Behold the space sim ascendant again.
My earliest PC gaming memories involve Frontier, Frontier: First Encounters, and the most special game nobody’s ever heard of, Nomad. That last one stood out in my childhood. Its manual addressed you as “widow son,” which might have just been a cool code name but was an accurate description of me, personally, as my father had recently died. Then there was Frontier, the ultimate space simulator. I still remember the lucrative trade route of robots to/from Sol System and Ross 154.
I guess that genre hasn’t been totally abandoned. EVE Online is still running strong, alienating newbies and breaking the hearts of veterans with hilarious Ponzi schemes. The X series has recently rebirthed itself and is choking on its amniotic fluid. There’s the unplayable Evochron series and a handful of space roguelikes.
Kickstarter is here to the rescue with Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous, neither of which I “believe” in a too-good-to-be-true sense.
- Star Citizen in particular looks like some kind of wish fulfillment fantasy. Grab a drool towel and look at the spaceship trailers they release!
- Not to be outdone, Elite’s capital ship combat target video blows my tiny little mind.
- And now there’s No Man’s Sky (which I keep typing as Old Man’s Sky), the procedural multiplayer-sort-of space exploration game that blows everyone’s mind.
I would pay anything to play any of them, magically finished today.
That’s optimistic Jordan speaking. Grumpy Jordan doesn’t like the direction these space games are going. It’s the same direction they’ve been going for 20 years: straight ahead at a fixed speed. In space, where the only maximum velocity is c, this is really irritating. We’re not playing real space games. These are just World War II flight simulators with the gravity turned off. That’s why we see dumbfire missiles. Wheeled landing gear. Front-mounted laser blasters. Close range dogfights. Nothing that isn’t possible in a biplane or a fighter jet.
I want more than that. Inertial dampeners. Omnidirectional turrets. Kinectic bombardment. Software hacking. Solar sails. Light-speed targeting delays. Gravitational slingshots. Hydrogen scoops.
Give me a little space in my space game, for goodness sake!