Steam Backlog: Space Engineers

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 16, 2017

Filed under: Game Reviews 49 comments

Technically this game isn’t one of the hundreds of unplayed titles in my Steam library. I picked up Space Engineers three years ago and I dabbled with it a bit before losing interest. At the time I thought it was an interesting idea, but it was too unfinished to really enjoy. It was roughly equivalent to the early alpha builds of Minecraft. It was a fun little system for creative building, but it wasn’t really a proper game yet. There was no sense of progression, no story, no end goal, or anything else to make it more than a really strange set of Legos.

It’s still being regularly updated, and so I thought it was time to give the game a second look. I’ve now spent four days with Space Engineers, and I honestly have no idea what the developers are up to. It doesn’t really feel all that much different from what I remember in 2014.

The inside of some sort of science base I built.
The inside of some sort of science base I built.

In Space Engineers, you play as an astronaut. You can mine for resources, refine the raw ore, assemble machine parts, and use the parts to build terrestrial bases, orbital stations, ground vehicles, spaceships, and various other craft for defense and resource acquisition. Building and using these constructions is really cool and is the main source of fun with the game.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been assuming the developers are aiming for something like Kerbal Space Program or Factorio where the player begins with very primitive tools and gradually works their way up through some sort of tech tree. Or maybe like Minecraft, where progression is more about stepping through a dependency chain to access the end-game toys. There’s a “survival mode” in the game, and based on that description I’m expecting something like these other games.

Maybe that’s not their ultimate vision, but that’s the vibe I’m getting based on my time with the game and that’s the lens through which I’m judging it. If you want to tell me that Space Engineers is really all about ship-to-ship multiplayer combat and all the resource-gathering stuff is vestigial cruft from the early days of development, then fine. Maybe I’m playing the game wrong. Whatever. I played in the way that was most obvious to me and this is my reaction.

I tried to play in survival mode. I was kind of annoyed that every survival scenario began with you on an an already established base, since I wanted to “start from scratch” and work my way up to having a base. But instead the game always gives you a base, some ships, and all equipment. It’s like being dropped into the middle of a fully-stocked Minecraft fortress made by a stranger. What is there for me to do? Sure, I guess I can go off, find a free spot, and build my own stuff. But there’s nothing I need. If my only goal is to build creatively, then why wouldn’t I just play in creative mode where I can build freely? Right now survival mode is just an extraordinarily slow and cumbersome way to build.

If you want to play on an Earth-like environment then you start here, in this massive base built by the developers and pre-stocked with lots of ships.
If you want to play on an Earth-like environment then you start here, in this massive base built by the developers and pre-stocked with lots of ships.

The way the game is designed, you can’t have a progression from starting gear to full-fledged base. To make a simple cube – the most basic building block in the game – you need steel plates. To make steel plates you need an assembling machine. An assembling machine needs iron ingots from a refinery. Both devices need power, which requires either a reactor, or a solar panel and a battery. To build all of that stuff requires almost every resource in the game. It’s like a game of Minecraft where you can’t build yourself a shack until you’ve successfully harvested and processed iron, gold, coal, redstone, and diamond. But you can’t get that stuff unless you already have a working base! But if I already have a fully-stocked base then why am I trying to build a shack? It’s a game you can’t start playing until you’ve beaten it, so the developer starts you off in the end-game win state and then leaves it to you to figure out how to amuse yourself. Just… what?

The other problem is that in survival mode you’ve got inventory limits, and the inventory limits in this game are maddening. When you start a survival game you can choose if you want “Normal” inventory, a 3x expanded inventory, or the 10x expanded inventory. But Even with the inventory set to ten times the normal limit, I found myself making trips to the storage container several times a minute. It was like playing Minecraft with a three-slot inventory. It makes building very slow and awkward.

I anticipate someone will defend this on the basis of “realism”, but the game already has lots of compromises with realism. So why this? Why did this thing need to be realistic? With so much time schlepping materials around I feel less like a Space Engineer and more like a Space Stevedore.

I am gonna engineer the SHIT out of space.
I am gonna engineer the SHIT out of space.

Shamus, why don’t you just play in creative mode, since that’s obviously what you want?

