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The week in space gaming:

 Sidewinders … Sidewinders everywhere!  That’s what you get when Elite Dangerous drops to $15 over the weekend.  All those fence-sitters finally bought it.  The Horizons expansion beta launched on Monday the 1st, and in concert there were enough players in Elite that the zoning-times were 5+ minutes at times.  Thankfully that calmed down after the first day and we could get back to space trucking as usual.  Horizons is kind of a big deal, as it brings planetary landings on airless dustballs to the game.  Worlds with atmospheres will require a radically different flight model, so it’s good that they’re tackling the simpler version first.

I had some concerns about how much value a $60 expansion would bring if the scope was just landing on a ball of dirt and cruising around in a glorified golf cart.  I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s really interesting and feels very well integrated into the existing game.  I’m still in the “what does this widget do?” discovery phase, and it’s brought back some of the sense of wonder to the experience that I’d lost since putting 500ish hours into the game over the past year.  I have, once again, no idea what I’m supposed to be doing and that mystery is half the fun.  Lots of subtle details too.

Star Citizen started rolling out the 2.0 alpha to backers in a trickle of invites.  I watched BadNewsBaron playing it for a good while.  You can get in your ship, fly to a space station, get out and shoot in FPS mode, and even steal other players’ parked ships.  It’ll be interesting to see how that last bit plays out, if someone just zips off with another player’s $1000 asset.  The alpha looked, well, really alpha with chuggy frame rates and crash issues but that’s expected for this stage of development. 

I have zero investment in the game, so I’m playing a neutral “wait and see” tactic with Star Citizen.  The back and forth between the “this is surely doomed” and the “thou shalt not speak an ill word of our blessed game” camps has reinforced my decision to just not throw money at crowdfunded projects.  Will the game ship?  Sure, in some form.  I don’t know if it’ll be what I expect or not because everything has changed multiple times since Chris first pitched the game concept to me back in 2012.  The problem is simply economics at this point.  Will money coming in sustain money going out long enough to get it done?

Mechwarrior Online Mercs had a really interesting week.  They not only brought the Marauder mech to the battlefield, but also a massive re-balance pass encompassing just about every mech and piece of equipment.  Cockpit monitors actually do something now, which is nifty.  Skill tree bonuses got reigned in a bit so new players aren’t at a grand disadvantage anymore.  Here’s a PDF of the new quirk values.  The weapons all got touched a little as well.  Full patch notes here

 

New sci-fi game releases Dec 1st-7th:

  • Nuclear Throne [$12] came out of early access.  Roguelike twin-stick shooter.
  • Helldivers [$20]  I haven’t laughed so hard and so long while playing a game in ages. Pure schadenfreude.  Supports local and internet multiplayer at the same time, which is a rare treat.
  • Into the Void [$9]
  • DARIUSBURST CS [$50] Looks really good if you’re into horizontal bullet hell, but my god $50?
  • Steel Rain [$10] Another side-scrolling bullet hell game, but much more attractively priced. 
  • AX:EL – Air XenoDawn [$13] is out of early access. It’s a futuristic flight action game with planes that can dive underwater and alter their aerodynamic shape.
  • MechRunner [$8] debuted in early access.  You play a transforming tank/mecha and cruise down city streets shooting up enemies and fighting bosses.  Has potential, but it’s still early.
  • TRON RUN/r [$10] I’m a sucker for anything TRON.  This looks pretty neat, but I’ve been told to wait on purchasing it by friends because it’s really early on content at this point. 
  • Warhammer 40K Legacy of Dorn [$10] This looks like a choose your own adventure (turn to page 46 if you drink the potion) style book Space Hulk had offspring.  Straight off the mobile devices.  It might be quite high quality given that it’s an officially licensed GW product, but interactive novels aren’t my thing.
  • ShipLord [$10] What an unfortunate name for this side scrolling “dodge things and collect other things” game.  The user reviews are positive and the price is reasonable, and the art assets are really nice looking.
  • Defect [$15] I’m surprised to see this pop up as a new early access release, because it came out in early access quite some while ago.  It’s quite a fun game with a simple starship construction mechanic that lets you snap together just about anything you can imagine, and then you fight your previous creations with it.  That’s where the “defect” name comes from, because you need to leave an exploitable flaw in your ships so you can kill them on the next level.  Brilliant.
  • Waste Walkers [$10] This is an interesting post-apocalyptic survival game.  It’s a RPGMaker product, which usually makes me yell “NOPE!” instantly but I found this intriguing.  Despite looking like a cute JRPG, this game is a bloodthirsty meat grinder that will waste no time in killing you unapologetically.  It’s an exception in the stream of other “meh” that comes forth from this engine so regularly.
  • Astrox: Hostile Space Excavation [$10] Procedurally generated spaceship game where you mine asteroids, craft things from the ore, explore, and fight pirates.  They have a wiki you can check out.

James Hunt

Old enough to know better, dumb enough to do it anyway. Playing video games since before they were invented, and writing about them since 1996. Alumni of gamepen.com, gamesdomain.co.uk, Computer Game Strategy Plus magazine, and several other places I've contributed to the downfall of. Taylor Swift wrote a song about me, I'm pretty sure.