Strap on your jetpack, dig up some ore, and get to building your very own space base in this sandbox space simulation where the sky isn’t the limit.
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Developer: Keen House Software
Publisher: Keen House Software
Release date: 28 February, 2019
Survival-simulation games are another genre that seems to be hit-or-miss to the extreme. When done well, you and some friends can lose yourself in them for days at a time. When done poorly, as most honestly are, the only thing you’re losing is your hard-earned moola. Space Engineers checks plenty of the required boxes for a good experience, but you’ll want to play it with friends if you choose to pick it up, and its depth pushes it fairly deep into simulation territory so you’ll want to be fully aware of what you’re getting into.
The Last Man off Earth
The hours that I spent on Space Engineers were solo ones as I seem to be the pioneer among my circles on this particular title. That said, although I never got as hooked as I might have had there been more, I still enjoyed it for what it was in short bursts.
I highly recommend beginning with the first two scenarios should you decide to jump into it. “The First Jump” puts you in the role of a survivor going through an emergency on a large ship and teaches you how to control yourself and your vehicles, something that isn’t as intuitive as you might think thanks to the complexity surrounding them. You’ll even learn to shoot down hostile drones and spacecraft which I hadn’t been expecting until I was being shot at. As far as tutorials go, it was fairly entertaining. “Learning to Survive” is the second scenario and it teaches you all about resource collection, turning those resources into useful products, managing your health and oxygen, and so on. Its free-form approach makes it easy enough to follow it and allows you to pick and choose which elements of the simulation that you want to dive deeper into.
Two additional scenarios are included: “Never Surrender” and “Lost Colony.” “Never Surrender” focuses on creating a base that can be defended against frequent hostile assaults by drones, while “Lost Colony” involves exploring a ghost colony to discover what happened to it. I opted for a custom game, “Earth Planet,” which didn’t offer additional story-based objectives, and spent most of my time toiling away on it.
“Earth Planet” begins as most scenarios do in Space Engineers, with you on a sizable base that has already been constructed for you. It has all of the basics that you need, but I instantly found myself a bit turned off by it as my ideal survival-simulation begins with me homeless, naked, and afraid. That said, after hopping into the mining ship that was waiting for me, I found it entertaining to fly off to distant ore that I picked up on my radar. I’m not usually opposed to mining, but it was quite fulfilling chasing down resources and breaking them down, whether inside of a vehicle or with a handheld tool.
Construction has more depth to it than the vast majority of its competition in the genre. You’ll be ensuring that resources are delivered to construction sites instead of carrying everything on you, and many of your constructions will need to be connected to others to function to the best of their capabilities. It’s more work to do than what you’re used to doing with only a few clicks, but if you enjoy the deeper elements of realism over streamlined gameplay, you’ll enjoy your work and earn a sense of accomplishment from it.
Space Engineers is an entertaining enough entry into the survival-simulation genre, though some players may find its interpretation of realism to slow down the overall speed of progression. Although it certainly has that element, you’re likely to find that each step doesn’t feel quite as fulfilling or like as much of a jump as it might in something like ARK: Survival Evolved or even Terraria. If you like building, complexity, and space itself, this is a title that you might want to check out. If you don’t enjoy all three of those aspects, there are likely other games that you’d rather spend your time in. All-in-all, not a bad game, and one that I’d give another shot to in the future if a friend or two ended up falling in love with it.