That’s kinda my point. What is survival mode for? It’s not like there’s a lot of work required to stay alive when you’re surrounded with all these future toys. There’s no struggle to gain power or quest for stability. Survival is completely binary. You either have enough oxygen and you’re fine or you don’t and you’re dead. There’s no “barely getting by” state. Like I said, maybe the developers aren’t trying to make a Minecraft / Factorio kind of thing. I get that it’s unfinished, but you’d kind of expect the early version to hint at the intended design and give you a sense of what the gameplay loop will be. But right now I can’t tell what the game mode is all about or what it’s for.

I know it sounds like I’ve been really negative here. Sorry for ranting about an unfinished game mode for 1,000 words. To be clear, Space Engineers is NOT a terrible game. The devs are hard at work and the game has some really amazing technology behind it. I’m not whinging on about survival mode because it’s this awful thing that ruins the game or whatever. It’s just a really puzzling feature. The game has been in development for four years and is now in beta. You’d think things would be taking shape by this point. Even if Survival mode isn’t done, you’d think we’d have some kind of idea where they’re going with it. Is this it? Is this the intended experience? I don’t know, and I can’t help but wonder how this is going to evolve into a game with a sense of progression.

So let’s end by talking about…

The Good Stuff

Flying around in space ships is pretty cool. It would be even cooler if there was somewhere I needed to go.
Flying around in space ships is pretty cool. It would be even cooler if there was somewhere I needed to go.

Building ships is amazing. You can jump into a multiplayer server with friends, build gigantic battleships, and pit them against each other. The game runs simulations for physics, atmosphere, gravity, and electrical systems, so as your ship comes apart you’ve got depressurization, power loss, and debris flying around according to multiple overlapping fields of artificial gravity. Doing all of that in single-player is impressive enough, but the fact that it can also sustain these simulations over a network is amazing.

The building interface is really impressive. You can build some amazing stations and vehicles. Sure, it’s pretty complex by the standards of the genreIt takes a while to get a feel for rotating blocks in all three dimensions. but when you compare the complexity of the controls to the robustness of the output, it’s no contest. The sheer variety possible in these designs is stunning.

The same building interface handles ground vehicles, floating structures, freestanding structures, aircraft, and whatever else you can think to make. The game doesn’t require you to tell it what kind of craft you’re building, and it doesn’t have different rules for different things. All vehicle behavior is emergent based on physics.

The modding community is active and the game looks wonderful. If you just want to build creatively then there’s no reason not to get this. If you’re looking for something with more of a “game” type structure in terms of challenges to overcome and goals to achieve, then maybe it’s best to keep waiting.

Space Engineers is only available on Steam.



[1] It takes a while to get a feel for rotating blocks in all three dimensions.

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49 thoughts on “Steam Backlog: Space Engineers

  1. Leocruta says:

    Much like you, Shamus, when I played space engineers a few years ago, I saw some potential but still lost interest pretty quickly. I shelved it (metaphorically speaking) planning to pick it up again after it was fleshed out some more. Hearing that little has apparently changed is somewhat disheartening.

    Still, your description of ship combat has intrigued me, so perhaps it’s time for a reinstall. Are there any tools available to speed the construction of massive projects?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      It sort of sounds like the ship combat might be the intended experience. I then wonder, what’s the point of all the stuff on the ground. Can people bomb other players’ bases? I could see a good game where you can fly your battleship, bomb enemy bases, repair your ship and fight other ships, and repair your own base when it gets bombarded. But then what the heck is survival mode for, and why doesn’t it start you with (near-) zero, like Factorio or Minecraft?

    2. DeathbyDysentery says:

      I haven’t played Space Engineers, but I do know that Empyrion: Galactic Survival (which has similar ship-building mechanics which are almost as rigorous as SE) has a mechanic where you can reconstruct saved ship designs. You need to have enough resources to construct the ship from scratch, and it takes time (from a few minutes to several hours), but it basically lets you build your ship in creative mode or get a blueprint from the Steam Workshop and then build it automatically on a competitive PvP server once you have the resources. This mechanic has made the PvP in Empyrion a little bit more interesting than other minecraft-esque games, since you don’t have to spend some much time building things block by block and can instead focus on fighting enemies and controlling the map.

