month or more to develop from level four to level five. Your character's training happens in real time, even when you are not playing the game, while your subscription remains active.
You can also pause the development of any skill and train in different skills if you want to change your mind and specialize in a certain area of the game, like industry, science, exploration, PvP, mining, or missions.
EVE has been called a "spreadsheet on steroids." In fact, it is a big game with great graphics. There are windows in the interface that never seem to end: This is what makes EVE complex, but very rewarding.
Having played EVE from 2004 to the present, I think the videos above and below explain the philosophy of EVE Online and what one player can do in that universe.
The Star Wars Saga
Since the very early '80s, the Star Wars saga has brought many games to different platforms--the Amiga, Commodore 64, and so on. Great movies sometimes give rise to weak games, and many below-average games for the PC were released with the Star Wars theme. Star Wars: Empire at War was a much-awaited improvement. It is a strategy game in which Empire and Rebel forces fight for the Galaxy.
Star Wars: Empire at War
Empire at War was released in 2006, to positive reviews by major sites like GameSpot and IGN.
The game puts the player in control of either the Empire or the Rebel Alliance. In this universe, many major planets are controlled by the Empire or the Rebels, many planets are neutral, and many controlled by pirates.
The game follows the events leading to Episode IV, A New Hope, introducing heroes like Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. Each hero controlled by the player has special abilities in space battles and ground battles. For example, on the ground, Darth Vader can use the Force against enemy units, and in space he controls a small wing of TIE Fighters like those seen in Episode VI, The Return of the Jedi.
Each planet has a bonus (for example, help with weapons production or troops) that can be used by one faction or the other, or both.
The player needs to conquer, protect, and develop the planets, since besides a bonus each planet provides money that can be spent on research, construction of facilities on the ground and in space, and acquiring ships and troops.
Empire at War - two battles strategies
A most enjoyable thing about Star Wars: Empire at War is that it has two battle modes. Before capturing a planet, the player needs to plan a space assault with several different ships. After a successful space blockade it's time to move in ground assault troops.
In space battles the combat is similar to many RTS games. In the campaign mode, there are objectives the player must complete. Right at the start, if playing the Rebels, players need to save pilots who are captives on an Imperial planet. After that achievement the player has access to the X-Wing fighters. If playing with the Empire, the plot takes Darth Vader in pursuit of a mercenary ship (Han Solo) and the stolen plans of the Death Star, as in the first Star Wars movie.
In Empire at War's expansion Forces of Corruption, the player is a character from a crime syndicate taking advantage of the events between the Empire and the Rebels. The expansion brings in many new ships and technology to research. Though the crime syndicate is a bit overpowered compared with the Empire and the Rebels, the storyline is well-designed.
At the price currently asked for this game on Amazon, about $10-15 US, it is a bargain. It is a good strategy game, easy to learn and control, with good graphics, great stories to follow in the campaign mode, multiplayer online and LAN options, and hours and hours of playing.
Star Wars: Empire at War ScreenshotsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Although Republic Commando has no ships for you to fly, it does take place in the Star Wars universe, and so it's a space game. It's an FPS (First Person Shooter) that's really a blast to play. Released in 2005, its graphics engine is adequate for this type of action, allowing the game to be played on most computers with little loss in detail.
The player is dropped on Geonosis, in the middle of the war, following the events in the second Star Wars movie The Clone Wars. After completing several objectives, he will locate his teammates, the other three clones of Delta Squad.
After that, the four teammates are sent in missions against many enemies, where, of course, the droids are always present. The game is full of action, with a intuitive interface to command the other members of your Squad.
When the player or a teammate is hit very hard, instead of dying, they become incapacitated until another member comes and "revives" the player using a sort of defibrillator. If a player becomes incapacitated, he can order a team member to revive him or to continue with the current orders. Sometimes it is better to clear the room of enemies until it is safe for a member to revive the player.
Republic Commando - Simple and full of action
Republic Commando has a great interface; you see the game from inside the clone helmet. The helmet's simple interface shows information about the mission and the rest of the squad. With a simple point and click and a combination of keys, the player can give orders to attack, guard, move, stop, and so on.
The game has great comic moments, in particular when the player stays AFK (away from the keyboard) for a while and the rest of the squad start talking to each other.
In the hardest of the three levels of difficulty, the player has to learn things like how to conserve ammunition, and take advantage of cover.
The game really offers so much. You have to play it to see. It's a more serious shooter game than Star Wars Battlefront, with a darker plot and environment, but it never gets dull or frustrating. This is a great game, full of action and a real sense of tactical progression.
Republic Commando Game Play: On a Mission
Republic Commando - Making of
Star Wars: TIE Fighter
There are many Star Wars games, but TIE Fighter is truly classic. This flight simulator game was released in 1994 for MS-DOS, Macintosh, and Windows 95.
Even today, while the graphics are totally outdated, the game has a great story and great immersion and game play.
The classics are always great
In this game, the player is on the Imperial side of the war, piloting small but deadly TIE Fighter ships. As the story progresses, different missions are offered to the player, with appropriate ships to fly: convoy protection, assaults on a station, blowing up a Rebel frigate, or patrolling a sector with a squad of TIE's.
