Whatever happened to Empyrion Galactic Survival?

    
9

Anybody remember Empyrion Online aka Empyrion Galactic Survival? It’s one of those space sandbox multiplayer survival games that went for a Kickstarter back in 2014 but ultimately canceled it, having raised only about $26K of its $64K ask. It landed in our Betawatch and then our Make My MMO lists and then… we kinda forgot all about it.

But unlike a lot of games with failed Kickstarters, this one kept going, launching on Steam’s early access program a few years ago. We checked in on the game this week and were surprised to note that it’s still being worked on. This past fall, Eleon Game Studios has been pushing out small alpha tweaks, reverting the game engine update, and previewing alpha 9.

“Besides the engine upgrade, our team has been working very hard on Alpha 9. However, at this point, we do not want to reveal too much about Alpha 9 but we can already say it will be a huge game changer! Alpha 9 focuses on gameplay improvements – unlike the last major releases that focused on architectural changes. We will soon start our ‘Road to Alpha 9’ dev blogs with more details and we are really looking forward to getting your feedback on the different topics.”

So there you go – another one to keep an eye on.

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Loyal Patron
Neurotic

Okay, so I’ve never uploaded pics to a MOP comment before, so I’ll try to make this make sense!

For the uninitiated, the game is basically a survival sandbox, in space. Key features are mining and tunneling in fully deformable voxel terrain for crafting materials; using those mats to build machines, bases and vehicles (from ground-based hover vehicles to tiny fighters and massive capital ships — there are no limits on the building, everything is based on geometric shapes that you weld together, then ‘shoot’ with paint and texture guns, then add (for example) furniture, doors, engines, weapons, cargo boxes and cockpits); launching into space to other planets and space stations for exploration and trading etc, and ‘dungeon crawling’ through various alien structures (inc. fighting hostile aliens).

Through the Steam Workshop, the game features a template system whereby you can save your best bases and vehicles and upload them for others to use (you should check out the full-scale BSG and Star Trek ships!). Some of the very best builders have had their contributions incorporated into the game as alien ‘dungeons’, and as part of the stock ship line-up for lazy builders ;)

And of course, you do all this while eating, drinking and taking care of your oxygen requirements. The planets are well stocked with tons of interesting sites to explore, including other shipwrecks, alien bases and villages etc, monsters and various environmental hazards. All kinds of biomes are in, and they’re nicely blended — deserts, snow, swamps, forests, jungles etc.

So, to the pictures, which come from my last session earlier this year: in the “Abandoned Reactor” picture you can see how I’ve been scrapping it for parts and mats using my main construction tool. The green block is a ‘control block’ that sets the ownership flag of a structure. In a functioning, hostile alien base for example, massive fun can be had trying to get past its defences and break in, then search for the block (it’s usually well hidden). You can then destroy it and plug your own one in, thus turning the base’s own defences against its occupants, amongst other things.

There should be a picture of a small yellow and blue ship flying up into a swampy sky; that’s one of my hover trucks on a gathering run catching epic air over a bump. The vehicle physics in the game strike a balance between friendly and ‘serious’, meaning that, for example, you brake in space by applying reverse thrust, meaning that you need to remember to put a thruster(s) on the nose of your ship. :D

The yellow and blue hovercraft gets another look-in, in a forest setting (terrible choice of pictures, I know, but I get so into this thing that I constantly forget to screenshot!). The foliage and terrain are awesome. Highly varied, bushy and lush. Beware the forests though; their dark boughs and overhanging branches are usually home to wicked little spiders that will do you in before you know it.

