A friend and I recently took a trip into the small, but growing, title Space Engineers. The short description of the title is Minecraft in Space. That isn’t entirely a fair comparison though as the game offers some fairly unique and entertaining aspects that set it apart from the grandfather of sandbox/building titles. I will, in the future, have a more detailed breakdown of the ins and outs of the game, but for now I am going to focus more on what we did, how we felt about it and what our plans are in the future, as well as my hopes for the future of the game.
To start, the game is in Alpha and I have only had one full day of playing, so I am far from an expert on the game. At $20 for the title on Steam I felt it would be best to tell you more about what you will experience as a player, instead of breaking down specific features in a giant list.
We launched the game in survival mode, which leaves you with a survival ship and nothing else. Surrounded by a number of asteroids we first spent about 10 minutes describing different features to find each other. Once we did find the same asteroid we got started on looking for uranium ore. Uranium is the fuel that keeps everything going and either through luck or design we have found an abundance. What we didn’t realize to start with is that as we mined in zero gravity the ore that we harvested would fly off into space. We quickly learned to hold down ‘T’ as we mined which caught some as soon as it came out, and built specific tunnels to help trap the rest.
Once we had enough fuel to keep the refinery and assembly going on our rescue ships (the essential tools to refine materials and build items) my buddy got to work on a platform as I started work on a gravity generator. Both tasks took us some time as we only had hand welders for the platform and I only had a hand drill for the mining of essential materials. Still, as the platform came together, things started to look a little better for us and I was shortly up and running with a gravity generator near the mouth of the crater we had mined into our asteroid. Mining went much quicker from there as the ore fell to the ground.
From there, I started to tear apart my ship. It had… an accident which I would prefer not to relive and was embedded in the asteroid. I lost a few pieces of the ship into space, but I was able to break down the refinery, assembly and medical bay to set up on our platform. This increased, significantly, our production time and as I worked on beacons and the basic outline of our mining ship, my friend started working on a small fighter so we could start to chase down some of the AI controlled passing ships.
The ships are a blast to make with realistic (I guess) requirements. You will need thrusters for all directions you wish to move the ship – the more you use the faster you go and the more power needed – you need reactors to power your weapons and electronics, a gyroscope allows you to actually control the ship, a cockpit gives you a place to pilot from, the type of armor you use to build the ship will determine how resilient it is as well as how agile it is due to weight, and a vast array of other options can be included. Pro tip: use a landing gear as your starting point that is anchored to a platform, otherwise your un-powered ship will fly off into space at the slightest touch as you start your build.
For the most part, we accomplished little towards our goals for the future that first night. We do have a platform up and running with the essential tools that are required for survival, but outside of one ship (which you spawn with) we had little else to get from asteroid to asteroid. Future plans include the two ships previously mentioned, which are built however you choose, and explorations into other asteroids. From there, we have plans for a large mother ship that will be used to capture passing AI ships. Essentially, I will pilot a large ship with a gaping opening and my friend will pilot a light fighter. After he blows up a ship, I will fly through the debris field collecting all the floating pieces. If all goes according to plan, we can start pirating the universe and increase the amount of useful materials we will need to build our own… Unlife… Planet?
For the hours we played that first night we had a blast. We were constantly figuring out new things and stumbling over ourselves as we would get lost in the vast selection of items we could build. Ideas were flowing all night as we came up with more and more ideas for space stations, docking platforms, ship yards and construction yards. From our experience so far, we have not had other ships to worry about, so defense has not been that important, but items are included to defend a base. There are some options that we will ramp up as we learn more about the game, but for now we are in school as it were. Above all else, we had fun, and talked the next day about the game. We discussed ideas for our first large ship and set up a plan of production to ensure we were both working well together.
As it is right now, in Alpha, the game is fantastic and feels complete from what we have seen. I’m sure plenty more could be added, but the amount of features included right now is so overwhelming I am hesitant to see what is coming down the line. If you are looking for something to do this weekend, or for the next few months, Space Engineers may be the next big thing. For my small group of friends, it seems like this is going to be our go to game for the coming weeks, months or years.
Are you currently playing the game? Interested in trying to start a Noobist community game where we can work together to create wonders? Let us know in the comments or on the forums. Expect a full preview of the game in the coming week.