These days it’s very easy to look at a game and dismiss it as a Minecraft clone. The concept of survival, resource gathering and building is one that Minecraft brought to a huge audience. However, though there are plenty of clones out there, many developers have pinpointed the strong points in Minecraft’s style and have made it their own. Space Engineers is the perfect example of utilising inspiration, rather than copying a winning formula. Though it is based around a block placing system, the developers at Keen Software House have allowed the player much more freedom, as you are building in zero gravity.
As the game is currently still in Early Access, there are a few features that are gradually being implemented. One such feature that was recently pushed out was multiplayer. Suddenly the cold depths of space aren’t so lonely. With the options and tools for PvP at your disposal, you will probably find yourself in a dogfight at some point during your playtime. The greatest thing about said dogfights is that you can build your own fighter ship. Whether your inspiration comes from Battlestar Galacticas Cylon Raiders, Star Wars’ Tie Fighter, or even Dr Evil’s phallic ship, you can probably build it.
When it comes to building, it is split into three categories, small ships, large ships and space stations. Each subset has its own limitations and advantages. Obviously a large ship is going to be something along the lines of a Millenium Falcon or even the much larger Star Destroyer, where as a small ship would be more ideal for single purpose tasks, for example a ship with mining drills on the front to extract ores from the surrounding asteroids. Large ships often have space to move around inside as opposed to smaller ships, which are likely to leave very little space to move about within. Lastly is the space station, which as you may have guessed, won’t be exploring space due to its stationary lifestyle. This allows you to have a safe place to return to so long as you build a beacon to remind you where it is, as space is rather expansive don’t you know?
With missiles and chainguns as your primary attack power when you build ships, you may wonder how combat works within Space Engineers. The answer is very well. In fact Space Engineers has some of best destruction I have witnessed in a game. The crumpling of the steel plates you use to build your ship shows impact marks, and with the possibility of entire corners of your ship collapsing in on themselves. It can actually be very intense being stuck inside a ship that is being pelted with heavy fire. In fact in one of the dog fights I was in, I was subjected to my ship being torn in half from the heavy barrage of explosives that found me. residing on the half of my ship that was missing the gravity generator, I was forced to float around the husk of my once glorious starship killer.
As there are several essential components to ship building, all kinds of tactics can be implemented when it comes to protecting your vital components. The first thought would probably be to hide you reactor away from potential gunfire, maybe behind some heavy armour? This however will affect your ships mass and thus your ship’s speed and manoeuvrability. The fix? Well of course you could add more thrusters, or even more gyroscopes to aid your ship’s turning circles (Or should I say your ship’s turning sphere?) but that will again affect the mass. Your best choice is to first decide what you want your ship to be most proficient at, whether it is an agile run and gun kind of fighter, or a behemoth with heavy weaponry.
Of course before you can even think about building, you will need to collect yourself a hefty amount of resources to start out with. Fortunately you come equipped with a grinder, for dismantling ships, a welder for fixing and building with and a drill for tunnelling through space rocks. The terraforming in Space Engineers is very well executed, whether you fire missiles into an asteroid, plow through with a hand drill, or even build a mining ship to help gather the essential ores, which happen to float away into space if you don’t grab them quick enough.
Survival mode isn’t the only option though, as you get the choice of creative mode too. Obviously resource gathering isn’t a priority in creative mode, which gives you a lot more freedom in terms of building. If you plan on creating some huge death star, creative mode will be your best bet. That being said, survival offers you multiple scenarios to start out with. You can start with absolutely nothing, which could be considered the hardcore option. You can start with a space station as your base, or you could start with a crashed ship that you must fix up. In any of these instances, it is safe to say that the struggle for a place you can call home is always going to be easier with more players to help bring that dream to fruition.
In terms of content, even at this early stage you will find hours of gameplay just leaking out of the asteroid fields that surround you. Survival is lacking in a few desirable features, such as enemy ships to fight against, but what is on the plate will certainly satiate any space-based construction hunger you may have. With updates and new content coming out at a nearly weekly rate, it will be a while before Space Engineers gets old.