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Space Engineers

By Fr33Lanc3r.00728-12-2013
Bobfish (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
Space Engineers

The Defence

Keen Software House
Keen Software House
Action, Indie, Simulator, Strategy
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
AMD Radeon HD 7850
3 GB
5 GB

Ahh, Minecraft. I spent way too many hours with you, building the wizards towers and doom fortresses of my dreams. But there was always something lacking. Many equated you to digital Lego, and while you were fun, you didn’t scratch the same itch that Lego used to for me - even though we did make some fine things together. So I’m leaving you for a game that will scratch that itch, a game that, for me, is truly digital Lego. I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. I needed something more, so Space Engineers is now the creation game of my dreams.

Alright, now that the awkward breakup is out of the way, let me tell you about Space Engineers.

Space Engineers is a Minecraft-like sandbox game that drops you onto a simple platform attached to an asteroid. From there, you are free to build whatever your heart desires: small one man fighters; large transport ships; gigantic sprawling space stations; that one ship from that one movie/game/TV show that you love (just take a look at the Stem Workshop). As long as it’s got something to do with life in space - you can build it.

I hope my insurance will pay for this.

I hope my insurance will pay for this.

Building is intuitive, if a little frustrating. It has that creative mode problem where you can place or remove a block or item with a single click, and for someone who has spent ages working in survival mode - and thus used to holding down the right mouse button in order to remove blocks - trying to correct a mistake can turn into replacing half of your spaceship. Beyond that, starting a project is as simple as asking the game to spawn the starting block. From there, the game adjusts the blocks you're using to a size appropriate for your enterprise, small blocks for small ships, and large blocks for larger ships and space stations. The wide range of blocks, including sloped and angled pieces, combined with the surprisingly intuitive (if hard to reach easily with the default settings) 3D rotation mechanics, allows for grace and aesthetic beauty in the construction of as wide a range of designs as the mind can imagine.

The weapon systems for every form of combat - on foot, dogfighting, bombardment, and station defenses - are all available to place on your ships (or carry with you), although currently working weapons are restricted to small ships and on foot, with the turrets associated with larger vessels and space stations hopefully on their way sooner rather than later. Small ship based combat looks like it will end up similar to aerial dogfighting, although at the moment, given the lack of multiplayer options, it’s simply an exercise in gleeful destruction. There seems to be a disappointing focus on projectile weapons - machine guns, mounted rockets, mines and assault rifles - as opposed to the more fantastic weapons often associated with space travel, but I cannot deny that they get their respective jobs done - machine guns working well against lightly armoured targets, while missiles are better equipped for dealing with larger, slower moving targets - although explosives do seem to be in need of some “nerfing”.

Not sure how muzzle flashes work in a vacuum, but ok...

Not sure how muzzle flashes work in a vacuum, but ok...

Piloting you creations is an interesting affair. The controls are similar to most games involving space flight, but the game doesn't ignore the physics of moving in a vacuum as much as some other games do. Flying without inertial dampeners (or without thrusters placed in order to slow down) becomes a regrettable exercise, as you're sent flying off into the great unknown with nothing to stop you except that rather large asteroid that's getting closer by the second. There are a variety of extra items available which are required for the easy piloting of ships - particularly large ones - and the safe use of stations. Gyroscopes to ensure that they stay centered and the inertial dampeners work correctly, landing gear to attach ships to docking surfaces, gravity generators to ensure that you can safely walk through large ships and stations, and enough reactors to power everything.

Space Engineers also looks really good. I mean, all it needs to show is the asteroid field as a backdrop, and your creations in the gameworld, and aside from the relatively low draw distance (I've managed to get lost taking a ship out for a test drive several times), it does a great job of doing so. You do need to be smart about how much you do with each world though, as you will end up with framerate drops and other performance issues as the ships you build become more numerous and complex. Multiplayer is currently not available, but planned for a future release, which will probably also allow for the use of external servers, which could cut down on some of the performance issues. The music does a fair job of providing background ambience. I would prefer the various ship parts to make some noise as you approach them, however. Not to the point where thrusters make noise in a vacuum, but within what could essentially be (and probably will be in a later update) an enclosed space with its own oxygen I feel that reactors and other mechanical parts should make some kind of sound while they're running.



Space Engineers is still a solid game, and there is still time for the developers to improve the game and get a handle on some of the performance issues. As it stands at the moment, Space Engineers is the Minecraft Sci-Fi nuts have been waiting for. And I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

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