I love The Martian. It’s a great book. I haven’t seen the movie, but I have heard the reviews from friends that it too is great. So you can imagine my excitement when I was given an opportunity to review a game in which you basically get to play as Mark Watney, stuck on Mars, trying to survive. Space Engineers is the Mark Watney simulator. Without the shitty disco, of course.
Space Engineers is being developed by Keen Software House and is currently available on Steam via Early Access. The game has been available since October 2013 and appears to have a dedicated fan base on both the multiplayer servers and in the modding community. Okay, so what exactly is Space Engineers? It’s a creative sandbox game that plays like the lovechild of Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program: use blocks to build space stations and terrestrial bases with the help of your trusty voxel-built spaceship. Based on these early observations of the game, when I loaded Space Engineers I thought I would be able to just jump right in based on my experience with the aforementioned games. However, a quick tour around the tutorials made me realize the complexity this game has already established and that was a very exciting proposition.
Because this game is in an early phase, the devs are still working and implementing new mechanics. That also means that this preview is based on the current version of the game I am playing (01.113-114), so thing could change between now and the release of the game… however many sols that may be. The meat of this game is in the Creative and Survival modes, although there are a few scenarios for you to play through at this time. What I found immediately interesting about this game is the realization that you can’t begin a game like you would in Minecraft, where you begin harvesting initial components to make your basic tools and shelter. Space Engineers is much less forgiving in that aspect, as starting off on a planet with little to no oxygen will most likely result in you running out of your supply before you can even start constructing an oxygen tank, let alone shelter. And you will want to watch your ass against the space pirates who want your stuff.
The best the game can do for you is to set you off on planet where you have just crash landed, and you will need to figure out how to survive with your limited stockpile (pesky space pirates are everywhere by the way and they really want your supplies). You’ll learn quickly that while the tutorials, you will learn a lot of this game by trial and error. There are some wikis out there that can help you with component formulas and cheat sheets, to which I would definitely recommend you keep those open as you explore your surroundings.
From my viewpoint, it definitely feels like an Early Access game still, but that’s okay. I see the huge potential for this game, and I look forward to seeing where this game ends up when it is released. Fans of both Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program should really check this out, or keep it on your watchlist if you aren’t normally an Early Access adopter.