The Long Journey Home is the newest space simulation game coming out sometime at the end of 2016, but it takes on a slightly different perspective that other space sims. While most space sims, like EVE Online, Stellaris, or Star Citizen have a focus on being the very best of the galaxy, making the best ships, or conquering the universe (sometimes via aggressive financial racketeering), The Long Journey Home is far more simple. Your core objective is not domination—you just want to get back to Earth, from the far corners of space. To do this you must maneuver through several galaxies, befriending (or sometimes making enemies of) alien races you meet along the way, and trying to keep your crew and ship in tact.
We played a bit of the game at E3, and while the concept and design seem well-done, it’s some of the more unassuming mechanics that make the game so endearing. The Long Journey Home is the type of game where all of the tiniest details make the game seem much bigger and more interesting. For instance, one of the interesting concepts is in how the player interacts with alien races. While trying to get home you will inevitably meet a slew of creative races for any number of reasons—you flew close to their ship, you have to use a space port, or you just need to find supplies—you don’t simply interact with aliens though, they each have a unique culture and language, which act as potential barriers. Unlike other space sims, the cultural focus is less on their means of combat or defense, and more about the more typical cultural traits—what they consider impolite or what they value as a society. Additionally, you won’t automatically understand the entire language of a species. The more you talk to them, the more your vocabulary and understanding grows, and thus you can talk to them more efficiently.
You can also sometimes encounter ancient relics of alien civilizations, which can expand your knowledge. And of course many randomly generated events can help or hinder your progress. For instance, during one playthrough, after a friendly chat with an alien ship, the crew were tasked as bounty hunters to find criminals wandering through space. Every member of your crew has specializations to help you proceed, analyze objects, repair the ship or aid their fellow crew members, but they can also potentially die if you don’t make sure they’re taken care of.
Interactions like these are what make the game’s core, and there are so many of these that the game could probably be replayed infinitely. The map is randomly generated after the initial opening sequence, and the creator shared that even in the course of watching and playing the game for E3, he had encountered situations he had never run across in the game. While obviously he knew they were there (he created them after all) he was still finding them for the first time, even after hours of playing it. It’s almost like a highly advanced version of Oregon Trail, but in a space setting—you’re not soldiers, you’re more like pioneers, albeit not particularly by choice. If you have fond memories of Oregon Trail (which I imagine, most of us do), then you’re going to have a lot of fun with The Long Journey Home.