There the rules are pretty sketchy for what it takes to qualify for “Early Access” on Steam. I don’t know that there can be such a rule in a black-and-white, qualify-or-not sense of things. But in my own sense of what I expect from an alpha, I’d say “more than this”.
Basically what we have here is a really great ship builder and a marginally successful system for test-driving your design.
This is something I’ve always wanted in a space game. Very few of them seem to wrap their heads around this idea that the ship is the avatar. Instead, somewhere buried on a tab of a dialog I never look at is a picture of my pilot, and that’s supposed to be “me”. But from a gameplay standpoint it’s much more useful to think of “me” as the thing in the middle of the screen: The ship. That’s what I’m looking at. (Assuming the game is third person.) That’s what gets damaged, upgraded, or killed by my actions. That’s the thing I want to name, personalize, and look at in dramatic camera views.
So I dislike the usual system of progression in these games where you upgrade from one fixed design to another. It’s like playing Diablo II and “upgrading” your necromancer into a sorceress, and then later trading her in for a barbarian. It just feels wrong. Maybe ship A has the stats that I really want, but it’s got wings and pointy bits on it that I dislike for aesthetic reasons. Ship B has a form I find appealing, but the stats are geared for (say) mining while I’m more interested in combat. In a genre so focused on freedom, I’ve always found this annoying.
A lot of games focus on letting you amass and command fleets. That’s nice, but rather than commanding a dozen fixed ships I’d much rather fly one really cool one. Even if I’m the only person who thinks it’s cool. I want to command the Enterprise, not the Federation, and I want to explore the galaxy, not run an intergalactic trucking company. But that’s just me.
Kinetic Void solves this – or if you like, will solve it – with a great system of ship design. You pick the pieces. You rotate, flip, and stick them together however you like. You choose the paint job, the color of the interior lights, and how shiny the thing is.
Once you’re done with the hull, you fill the interior with systems. Engines, shields, reactors, etc. Your available space is determined by ship class, not physical volume of the ship, so [I’m pretty sure] you can’t build yourself a massive supercarrier by sticking together tons and tons of little fighter pieces. Which makes sense.
There are a lot of pieces, and people have made some really interesting ships with them. Even better is that the ship designer is sensible and intuitive. I was able to build and design ships basically* without reading anything or bothering with the docs.
* I did mess up my very first ship because I didn’t understand the mechanic of adding subsystems. So I crafted a ship that was basically an empty hull. Makes me laugh. Once I figured that bit out everything was fine.
Beyond this, I can’t recommend the game. I don’t think there’s enough gameplay here to make it worthwhile just yet. The patch notes talk about there being combat and trade, but when I got into the game I couldn’t find a way to engage in either, and I encountered a few bugs just trying to fly around.
The ship builder is quality. If the rest of the game can reach that point this will turn into something special.
Reminder: This isn’t intended to be a full review. This is a first-glance, first-impressions kind of deal, as part of a series where I play a whole bunch of Sandbox Space Sims.
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