Floating in space, trying to find an asteroid, drifting endlessly, hoping to get somewhere. Finding your beloved asteroid, spending time mining, then refining, then building. Creating fleets of star craft, an illustrious base to call your own, a powerful ship, mining rigs, and much more. This is Space Engineers - a game with a large learning curve and a heap of potential.
To begin, the graphics found in this game are really top-notch. This being an Early Access game, you never quite know what to expect, but they were very impressive. Shadows play across surfaces better than many bigger name titles, and the developers certainly know how to set a nice scene. There is a realistic look to the built items while the rest of the game relies on vector-type graphics similar to a Minecraft or perhaps more closely resembling Robocraft. At times the effect can be a little odd, but it never really clashes with the detailed constructions.
There are plenty of ambient noise to take note of such as the tools and operations you perform, but the game has a sort of eerie quietness to it at this stage. Whether this is by design or due to the early stages of development, I am not sure yet. I would like to see a larger set of sounds and music work their way into the final game.
The gameplay however, might be the most interesting aspect of Space Engineers, because it - like the graphics - poses interesting contrasts. At its core, the gameplay design is very simple because you are going around to find and search various asteroids to collect materials needed in building your dream bases or ships or fun inventions you can use later. However, once you find and mine the materials, you then need to get them refined and placed into the Assembler before the crafting can begin. Things start to get a bit more complicated from there as you use these crafted components to make your ship, but you need to meet certain minimums and combinations to pull these operations off.
Additional things need to be taken into account besides just the base resources and parts. You must also make sure to place thrusters in the right area so you can effectively move the ship up, down, left and right as well as propelling it forwards and backwards. You also need to add on weaponry, mining tools and more. The actual design is brilliant, but there is a fairly significant learning curve here in order to pull the more complicated assemblies off - but that is the challenge of it, isn't it?
The additional online multiplayer with random people or friends via private lobbies is a nice bonus that deserves mention. I prefer to learn in games like this by actually doing things, but in order to fully understand what was needed of me, I absolutely had to use the tutorials. It is not hard to remember how to do something once you know, but without a bit of guidance it is pretty easy to get confused as to what the next step or set of steps will be. It is also nice to see the development team still working on the game regularly, with a new update that added an impressive set of features and continues to make this an interesting game to watch over the coming months.
Preview by Chris