      1. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

        Space Engineers also has blueprints, but you still have to weld each block of the ship to make it

    3. SKD says:

      Hearing that little has apparently changed is somewhat disheartening.

      Apparently is the operative word. The game has evolved a great deal in the last couple years but most of it is under the hood. If you haven’t played in a couple years then you probably haven’t seen actuators, hinges, and docking ports as well as several other block types that have been added to increase what you can do in the game. Unfortunately, while they have added random ships that pass nearby and can be taken over and modified or salvaged there are no overarching goals built in beyond staying alive and building. If they at least started you in a disaster recovery scenario there would be something to do, but other than turning on meteor showers that will pass through and damage or destroy anything in their way there is no further challenge.

      For a very similar game with more actual “game” to it try Empyrion: Galactic Survival. I haven’t checked its background but it looks, feels and plays like a forked version of Space Engineers combined with some Ark: Survival Evolved mixed in.

    4. Considering I always enjoyed world building elements in games where I could get as creative as possible (SOTDRP Warcraft 3), this game might’ve kept me amused creatively for hours and hours.

      Then again, I have much different experience with games than others sometimes. The creative side to most games gets me to do stuff vs. The goal oriented ones.

      1. Lars says:

        For creativity check out scrap mechanic. (First on youtube :-), Luap the great for the really exiting stuff). It doesn’t give you a goal … for now. But the creative possibilities are awesome.

        1. Will probably be checking it out later then! Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Droid says:

    There is a third way that you did not mention yet and that might be the best for this type of scenario: Start off with nothing but resources, similar to ANNO. You have 5000 moneys, 50 units of tools, 20 of wood and 10 of food. Now get going!

    The first priority is going to be to make the building resources you have either last longer or, ideally, sustain your comsumption by producing them locally. Then, you can open up more and more branches of production with more and more resource gathering/processing facilities that need enough of the materials you already have to make sure you don’t attempt to shoot for them first and starve yourself (of resources to build a self-sustaining cycle) in the process.

    It works pretty well in the ANNO series, even though I’m puzzled as to why no one else seems to use this formula. Then again, I’m also puzzled why no one has made a city-builder with the resource management complexity of Pharaoh or Caesar in the last 15 years (Haemimont Games came close, at least).

    1. Lars says:

      There is. It’s called Minecraft.

      1. Droid says:

        In Minecraft, you can start from nothing at all and construct more and more stuff with a very simplified system of progression.

        What I mean is a system where you cannot get something from nothing, meaning you have to start with resources to get going. This makes it a resource investment to expand, rather than just a time investment.

        At least I guess that is what you meant.

        1. Lars says:

          Sort of yes. In Minecraft you start with nothing building houses, later villages where settlers … äh settle. You build agriculture, livestock, Mines.
          On that terms its not so far off, even it is considered to be a whole other genre.
          Except all the work and transport is done by yourself in ego- instead of iso-perspective.

          Well now serious: Have you tried “Banished”, “Life is Feudal” or “Aven Colony”. They could grow close to your expectations.

          1. Droid says:

            Banished feels like it lays the foundations for what I want and then does not go anywhere with them. It looked promising as an early-access but then didn’t have any more updates. I heard there was a major one, though, so I may give it another look.
            Life is Feudal seems to lean more towards Wurm Online than anything else. Not really sure, though, I haven’t played it.
            Aven Colony I was very excited about, there seems to be an interesting exploration aspect to it. I’ll probably buy it as soon as I get access to a computer again, as opposed to the glorified brick I’m writing this on.

            As to what I like about the city-builder games I mentioned: I had a lot of fun with Imperium Romanum and Grand Ages: Rome, they had a lot of time-sensitive scenarios and nice twists with their event cards (which you yourself could trigger). That led to reasonably difficult challenges, together with achievements to do them with X time left over or while ignoring the easiest way to do them.

