Here at The Relay we’ve been focusing for a long time on Star Citizen, for over a year really. But it’s important to note that Star Citizen is not the only game out there; there are a lot of other space games that deserve attention too.
Three years ago, in October of 2012, when Star Citizen was first announced, it stepped in to fill a void. The decade before it launched, space games were largely confined to unsuccessful MMO’s or mods. Since Star Citizen was announced though, both the number and quality of upcoming space-related titles has increased dramatically. In fact, looking into the five to seven years prior to Star Citizen, it appears the only ‘major’ space-game release was the X3 series.
In the space below, I’m going to try to take my time and outline many of the Space-type games released, announced, or in development recently that I can think of. I will miss games. I will write about games that I don’t really know too much about. I’ll mention games I haven’t personally tried.
But I still think this is a good thing to do. Star Citizen is important, it helped revive a long-dormant genre, and I think it’s important to look at Star Citizen not only for what it is, but also for what it helped start; a second-coming of the space-age for games. I think it’s a good idea to look at what else there is in the same space, look at what else can be supported, talked about, tried, enjoyed, and compared, as we wait for Star Citizen.
For an idea of how the format of this article is going to work, let’s start with Star Citizen, because it’s where the resurgence started, so it’s where this article should start. I’ve divided things into three categories, games that focus mostly on Combat, those that focus mostly on Simulation, and those that focus mostly on Strategy. None of these categories are perfect, but it’s a way to sort things a bit.
I’ve also given the games I’ve played, or looked at extensively, a rank, from 1 to 5, based on how much I’ve enjoyed them so far, or how excited I am for them. Because everyone likes numbers. If I’ve left a game blank, it’s not because I don’t like it, but because I don’t know enough about it to judge.
Announced: October 2012 Release Date: 2016 / TBA System: PC
Star Citizen is a First Person Universe simulator, and the most successful crowdfunded anything ever. At over 110 million dollars raised, the funding level for Star Citizen seemingly won’t stop, and the team at Cloud Imperium Games are using that money to fund one of the most ambitious titles ever created.
Star Citizen’s numerous ‘Stretch Goals’ have promised everything from procedurally generated planets to a whole ‘Universe Simulation’, from 100s of planetary systems to an accurate, physics-based flight system.
Star Citizen comprises two games; Squadron 42, a largely single-player, story driven experience, releasing in 2016, and Star Citizen itself, an open-universe MMO, release date TBA.
Squadron 42 will feature large space battles and first-person-shooter segments, as well as a talented acting cast, including the likes of Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, John Rhys Davies, Gillian Anderson, and more.
Star Citizen is an upcoming MMO, estimated to be released sometime in 2017 or 2018, which will include a fully simulated Universe, FPS elements, trading, exploration, various jobs, planetary landings, and more.
Announced: December 2013 Release Date: June 2016 System: PS4, PC
No Man’s Sky is an extremely ambitious title that looks to combine a space-age survival game with an extremely innovative use of procedurally generated content. Everything, from planets, to flora and fauna, to spaceships themselves, is procedurally generated, meaning there is a glut of content included in the game.
No Man’s Sky will include a variety of gameplay types, including activities such as mining, scanning for, and finding, new life, and building / upgrading ships, but the largest facet of gameplay appears to be exploration.
While the developers have been very tight-lipped about other aspects of the game, such as what story elements there might be, the prospect of exploring over 18 quintillion planets appeals to a large number of people. It remains to be seen what kind of lasting effect can be had on the planets visited, and what sort of party and friend system the title will employ.
For more information, the No Man’s Sky Reddit sub has a very detailed breakdown of what the game will and won’t include:
Announced: November, 2012 Released: December, 2014 System: PC, Console
Announced shortly after Star Citizen, and released two years later in 2014, Elite Dangerous has been expanding steadily since its commercial release. Elite features open-ended gameplay and a full 1:1 scale galaxy to explore, filled with procedurally generated planets.
At the moment the game focuses predominantly on trading and exploration, making use of its incredibly expansive Universe; however, trading and exploration are also augmented by combat, story missions, and multiplayer ‘Wings’. Wings are the game’s version of parties, allowing four players or NPCs to group and travel together.
