Becoming an astronaut is something that a lot of kids dream about when they’re growing up. However, the physical and educational requirements quickly dash the hopes of many of us, so it’s great that games like Kerbal Space Program 2 exist to allow us to live out our dreams, albeit with little minion-esque critters instead of people, and without the chance of catastrophic failure and death that would normally come with taking to the stars. This sequel to the indie rocket-building simulator hit has just come to Early Access, so we’re going to dive in head first and see if it’s worth upgrading just yet.
Kerbal Space Program 2 - Ch-ch-ch-changes
Right off the bat, there are a few things about Kerbal Space Program 2 that should be immediately obvious to anyone who was a big fan of the last game. The UI has been overhauled slightly to make it a bit slicker, and the graphics have been given a bit of an upgrade, so it looks like you’re actually flying away from a planet rather than a Windows XP screensaver. The final thing you’re liable to notice is that there aren’t any real game modes here beyond the overall sandbox and a relatively bare-bones tutorial section.
In truth, this is something of a symptom of Kerbal Space Program 2 being in Early Access. There are almost no modes included in the game, but we do have a roadmap of when new modes and added features will be coming to the game. In fact, the stated goal of this early access release is to work out kinks in the new systems and allow players to explore the new additions that have been made to the native solar system of the original game. It’s also, apparently, about testing the new tutorials to see how well they onboard new players to the franchise.
Kerbal Space Program 2 - Tutorials and Performance
On that front, if I’m honest, they’ve done an okay job. As someone who had 0 experience with the franchise, I’d say these new tutorials look and sound great and really do fit the tone of the game overall. However, these tutorials offer a relatively surface-level understanding of the game's mechanics, something that, I assume, is supposed to be backed up by a campaign. There’s plenty of information available of course, but despite having a solid grasp of the mechanics, my rockets failed more often than they succeeded, which does also bring up one further issue: performance.
Performance in the game is another so-so sort of job. The game has a tendency to lag a lot and is pretty power-hungry for a game that looks like this. That said, the game does have a complicated physics engine which does make an impact, but that probably isn’t what is causing all of the bugs and glitches. On several occasions, the world glitched out of existence, or my rocket shot off in a random direction at hyper speed. Once, my Kerbal Astronaut just straight up vanished from the rocket, and my camera got stuck on the section of the rocket we had just ditched. All-in-all, it was hard to tell what was happening because I had made mistakes and what was happening because the game kept bugging out and crashing on me.
Kerbal Space Program 2 - Not All Doom and Gloom
Despite having been relatively critical of Kerbal Space Program 2, there are a few good things to say. The game’s style and presentation are already top-notch, even in a very early stage of development, the tutorial videos are cute, and overall there is a huge wealth of different ship parts to play around with and craft your own perfect (or not so perfect) space-faring vessels. The controls are also relatively intuitive, even if the literal rocket science of making your own ship designs does compensate for that a little.
The building blocks that are here feel like they’re leading up to a great space game that people will be able to spend thousands of hours in once it’s actually finished. A lot of the issues that the game currently has are due to just how few features and modes it provides while also being straight-up buggy and power-hungry. If you’re already a fan, there’s not much reason to buy this yet when you can play Kerbal 1 with mod support and a bunch of added features. If you’re new to the series, then this will only probably stop you from playing again in the future.
The Final Thought
There are certainly signs that Kerbal Space Program 2 will shape up to be a great successor to the original. If the devs stick to the roadmap and keep delivering patches and fresh content regularly, then there is every reason this game will become a worthwhile experience. The issue is whether or not it’s worth your time, or money, right now, and the answer sort of has to be a no. This feels, at best, like a closed beta, not something that should be put on general release. That said, the most hardcore fans who want to be part of the development experience can elect to buy in, and that’s good for them and the devs, if no one else.
TechRaptor previewed Kerbal Space Program 2 on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.