            What I liked about Pharaoh was that you had lots and lots of people running around bringing their special service to the buildings they passed, with things like attractivity, fire and structural integrity as hazards to look out for, gods and peers to please, trade to conduct, monuments to build, invasions to fight, … and everything had one central currency, money (kindof).
            Products were there to please and upgrade your population (housing quality/space), which gave you a certain wealth score. Quality of life buildings like jugglers, senet houses (bars, basically), but also dentists and embalmers gave you a culture score, monuments gave you an according score and your reputation in the kingdom (by fulfilling requests, sending troops and winning, …) gave you a kingdom score.
            You “won” a map by fulfilling score requirements in any or all of those four categories, plus maybe a certain housing level (with all the rare goods and infrastructure to support them) plus maybe a certain city population.
            If you compare all that to the complexity of modern games, you might see the difference. Modern games focus more on things like getting the right materials to build a certain building, all the steps to actually build it or tracking individuals within your population (Aven, Cities Skylines).

    2. King Marth says:

      Interesting that you hold up Pharaoh and Caesar as the epitome, I found them extremely crude after playing Zeus and Emperor: Rise of the Three Kingdoms by the same people. Perhaps they’re more focused on the walker-management than the resource-management angle for you? Still, I’m pretty sure the concept of elite housing was only introduced in Zeus, where you have an entirely different type of housing which requires at a minimum the resource requirements of highly-upgraded conventional housing as well as a selection of luxury goods.

      I recall a Zeus map where you were starting up a colony for the purpose of mining gold, and the map you got was excessively resource-barren, basically only containing gold and meadows which you could use to raise goats for cheese. Importing everything is tricky even with that source of cash, and there was a bit of novelty in excessively overproducing cheese to woo neighbors with endless gifts of the stuff.

      I picked up the full series on a GoG sale a little while back, they’re fun city-builders. Pity the company’s gone now, but at least with Emperor they had refined the formula to a good state.

      1. Droid says:

        That reminds me that I own Zeus there as well, but never played it.

      2. guy says:

        Pharaoh actually has pseudo-elite housing; instead of a fully distinct type, regular housing upgraded to a certain point switches to noble housing, which stops providing workers and instead gives an outlandish quantity of money.

        1. Droid says:

          Also, residences (2×2 houses), villas (3×3) and estates (4×4) exist. All poorer houses have a 1×1 or a 2×2 form (chosen randomly), which often leads to some 1×1 houses being stranded “in between” two bigger 2×2 residences that have not enough space to upgrade.

  3. Lars says:

    About a year ago the game had a starting point, where you flew a lander in planetary orbit, not able to get back into space. So you had to land this thing on the planet without crashing it. The goal was to get back into space.
    To build a ship, that could accomplish that you had to disassemble the lander to give you the resources to build a base to harvest materials to build the spaceship. While dodging mechanical hounds and meteors.
    Did they really disable that starting point?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, this actually sounds like the missing scenario, which would make the survival mode make sense.

    2. Pat says:

      That kind of starting point is still there, you have to scroll down some to find it today when making a new world. One of the starts described in the main article is known as an “Easy Start Survival” preset, which I believe is there for players who want to go into space that much sooner. There’s also an Easy Start for The Moon and Mars and an Alien World.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Sounds like they should move it to the top of the list. :)

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ve played this mode, it is fairly interesting (and at the time at least was considered fairly challenging) but I don’t think the game was balanced for this to be the way the player learns the game.

    4. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

      Like Pat said it does exist, but it has a dumb name like Solar System or something

  4. Steve C says:

    I don’t know anything about this game but I would have thought that survival mode would be based on current Mars colonization ideas. Where a bunch of manufactured resources are dropped from orbit near each other. Then humans arrive and try and build a sustainable base out of it. Where all the supplies makes everything you want except there’s a pressing difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. Which is more important, getting a greenhouse up and running or a rover in order to collect things from further afield?

    1. Droid says:

      That’s basically Planetbase (you even start on the red small desert planet, I think). A bit slow for a base-building game, but pretty okay.

  5. Phil says:

    There are other starting scenarios than the Earth base. Choosing “Solar System” for example will get you started with an atmospheric lander coming down on earth, and that’s it. No big base, just the ship.

    Of course, there’s still the problem that in order to do anything in SE, you need an assembler and refinery. And, if you don’t have the parts to make an assembler, and don’t have an assembler to make those parts, then you’re boned. Which is why every starting Survival scenario starts you out with at least those two machines (and some sort of power source), and the basic hand-tools you need to mine, deconstruct, and repair things.