While currently Elite takes place from the cockpit of your ship only, recent expansions have added the ability to explore asteroids via manned vehicles, and future expansions plan to expand the already extensive Universe further, enabling planetary landings and giving Elite’s ships interiors.
Elite will also eventually add crafting and looting support, as well as multicrew support for ships, and while the Universe can seem shallow at first, with continued developer support Elite is growing and evolving constantly.
Announced: 2013 Release Date: Q1 2016 System: PC, PS4
Designed specifically for virtual reality, EVE: Valkyrie is one of the two VR focused titles on the list. While Valkyrie will contain several single player missions, there is no ‘standard’ campaign. Instead, the game focuses on multiplayer space battles, pitting teams of five against each other in a variety of different ship types.
The real draw of Valkyrie though is its VR focus. Sitting in the highly detailed cockpit of a ship in VR while looking around promises to be not only entertaining and immersive, but visceral. While Adr1ft should show how exploration and first person movement can be realized in VR, Valkyrie should show how space combat will play out.
Created by CCP, the team behind the super-popular EVE Online franchise, Valkyrie also has the benefit of drawing on EVE Online’s rich universe for interesting and detailed locations and ships.
Announced: April 2015 Release Date: March 2016 System: PC
Originally announced as ‘Ships That Fight Underground (STFU)’ prior to acquiring the rights to the Descent name from Interplay, Descent: Underground is a six degrees of freedom first-person shooter featuring underground ship combat.
The game is being built to be as close a successor to the original Descent as possible, and as such is focused on being a multiplayer arena dogfighter, but it does include other gameplay elements such as mining, and a single-player campaign.
The game should feature upwards of 10 different ships to earn, and will include some customization of ship parts, weapons, etc…
Announced: 2014 Released: Oct. 2015 System: PC, Console
Rebel Galaxy, developed by another two-man team similar to FTL, is possibly the most ‘arcadey’ game on this list, but it doesn’t suffer because of it. A space trading and combat simulation game, Rebel Galaxy is 3D in graphics, but takes place on a 2D plane, simplifying ship flight and combat, and make it feel very much like a pirate-ship simulator, only in space.
The game even makes great use of broadside attacks as you pilot one of a variety of large capital ships through a procedurally generated universe.
Similar to older space games such as Freelancer, Rebel Galaxy allows players to freely engage in missions, piracy, trading, bounty hunting, and more.
Announced: 2013 Release Date: TBD System: PC
Similar to Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous, Infinity: Battlescape is the resurrection of a space series long thought dead. Also like Star Citizen and Elite, Infinity: Battlescape recently turned to Kickstarter to raise the capital needed to finish creating the game.
One of the key features of Battlescape is its ‘infinity’ game engine, which is used to create a fully detailed, 1:1 scale galaxy, including landable planets with atmospheres. Using procedural generation, the engine is able to create real-scale planetary terrain.
The current gameplay plans for Infinity: Battlescape are vague, but appear to be centered around having hundreds of players fighting over control of an entire solar system.
The Relay previewed Infinity: Battlescape during their Kickstarter, the writeup of which can be found here.
Announced: March 2016 Release Date: TBD System: PC
On March 11, Overload was successfully kickstarted, with over $300,000 raised. Created by the original team behind the Descent game, Overload is scheduled to have a 15-mission campaign, written by the writer behind Freespace 2, massive bosses, upgradeable weapons, and more.
Similar to the previously mentioned Descent: Underground, Overload’s primary mechanic is underground ship combat. It has players search to find the reactor, destroy it and escape the level, optionally finding secrets, traps, power-ups and hostages to save along the way.
Overload boasts a rich backstory and universe, full support for VR and a multiplayer expansion. Slated for release on PC/Mac/Linux, Playstation 4, and Xbox One, there’s already a playable teaser available on Steam.
Announced: Various Release Date: 2014, TBA System: PC
Both Fractured Space and Dreadnought put you in control of massive capital ships for multiplayer arena battles.
