In its current state I can hardly recommend this early-access game. I bought this game following the anouncement of the developer that the release 1.0 version would occur in 2015 and checking quickly the current "roadmap".
Apparently the developer insists on making a game with 20k systems in a huge galaxy and I was not impressed after 11 hours of gameplay, which is pretty much all I needed to exhaust the current content of the game, having made more than 60 millions creds in that period of time. Now I am fully aware of the early access status and I do not mind missing features or placeholders.
The current graphical content is pretty nice, music is ok. What bothers me is here below and is mainly about gameplay, UI and game design:
- Economy is not dynamic - if you like to trade, that means you find a route or two and with each jump it will reset the quantity of good on each planet, allowing you to "grind" the same spot all the time (boring really quick though).
- In fact, trading is pretty straight forward, you calculate how much profit you make per ton on each merchandise and depending on the quantities available on each station (and your cargo capacity) then you start the grinding (hundreds of times).
- Asteroids systems! Sucks. Depending on your spawn point after jumping, you may end up having to cross the belt 2 times to reach the station.
- Launch from starbase sequence - 10 seconds wasted (I use this timeframe to setup my navigation). Option to deactivate game cinematics (or shorten them)?
- Wait for docking bay? Wtf mechanic, occurs NPC ships are docking and you may end up waiting up to 40 seconds doing nothing.
- Horrible UI - hope it will get improved. For example if you check the (nice feature) remote trading offers, you don't see the quantity of goods in your current station and you cannot purchase directly from this part of the UI. Basically you have to press ESC (or the cross) three time, then press a button to exit the pilot area, press a button to go the trade area, then press another button to go to the stock exchange. By then, you better remember which goods you may make a profit with, and if you have creds and space left, well, you have to redo the whole thing again to fill your cargo.
- Pretty simple technique, it only gets difficult when you face multiple enemies. The AI basically charge you, pass you by, rotate and repeat. It is bugged for the slower ship if you get close enough to it and the "thougher" enemy in game is actually only a time waster (well, till you get more decent equip, with the max gear, they are sitting ducks and blow very fast like anything else)
- Itemization is too simple. I expected a simple game in terms of combat but to that level?!? So you have Guns and Missiles. Guns are divided in 3 main types, each of which has 3 main archetypes (low damage+fast, average everything, high damage+slow put it simply)
- kinetic, uses ammo and consume little to no energy
- beam, continuous high damage and low range
- energy bolts, average damage
Missile are divided in 2 main types which are rockets (dumbfire) and missile (guided) with variants like MK2 shooting and locking faster or dual fire launcher.
And that's it.
Defensive systems and upgrade rely on the same simplicity and archetypes, i.e. your can setup armor that increase your speed/manoeuvrability at the cost of HP's, or setup an armor that reduce those while increasing HP.
- No encounters beside missions. Well, civilian ships you may attack, but that is pretty much it.
- Once you found a technique (even vs 3 opponents) to dish out damage while allowing your shield to recharge (taking a few hits is inevitable), combat really is simple and quickly boring. Beside, once you upgrade with anything but starting lasers and equipment, you roll over anything. Boring (if I did not mention it several times already).
- You can buy a mining laser, which take the space of your guns. You drop more Ore when you finally destroy an asteroid.
- You can destroy asteroid faster than with a mining laser with your normal weapons, you don't get the extra Ore drop yet you still mine faster than with mining stuff and it makes it up for it.
- Once you go back to a station with your cargo full hoping for profit, surprise! You can do only one thing with the various types of Ores which is find a mission which ask you to provide some.
D. BOUNTY HUNTING & MISSIONS
- Patrol missions - the most rewarding and also the longest - are a pain in the neck. While the mission spawns some pirates (usually offering individual bounties that are altogether worth 3-4-5 times the final reward) which is nice, you still have to go through sometimes 5, 6 or more waypoints with no visual feedback if you cleared that one or not. At the end for a simple game, it tends to get you to do a lot of things in a complicated manner. Also, sometimes... well actually most of the time, you cannot complete the mission because somehow there is either a bug or a ship spawned or goes anywhere but near the waypoints (2 or 3 hours of my playtime where actually spent drifting in circles in the same galaxy till eventually I gave up)
- Other missions and single target missions are ok, nothing amazing though.
- Most likely the most fun. Civilian ships spawns around stations (or if you want extra challenge, attack miners in asteroid belts as the rocks are the most dangerous).
- Sadly not challenging at all, unless you shoot 3-4 ships and make them all hostile, civilian don't help each others and no security force shows up or anything.
- Loot system is currently frustrating at early stages, as most of the time ships do not drop anything. If they do drop stuff, it is only equipement. This makes it pretty profitable to grind some civilian ships for a while, especially when you are already geared with with decent stuff (I personally prefer the 3 guns/2 missiles fighter) and usually destroy any ship in 1 passage. Sadly there is no much point anymore at this stage for making money.
F. USER IINTERFACE, GUI & SETTINGS
- Keybinding lacks options. Why is there even a "mouse control" option ('m') if I cannot assign stuff to mouse buttons?
- Too many unecessary steps and chores (going back and forth) are induced by bad UI choices. In a game of this simplicity you would expect more attention to such things (do the developers play their game? or games at all?)
- The acceleration mode is slow to engage and could also be improved. Ending up waiting 40-60 seconds to reach a station is fun the first 20 times, then it gets annoying.
I did not expect a complex game, neither that is what I wished for. I was fine with an Elite-lite concept. Yet, considering the game is to be released in 6 months, I fear most of this time will be set to fill in the graphical place holders and add a few new features. Although the base is not solid and this game, even at realease, may only be "fun for a few hours". Its prettiness (both graphical and sound, which are both more than decent for the price tag) won't make me forget that I personally prefer content (and I do not mean 20k systems here, but a gameplay reason that will ensure I will be willing to spend enough time to be willing to visit them). Content that may drastically lack even at the end of 2015.
I reserve myself the right to modify or remove this review should I be sufficiently and positively suprised by the final product which I really hope. This game has potential, but in its current state and even for such a low pricetag I cannot recommend it.