Space Engineers Preview – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Space Engineers Preview




Space. The final frontier. There’s really no better setting for games to explore, simply because of its maddeningly vast stretches of darkness. Not to forget the numerous mysteries waiting to be discovered, either. And while we may not be able to recreate a fully believable simulation of the universe (yet), we can at least pretend that we’re doing our best to plunge into what we currently have. Trust me, no game presents space better than Space Engineers does. Yes, we’ve had prettier, shinier and more interesting versions already represented, but that’s not really what space is. For every hidden mystery, there’s a dark valley of nothingness hiding it away, too. Now, instead of being able to find what that hidden conundrum is, imagine having the ability to build machines, space stations and such – all by yourself. Great, you now have a basic idea of what Space Engineers is.

For my first gameplay experience, I decided to skip the tutorial and simply get on with it. Minecraft in space, I thought – how hard could it possibly be? Well, while I wasn’t wrong per se, it’s a wholly unique experience, and that’s not only due to its setting. I first chose to “engineer” a comparatively small floating platform to stand on, since I began with nothing other than my tools and some basic resources. It was a simplistic endeavor, flying through the vacuum and stacking blocks one to another, but the thing I’m describing didn’t hit me until I landed on the construction I glued together. Space, as represented in Space Engineers, is truly vast and you’re really, really insignificant. Especially if you spawn in an asteroid field, where giant chunks of steel, rock and ore constantly and ominously zoom around you.

Being an architect by trade, I’ve always fancied games that make me build stuff. Minecraft was cool back in the days of its beta stages and Terraria is a mainstay on my hard drive because of course it is – but I was wrong to expect something like that out of Space Engineers. Instead of giving you access to a whole bunch of resources immediately (unless you play in creative mode) and letting you build whatever the hell you want to build, you’ll have to actually mine asteroids to gain access to more advanced building blocks your ship-to-be requires. At first, this will be done with a simple pneumatic drill, but once you get the hang of how machinery works, automated foundries will be no more than a blueprint away. To keep things relatively simple, constructions such as space stations and vehicles are built mostly out of massive blocks, which is to be expected. However, this approach isn’t taken with tools, weaponry, more complicated “blocks” or even the terrain generation. The universe of Space Engineers is a clever combination of both realism and blocky goodness that allows one to create untold numbers of different machines, spaceships and whatever else comes in between those two options, with relatively little effort.

What’s great about Space Engineers is that the game is complicated just as much as you want it to be. Scrapping together a small shuttle with which you’ll flurry among the stars requires minimal amounts of actual “engineering”. On the other hand, building a 1:1 replica of, say, the USG Ishimura will have you figuring things out for weeks. Virtually everything is possible, as the contraptions on offer are extremely malleable and offer a vast array of uses. It’s really up to each and every player how he/she uses them. Another great thing is the seemingly deliberate lack of objectives, thus incentivizing emergent gameplay situations. Hell, if you’re bored, just ram one giant spacecraft into another and watch the chaos unfold. Oh, yes, that is as interesting and fascinating as it sounds – the ships will shatter, with hull blocks flying all across the vacuum of outer space. Thankfully, you have that awesome astronaut suit so you’re good to go!

Space Engineers nurtures a somewhat simple aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to strain your computer. Kick all settings up to eleven, set all world generation options to the max and watch the frame rate dip. It’s not that much about optimization as it is about all the debris and objects floating around the sandbox. Overall, the game looks nice and inviting, albeit you might want to protect yourself from the vacuum of space once the meteors start hitting you over the head. As they say – looks can be deceiving. While running around and building stuff, the player animations do seem a bit sluggish and “chunky”, but this shouldn’t break immersion since the emphasis of Space Engineers falls on “engineering” itself.

While the game is that much more fun while playing with mates, it isn’t a slob in single player either. If you can play the likes of Minecraft alone, you’ll find no flaw in Space Engineers, looking from the gameplay perspective. As it currently stands, this is a brilliantly designed game that is only a couple of layers of polish and content updates away from its golden status. If there ever was an Early Access title worth a look, it’s this game.