    Another problem the game has is some pretty glaring bugs that pop up from time to time. Recently, for about a month, there was an issue where if you placed the base for a piston, its head (which is a separate entity) would spawn on the wrong end of the piston, and then try to move to the correct end. If it came in contact with anything else, it blew up. Landing gear also have a history of blowing up, especially in multiplayer.

    One thing I was messing with, before the piston bug, was a machine that could just drill out a straight, endless tunnel, using drills, grinders, welders, pistons, and a program block and c# code to control it. Had a nice design (not exactly pretty, but nice) that I’d worked out in Creative and was trying to build in a Survival. Someday I’ll get back to it.

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      Of course, there's still the problem that in order to do anything in SE, you need an assembler and refinery. And, if you don't have the parts to make an assembler, and don't have an assembler to make those parts, then you're boned. Which is why every starting Survival scenario starts you out with at least those two machines (and some sort of power source), and the basic hand-tools you need to mine, deconstruct, and repair things.

      This sounds similar to Subnautica. In Subnautica, you always start out in a life-pod with a working crafting station. You can mine basic crafting resources by hand, but you can’t craft anything by hand. To do that, you need the crafting station. You can eventually craft a building tool that will let you build bases and additional crafting stations; but, if your stated out with nothing in Subnautica, you’d be screwed.

    2. Decius says:

      Based on the description of that machine, I want a mode or game that is a cross between Factorio and Infinifactory-
      “Here’s a world, here’s some basic tools. Build a machine that can mine basic resources and build more advanced tools so that you can build a more advanced machine that… and get back into space.”

      Making everything interact via ‘physics’ rules doesn’t preclude letting the player build a machine that builds machines, but rather than a ‘factory item’, make the player assemble the factory out of things made of stuff. When the antagonist attacks the factory and damages some of it, physics happens and if the player didn’t build in automatic shutdown, or the automatic shutdown leaves things in an unstable configuration, !!fun!! happens.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This sounds like no mans sky,only less shitty.

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      I decided to pick up NMS over the weekend and It’s actually not terrible. The UI and inventory management could still use some work, but it has a lot of fun exploration and a decent sense of progression now.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Bear in mind it’s been a long time since I’ve played SE but from my experience it’s really not. The game doesn’t really want to evoke that sense of wonder that NMS aims for* and is, probably unsurprisingly, much more construction and engineering focused. Your drive to exploration isn’t to see something interesting but pretty much only to find resources for your next project.

      *How much NMS succeeds of fails isn’t really relevant here.

    3. Lars says:

      No Mans Sky has really improved over the last year. Update 1.3 got me back in the game.
      Planets and Fauna are much more interesting (Not nearly as the early videos promised but much better).
      And in Update 1.3 you got some player guidance. Questmarkers for 2 different main story quests and random quests like scan 3 plants/animals, eliminate pirate/depot, get and bring stuff. Inventory and ships have improved. Now you find a crashed ship, where some inventory slots are damaged and can be repaired with credits, instead of changing the ship all the time. Technology goes into an extra tech-register so it doesn’t needlessly fill your inventory.
      The housing is okay, even terra-forming is possible (read in release-notes, not experienced myself yet).

      NMS reminds me of the last “This dump industry”-blog post. Improvements are possible, but not in 6 weeks.

  7. Christian Pinch says:

    While I do agree that Space Engineers needs a lot of work, I have had a lot of fun in survival mode with friends. We started in the asteroid belt on a space station, and we set our goal as making our own ship that was fully self-sufficient. That was quite enjoyable, using the space station as a starting point to build an actual mobile ship.

    Of course, we had to ignore/dismantle the red/blue ships rather than use them, so I absolutely agree that the game gives you way too much in the way of starting stuff in survival mode.

  8. Syal says:

    “Survival Mode” is equivalent to “Never Dead Mode”. Older games used to call it God Mode.

  9. Tohron says:

    For me, the challenge of survival mode was scaling up from having the baseline equipment to having massive drilling vehicles mining out entire asteroids, and refining the resulting resources in massive solar-powered factories, then using them to build huge ships in survival mode. It was interesting enough that I created an XL Industrial mod ( with larger-scale versions of the regular equipment to make my bases more manageable.