The player's interaction with the squad is simple, with easy commands to tell your squad to attack a squadron or protect you. The cockpit is well-designed; you feel you really are inside a TIE Fighter from the first trilogy of Star Wars.
You can control your ship using a joystick or a mouse. Until the X Games, this game had the best interface for using a mouse to steer a ship. You can redirect power to weapons, engines, and shields if the ship has them. Just like in the movies, the sound effects are great.
TIE Fighter is a classic that stayed in my heart for years. I do hope LucasArts someday develops a TIE Fighter game using the graphics technology of today.
A great space simulator game!
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Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program is just amazing!
Like the title says, Kerbal is amazing.
On KSP, like we call it, you run your own space program taking into account building rockets, exploring the Kerbol System, landing on other planets and much more.
On Kerbal, there are no aliens, no fighters to shoot down. This is a pure space simulation game that tries to recreate a space program. While you may not be a rocket scientist (but that helps too!) the game is a comic one because of the way the developers created it. You must take care of your Kerbals, the funny little green "persons" and take them to space, a new frontier of science and exploration that every Kerbal aspires.
The game is divided into two modes; a sandbox mode where all rocket and airplane parts are available to you and a career mode where you must start managing your funds gain science to unlock new parts and new technology and make ships (usually rockets) to explore the space in orbit around Kerbin (the home world of all the Kerbals) and develop your space program to go to the Mun and beyond.
If the sandbox mode can give you the freedom to create your constructions and test your engineering skills, it is also a good way to test new concepts before building them in the career mode.
In yearly 2015, the game came to a point where the developers have almost every goal into it. Soon to be released with version 1.0, this wonderful game that came into Steam early access, quickly got a legion of fans including, me, that bought the game on early alpha, and have been following the development close.
There is still much work to do, but even now, the game is a blast to play. Here you have to consider Newton physics (almost real since they are still working in a better physics) but also the way you build your rockets or planes.
All of this depends of your needs and creativity to make a particular mission. For example you want to go to the Mun, you build a huge rocket with several stages that will detach while you climb tons into the atmosphere, you reach space and you must orbit the planet first. Do you still have enough fuel to take your lander to the Mun, land, get some science done to unlock better rocket parts and return home with your Kerbals alive? This and many other challenges will be your daily life playing Kerbal Space Program.
Kerbal Space Program amazing momentsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Building a rocket in Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program editors are pretty simple and easy to use. I do not expect someone new to the game just to jump in and build less fly a rocket in a efficient way, still, the controls and the editor are very straight forward. With enough time in the game, watching tutorials, reading the KSP forums, you will discover pretty neat things about the game.
The video bellow by Scott Manley (you can check his channel on Youtube) explains a bit of building a rocket. Be aware that in this video, Scott Manley is using a few mods and already has some parts unlocked that usually are not available from the start.
Building a rocket by Scott Manley
The Kerbal Community and mods
When I first discover KSP, I was addicted pretty fast. I love space games, and if you come to this article and have follow it from the start, you can at least have an idea of my tastes in space games, in particular, simulators. With Kerbal Space Program, I had to cut with my "normal" idea of a space game, an almost realistic space simulator was here.
I bought the game and quickly went to the forums looking for advice and tips to build my rockets and learn the game. I then discovered the modding community of KSP.
I was shocked! Really, whatever you imagine for a space game like KSP, there is a mod for it.
You have mods that add life support, so you must get food, electricity, O2 to your Kerbals while on space. They also produce CO2, waste water and waste. Then you have mods that use these resources to make a colony in another planet or a orbital station.
There are mods for, building that show you stats of your stages, mods for parts to enhance your gaming experience like moving parts with robotic looks, mods for textures, mods that alter the physics of the game to be the most real as possible, like adding heating shields for re-entry, mods for.....well, you got my meaning. The work and above all, the quality work that some people put on almost every mod that I have and tried is truly amazing.
If you buy this game, please, check the forums, you will be addicted to the game and to the modding of it, all in a good way.
Buying Kerbal Space Program
Before buying the game you must be aware of a few facts:
By the time this review, March 2015, KSP is at version 0.90 still in development to version 1.0.
The developers are still adding content and fixing some bugs with the game, so expect the occasional crash, also, the game only works in the 32 bit version. There is a 64bit version but it is not yet stable. Using mods will increase the load on your PC memory, even if you using Windows 64 bit, the 32 bit version of the game has the same limits. The more mods you use the more memory the game will consume.
Still, this is not a critic to the game, Kerbal is a great game, a great simulator and should be tried by anyone that have at least a bit of understanding of space physics and orbital mechanics. Even if you are not a rocket scientist, the way the game is played is accessible to many people.
You can buy Kerbal Space Program on Steam where you might get a good deal, but if you really want to support Squad and the developers (they are a very small company) please visit the official site of Kerbal Space Program and buy the game on their site.
Or download the Demo and try it out.
The game is available on Windows, Mac and Linux.
You will not regret it.
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