Fractured Space is the first title released by developers Edge Case games, it features intense team-based ship combat. Each player takes control of a capital ship with it’s own unique abilities to fight players in the enemy team on their own or as part of an overall team strategy.
Dreadnought is a free-to-play massive ship combat simulator, designed to make each of the ships feel weighty. As such, gameplay is largely focused on strategy and positioning, team-work being required to secure victory.
Fractured Space was released in 2014, while Dreadnought is expected to release later this year.
Announced: 2012 Release Date: TBA System: PC
Limit Theory was another of the early-wave of kickstarted games, following shortly after Star Citizen’s October announcement. A completely procedurally generated universe created by a one-man team, Limit Theory promised an incredibly deep, detailed, and infinite universe to explore, mine, trade, combat, and essentially live in.
While the game was originally scheduled to release in 2014, it was delayed and put on hold. Recently, the developer has come back on the scene, stating the game is still being worked on. Should it be completed, it promises to be an interesting and impressive universe to explore.
Announced: 2013 Release Date: March 28, 2016 System: PC, Console
Adr1ft is set to be one of the first space-themed VR adventures when it launches alongside the Vive and the Rift this year. A first-person adventure game, Adr1ft features direct interaction with the your surroundings while floating through a zero-g space environment. Set in 2037, the game is much less far-future than many of the other games on this list, but it does occupy an interesting niche: VR.
While the game was originally slated for release in September of 2015, it was delayed to implement VR support, and as such should prove an interesting look into how space games can be adapted for virtual reality.
A non-violent game, Adr1ft revolves around exploring your surroundings and solving puzzles, and stands to be an interesting and welcome break from the spaceship-themed violence found throughout the rest of this list.
Announced: Jan. 2015 Released: March 4, 2016 System: PC
Into the Stars is a ship simulator focused more on proper resource and personnel management than combat. The goal is to get your only capital ship to a specific planet, overcoming resource shortages and alien menaces all the way.
Commonly compared to games like Oregon Trail and FTL, Into the Stars does share similar resource management requirements, but does so in a more detailed way, both in the number of resources and stats to track as well as in the graphical fidelity of the game.
Announced: 2011 Released: Sep. 14, 2012 System: PC, Mobile
Like Into the Stars, FTL is a space-ship simulator focused on resource and personnel management. Played from a top-down perspective, FTL is one of the few games on this list announced and released prior to the Star Citizen-influenced ‘boom’ of 2012.
The game focuses a lot on both player choice and random chance, allowing the player to customize their ship, crew, and route through the eight zones, but randomizing encounters and battles along the way.
The product of a two-man team, Subset Games’ FTL is the perfect mix of simplicity and depth; simple enough control- and graphics-wise to run on mobile systems, complex enough to provide hours, if not days, of entertainment.
And cursing. Lots of cursing.
Announced: 2013 Released: Dec. 2014 (Beta) System: PC, Console
Starbound is a sandbox adventure game in the same vein as Terraria. Developed and published by UK-based Chucklefish Games, Starbound was crowdfunded through the Humble Store in mid-2013, raising over $230,000 to fund the game’s development.
When released in its initial beta on Steam in December of 2013, Starbound had received over 2 million dollars in pre-orders. Now featuring an impressive array of features including multiple playable races, a two-dimensional procedurally generated universe, mining, exploration, combat and a deep crafting system making use of the thousands of available items, all of Starbound’s content can be enjoyed either solo or with friends in cooperative play.
Announced: June 2011 Released: April 2015 System: PC
Commonly abbreviated to KSP, Kerbal Space Program is an… interesting… entry on this list. Possibly the most unique game on here at any rate. In KSP players control the space travel ambitions of a dedicated but… interesting… race, called Kerbals. Seriously, look into it if you haven’t already.
The goal of the game is to build spaceships from various parts and launch them successfully to space. Then to the moon. Then to distant planets.
In essence, and in the simplest of terms, KSP is a NASA simulator. The game uses close to realistic physics and orbital mechanics, missions, planetary landings, asteroid capture, and more, to simulate a realistic space program. And while it is not 100% accurate, it is close enough that it garnered attention from NASA and SpaceX.