  10. Fade2Gray says:

    I really don’t understand this trend towards infuriatingly small inventory spaces. That was one of main things that killed Slime Rancher for me. That game only gives you four inventory slots with hard caps for how many of a particular item can be stored in each slot (and no option to overflow the same item type into multiple slots). This stuff is madness! Why is every game with even a hint of survival mechanics turning into a stevedore sim?

    1. Droid says:

      Slime Rancher at least does this to pad out the game’s length, probably in order to entice you to buy ingame currency (if that’s possible, if not, my next guess would be stupidity).

      1. Fade2Gray says:

        Nope. No micro-transactions or anything of the sort. Just baffling game design.

    2. Sich says:

      Yep you have a small inventory, but you are not supposed to build everything by yourself, but to build a small building ship with cargo container…

      With the 10x inventory you can just build everything by yourself….

  11. Nick-B says:

    Well, a good alternative to Factorio is, of course, Fortresscraft Evolved. I think it started as a Minecraft mod called Fortresscraft (thus the “craft” part of the name) but has since been spun off into it’s own standalone game. And I think it doesn’t even use java anymore (THANK YOU!).

    It is similar in need for power and a furnace machine to be able to progress, but it prevents the “now what?” style that you mentioned with the Earth start here by doing several things.
    -First, the furnace you get is decent, but can be upgraded with basic materials to process faster. No matter how fast, though, you always need more. End-game, I prefer at least 5 furnaces with fairly advanced upgrades per ore type, so starting with 1 is a big restriction. As well, you don’t have the ability to make more until later on, so you start out by managing your single furnace to produce the materials needed to find the materials to make more, so you can build advanced machinery in a reasonable time.
    -Second, power. You start with a control hub that acts as a sort of generator. Things attached to it can suck out the power, such as your one furnace. You shortly get access to being able to make more – smaller – generators so can make power anywhere you want, but the logistics of keeping them fed are interesting. You can either make power on the spot, or use power transmitters to route the power around (ala factorio’s power poles).

    These serve to make the start of the game a bit survival-ey. You do need to only worry about not freezing, which pretty much is automatically handled by staying above ground (where your suit solar panels generate the power to keep you warm). Dig deeper to find the newer ores and new survival appears. Insanely cold caverns, toxic gas in others, etc.

  12. Fade2Gray says:

    Speaking of interstellar sci-fi survival games, has anyone tried Empyrion? I’ve heard good things but I haven’t taken the plunge yet.

    1. DeathbyDysentery says:

      Empyrion is a really strange beast. It lets you build the same sort of things as in Space Engineers, but is somewhat more restrictive and lacks features in comparison. For instance, in Empyrion, gravity for each vehicle is entirely binary. It either has it or it doesn’t; there aren’t interacting gravity fields like in SE. Also, there is no way to walk around on the deck of a moving ship without clipping through the walls into space, so you always need to sit in a chair in those cases. Suffice to say that its spaceship construction/simulation system is less robust.

      The game, however, DOES offer more of a game than SE seems to at the moment. For instance, its survival mode offers the same kind of limited start with a slow buildup that Shamus seems to be pining for here. You generally spawn from an escape pod and can build things from your pocket constructor until you have a base from materials you collect yourself. There are also Enemy NPCs, monsters, ships, bases, and space stations to contend with and gain loot from. The survival mechanics also offer some challenge, depending on what planet you’re on: some places require you to extract oxygen from the water, and others will eventually kill you with radiation if you are exposed for too long. Finally, there are a dozen or so planets to explore in the default solar system they give you and they are all pretty varied, with different enemies, hazards, threats, and resources. A major stepping stone in the games progression is, in fact, to gain the ability to travel to new planets by building a Capital Ship with warp capabilities, so, unlike in SE, there are definitely places to go and things to do with your fancy ships.

