Hello and welcome to Massively OP’s latest holiday gift guide. Today I’ll be talking about space sims and of course some of the peripherals that I use when pew pewing my way through Elite: Dangerous, Star Citizen, and other genre stalwarts.
Whether you’re looking for an affordable HOTAS solution or a way to increase your immersion while you wait for the virtual reality revolution to happen, you’ll find a few ideas for yourself or that space sim fan on your Christmas list by clicking past the cut.
Good luck playing space sims without a trusty joystick and throttle setup! I mean, I guess technically you could play with a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard (eww), but there’s nothing quite like pitching and yawing with a realistic controller, just as there’s nothing like jumping to ludicrous speed using a dedicated throttle quadrant. The problem is that most HOTAS (hands-on throttle and stick) setups cost an arm and a leg.
Not this little gem from Thrustmaster, though! I’ve been using it since I started playing Elite: Dangerous in December of 2014, and it’s held up remarkably well on my journeys through E:D, the Star Citizen alpha, and 20-plus hours per month in Flight Simulator X.
Sure, most HOTAS setups add a zero onto the end of the T-Flight’s price, and for good reason since they all have more buttons and more flash, but until Star Citizen gets a final release date, I don’t see the point in spending half a grand for something that may not be state-of-the-art by the time the mother of all space sims finally launches.
If, on the other hand, you want a more full-featured HOTAS setup right now and money is no object, I’d stick with Thrustmaster and go with the company’s Warthog product.
It’s got more buttons, switches, and hats than you’ll know what to do with at first, but the good news is that space sims like Elite: Dangerous feature pre-configured Warthog profiles. This means that it’s essentially a plug-and-play device despite its complexity, though if you’re like me you’ll probably want to spend a bit of time customizing things just so.
What’s a HOTAS setup without rudder pedals? Half-finished, that’s what! I’ve been using these Saiteks for a while now, and I can’t recommend them enough due to the beating they’ve taken without missing a beat. If you’re looking for a less expensive but still high quality alternative — and you don’t mind how ugly they are — I’ve also had good results with CH’s pro pedals.
4. Track IR 5
If you want to up the immersion ante without forking over for a pre-release Oculus dev kit, Track IR is the way to go. Natural Point’s revolutionary device added a whole new dimension to my flight simming when I installed it with FSX a number of years ago, and now I simply can’t play flight or space sims without it. There’s nothing quite like leaning your body forward and to the right and being rewarded with a close-up of your starfighter’s instrument panel in Elite: Dangerous as the view mimics your movement.
While the device ain’t cheap, the good news is that it works with a ton of games nowadays, so you can enhance not only your space sim immersion but also your experience in most modern shooters and racing games ranging from The Crew to Assetto Corsa and beyond.
Here’s a handy gadget to help you organize your crucial space sim peripherals. I use the Wheel Stand to keep my PC desk (relatively) clutter free, as it off-loads my HOTAS setup, my flight sim yoke, and my rudder pedals away from my monitors and also allows me to get comfortable by adjusting all of the controls to the perfect height instead of just bolting them to the desk.
The Wheel Stand Pro is sturdy, and it’s designed to fit a range of products from Thrustmaster, Saitek, and more.