Another of the view ‘space’ games that were around prior to the Star Citizen space explosion, KSP benefits most from being almost completely unique in its execution and gameplay.
Announced: Oct 2013 Released: Oct 2013 (Alpha) System: PC
Space Engineers, like Kerbal Space Program, is an interesting game. Using a custom voxel-based game engine, Space Engineers takes place in space, in and around planets and asteroids. Gameplay largely consists of building things, from space ships to stations, and of exploring for and mining materials needed to build objects.
The game has two distinct modes, creative and survival. In creative mode, players can spawn any resource or ‘part’, allowing players to build freely. In survival mode, players must mine for resources, watching their health and oxygen levels while doing so.
Space Engineers is most similar to games like Minecraft, although the recent addition of planets with pirate bases and hostile alien life has added a further hint of exploration and survival to the gameplay.
Announced: August 2015 Release Date: May 9, 2016 System: PC
Stellaris is a far-future space strategy game created by Paradox Interactive, creators of the Crusader Kings, the Europa Universalis series’, and more. Starting off very similar to an RTS (Real-Time Strategy), Stellaris will evolve into a grand strategy as the game progresses.
Stellaris promises space strategy on a level not seen in most, if not all, of the other games on this list, featuring enormous procedurally-generated galaxies, each containing thousands of planets.
A 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate), Stellaris should have elements of exploration, combat, and diplomacy, as well as numerous playable species, ships, and in-depth customization.
Stellaris promises to mate the Grand Strategy of previous Paradox games with 4X gameplay akin to Sins of a Solar Empire to create an incredibly deep strategy title.
Announced: 2015 Release Date: 2016 (Alpha) System: PC
Endless Space 2 is a sequel to Endless Space, a 4X science-fiction game featuring random galaxy generation, multiple playable races, and multiplayer. With a planned alpha sometime in 2016, Endless Space 2 is too far away for much detail, but will likely be very similar to Endless Space.
Announced: October 2012 Released: ?? (Alpha) System: PC
Starship Corporation is a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game that was funded via Indiegogo, raising over $20,000 of its initial $6,000 goal. Started by a one-man team, Starship Corporation is a small and reasonably successful indie space-game.
Starship Corporation is largely focused on trade, and has you design, test, and create your own ship from fifty different room types. You can then sell your ship designs or build them yourself to further expand your galactic corporation.
Announced: October 2013 Release Date: TBA System: PC
The Mandate, kickstarted in late 2013 by Perihilion Interactive, raised an impressive $700,000 to create what looks to be an interesting, in-depth mix of both RTS and ship combat. Controlling a capital ship, you are able to fly through space in the same vein as Freelancer, or look deep into the bowels of the ship with more classic RTS style controls, ordering the crew of your ship about their daily business.
Some of the features of the game include ship to ship boarding, ship design and customization, and a detailed and expansive Universe. With the game currently deep in development, we should expect to start hearing about it more later this year.
Announced: April 2014 Released: October 2014 System: PC
A 4X game and spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, Civilization: Beyond Earth is, well, it’s Civilization in the future.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about Beyond Earth. It’s Civ. In the future. What more can you want?
As I mentioned at the beginning, this list is in no way complete. And it doesn’t appear to have too much of a point. I mainly wanted to write about all the other space games out there, all the games that excite and intrigue me.
But, if you’re interested, look through the list, and look closely. Only two titles on this list, FTL and KSP, were announced prior to Star Citizen’s enormously successful Kickstarter.
Think about the five years before October 2012, even the ten years before it. Think to yourself how many exciting, expansive, interesting space games there were. Look it up, do the research.
And ask yourself why there was such a drought of good space games before October 2012. Then ask yourself where these all came from.
Because, certainly, Star Citizen alone didn’t bring them all. Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous and Limit Theory were all kickstarted within weeks of each other. But they all did very well. And I think that maybe, just maybe, they brought back a genre that had been woefully misrepresented for too long.
Or maybe, just maybe, I think something else completely and totally different, and you should check back on The Relay in two weeks to see exactly what.
On April 1st.