      This is not to say that it is a high-quality, polished product. It, like SE, is also in Early Access (though it seems to be developing faster), and there are a host of problems besides that. The technical limitations on the spaceship simulation I mentioned before are a huge one, for example. I don’t necessarily have faith that the devs will ever figure out how to let you walk around on your own ship while it is moving. The PvE design is also pretty questionable; the game features ‘dungeons’ in the form of enemy bases and space stations, but the level design isn’t very inspired and in some places is actively awful. Also, since enemy AI basically boils down to ‘stand-and-shoot’, raiding enemy bases becomes a rote process before long. Be warned, too, that resource collection is a large part of the experience, and mining basically boils down to pointing your drill at ore and holding left click until the vein is depleted. Unlike minecraft, there are no subterranean caves to explore or monsters to contend with while mining.

      I could make a million other little nitpicks, but the basic idea is that it offers survival, exploration, and combat challenges which SE does not. This does means that building is not done entirely for its own sake, but unfortunately, those challenges aren’t exactly riveting as individual experiences, and most people will probably get tired of them easily. The greatest value that the Single Player offers is probably the feeling of progression; going from mining iron in the jungle with a metal drill to blasting it out of asteroids with your mining laser on your behemoth of a ship is pretty satisfying. Of course, this thrill disappears soon after you reach the highest tech level and get access to the last of the cool toys.

      The longest lasting experience in the game right now is the multiplayer, which has good potential. The PvP battles are massively helped by the fact that the focus on resource collection gives players something to actually fight over. So the competitive multiplayer is less, “Let’s build some ships and make them fight for fun!” and more, “Let’s fight for control over this planet!” It’s pretty neat, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

      1. Fade2Gray says:

        Wow! Thank you for the detail response. It sound like I might enjoy Empyrion a little more than SE (building for the sake of creating things never holds my attention for long), but I’m probably going to hold off and see what the game looks like after early access.

  13. Pat says:

    The Devs really should move the Easy Starts to the bottom of the new world list and move the minimalist starts to the top, seeing as how the current arrangement left a bad impression.

  14. Miguk says:

    I had exactly the same experience. It was never clear to me what I was supposed to be doing. With so much of the base already built in the beginning, I didn’t know where to begin expanding it or why I should.

  15. Leslee says:

    This reminds me a bit of a developer post mortem (of sorts) that I attended several years ago for Pirates of the Burning Seas at a SOE convention (when SOE still existed).

    While not explicitly stated, I got the sense that the designers became so distracted in trying to create the most realistic ship battles possible that they forgot that they also needed to make a FUN GAME.

    Perhaps something similar has inadvertently happened with Space Engineers?

  16. Philadelphus says:

    Survival is completely binary. You either have enough oxygen and you're fine or you don't and you're dead. There's no “barely getting by” state. Like I said, maybe the developers aren't trying to make a Minecraft / Factorio kind of thing.

    To be fair, in Minecraft (I haven’t played Factorio) survival is often pretty binary as well: you’ve either just spawned in and are actually in danger of starving, or you’ve spent five minutes punching grass for seeds, planted a farm, and are never in danger of starving again (unless you just flat-out forget to eat, as one of my friends manages to do disturbingly often).

    Not that I think this is a bad thing mind you, I love how Minecraft basically lets you decide how much you want to worry about starvation.

  17. Scerro says:

    Having put together a server for just a few friends, it’s pretty much exactly this. There’s still no semblance of a progression or something to do outside of creative. At least survival is a whole lot better now that you can drill through rock without mining turning it into grabbable items.

    Having a game designer that would come in and rework everything into something with progression and proper survival tiering would make a huge, huge difference.

    They have done a lot of work on the engine. Multiplayer is doable now, but there are also still some issues. It’s definitely at least in a beta state instead of painfully buggy and alpha. Now if they’d just make DCed characters drop their bag instead of disappearing with their stuff…

  18. Veloxyll says:

    This kinda echoes my experience. There’s no real sense of progression. Even the rescue ship and Planetary lander starts have to give you a whole lot of stuff.

    There is a furnace for basic materials. so a progression start where you can only make a few basic things and have to work towards getting the massive assemblers and refineries for advanced toys.

    And good luck finding resources on the planetary start. Without the large ore detector, you will be hard pressed to actually locate the minerals you need to produce things. And it’s a lot harder to build an effective mining craft in an atmosphere.

    And the story mode so far doesn’t seem to focus on any of these things.

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