There's something magical about captaining your own ship as it sails through the universe. Investigating colorful nebulae, dodging asteroid and debris fields, encountering strange diseases and alien life all have a certain charm that comes with exploring the unknown.
Set amidst the chaos of an interstellar republic following a devastating attack, Between the Stars offers you one such opportunity. Mixing full 360-degree motion and space combat with heavy RPG influences and text exploration, the brisk nature of the story keeps it moving, even early on. Packed with full voice acting and numerous random events, Between the Stars captures a spirit of adventure and exploration, despite some lackluster writing.
After a brief opening, setting up the story, you design a ship and captain before setting loose amongst the universe. Largely freeform by nature, you can investigate anomalies and encounter random events between saving the republic from certain destruction. The stars are dangerous though, and any good space exploration game will have plenty of pirates and slavers to shoot and loot. Between the Stars also feels lived-in, too. Mining freighters warp in and out hauling cargo. Crowded space stations see ships jockey for places to dock.
With full motion control, you can pitch and roll your ship as you sling lasers, missiles, and more conventional projectiles at your enemies. Space combat is quick and brutal, but you can even the odds via equippable abilities. These can be everything from a time-limited cloaking device or launching a nuclear missile to simply boosting the fire rate of your weapons. Every ship is an open platform, so you can customize your abilities to suit your playstyles. I didn't encounter many different weapons or abilities early on, but it would seem as though there's plenty of options to choose from.
Aside from glorious space-shooting action, Between the Stars relies heavily on dice combat, informed by the skills of your crew members. With every level gained, you get a choice of how you'd like to upgrade the skills of your crew members. These can be skills that boost the fire and cooldown rate of your weapons, to reducing the time spent researching or healing. When exploring other ships or stations on foot, you'll encounter random events too. Most of these are safely ignorable. If you're feeling adventurous (and who wouldn't be?), you can test your skills via a physical roll of a die. Though your levels are low early on, making the chance of success equally low, the rush of success when pressing your luck keeps you engaged, and stopped me from just mindlessly mashing through dialogue and events.
As an RPG, Between the Stars is full of choices and consequences. Early on, I encountered two crew members and a budding romantic relationship. Opting to let the relations slide in the interest of improving morale, my captain was awarded a negative attribute for her trouble. Some of the events leave much to be desired as far as writing is concerned, but they could be changed over time. Still, having direct feedback for your choices feels engaging, and makes your choices matter.
If anything Between the Stars feels like a good, old-fashioned adventure in space. With self-contained research and medical bays, you only need to stop at space stations if you're in need of hull repairs, or looking to offload your junk. Even in Early Access, there's a whole host of crafting materials that you use to upgrade weapon systems on the fly. Contrasting the grungy, dirty aesthetic of the space stations with the sleek starships meant I was more than willing to risk investigating another distress call over returning to port.
Of course, like any good space exploration game, extra emphasis and care have been placed on the visuals. Space is a real treat to fly through, with ships blinking patterns as they soar through space and far-off points of interest beckon with mystery. There's also a sense of scale here that comes when approaching planets or space stations too, emphasizing your relatively outsized role in the conflict.
With a solid foundation, even though Between the Stars released only recently, there's a lot to be proud of so far. With more ships, systems, and content set to come over the Early Access period continued updates will improve an already stellar start. If you're looking for a space-themed RPG and the spirit of adventure, then you might find it in Between the Stars.
TechRaptor covered Between The Stars on PC via Steam Early Access with a key provided by the developers.