The picture of the IKEA with the red and white landing strip; this was an alien base I cleared out and converted to my own purposes. Most bases and structures have one or more basement levels, and the big ones can have tons of upward levels too, meaning you’ve got lots of verticality to deal with as well as sometimes sprawl. IIRC, this base had been infested with alien ant monsters (c.f. Starship Troopers) that took me ages to clear out. SO much tension and atmosphere in some of these places, which often have stories baked into them through the environment. For example, in this one there were signs that the parasites had tunneled in through the sub levels’ walls. Lo and behold, after a day-long clearance of the place, I found the main tunnel into their own warren of creepy alien tunnels, and a queen ‘boss monster’ to fight at the end! It was totally excellent! Of course, these base clearances are quite tough, so the loot you can get is great too — all sorts of purple-quality weapons and ready-made components that would otherwise kill you to make. (I have no idea why I labelled that waypoint ‘Rectum’ though). :D

Erm, oh yes, a space picture (hopefully — I had to delete two of these and re-upload them after editing out a rude word in the name of my ships :D) Space is gorgeous. In Empyrion, surface to atmosphere to space is all one smooth, seamless thing — no loading screens! There are moons, asteroid fields, friendly and hostile space stations to visit or plunder, floating shipwrecks, all kinds of things. This shipwreck I’m about to dock at in the picture had an ‘Alien’ thing going on — logs and diaries scattered around the ship told the story of a parasitic alien that spread throughout the ship, killing everyone and wrecking the place. You eventually work your way into a strangely warm, moist section of the ship…

One last thing. Whilst it is an open-world sandbox, there is a story in there which you can follow along. It’s a simple thing, based on the amnesia trope, but it fits well in the atmosphere and tone of the game. And believe me, Empyrion has a rich atmosphere and a broad tonal palette that ranges from peace and bliss to physical horror and existential dread. It’s definitely the kind of game that you might start at night, after the kids have gone to bed or whatever, and then you find yourself creeping towards 5am…

20180618185634_1.jpg
20180619003324_1.jpg
20180620023943_1.jpg
20180620174821_1.jpg
20180624143815_1.jpg
Reader
Loyal Patron
Neurotic

You guys, jeez! Empyrion has been blazing away for years, going from strength to strength. When I started playing it, you could only travel around on half of a planet and the pop-up would have shamed an Amiga. Now it’s just… Empyrion then and Empyrion now are like paper aeroplanes and space shuttles!

I implore anyone who tried it once and then abandoned it, or who have never played it, to give it a go. You will be so surprised! It’s an absolutely brilliant game that shines in every way. You’ll never mistake it for a AAA blockbuster, but it’s got so much to offer, and again, now in 2018, it’s solidly built, immense fun, and even has multiplayer and LAN play.

Put it this way — Empyrion is to space what Morrowind is to fantasy. Love, love, love this game, it’s worth every penny, twice over!

Reader
Ashley Bau

I have a hard time seeing a “sandbox multiplayer survival game” being as morrowind is to fantasy but in space.

Reader
The Bloodless Baron

Is that a failure of the genre, the game, or of you?

Reader
Ashley Bau

None of the above? I don’t see it as a failure, its just a different genre as far as I am concerned. Survival games have yet to give me an even remotely comparable experience to a deep rpg (which isn’t a comment on them being good or not).

Reader
Loyal Patron
Neurotic

I hear what you’re saying. Let me just say that first of all, the multiplayer is entirely optional. That’s a whole separate wing of the game. As for the survival part; I totally agree. However, you have to understand that unlike most survival games, those mechanics don’t predicate everything else you do. In the beginning, sure, it can be tough getting on your feet. But once you’re up and running, the emphasis shifts to the crafting, building, exploration and fighting, etc. You just remember to pack some sandwiches and a thermos of coffee before you go on a trip. :)

Reader
Robert Mann

What survival games have you been playing? Every one I have touched the survival part is negligible at best/worst. Honestly, it may as well not be included as it just is so easy that it would take a major effort to be left dying to a lack of food/water/whatever. That’s the norm for these games, as far as I have seen.

I don’t mind the idea of leaving the tedium behind, but if the mechanics are going to be there I’d actually like them to at least be something more than a “Oh yeah, pack a few of my thousands of items” moment before trips.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Neurotic

Well, if you’re after hardcore survival, Empyrion won’t help you. It’s no Long Dark, put it that way. (Nor is it a survival game in the sense of being about constant aggression and PvPing in the MP mode). But I think the balance between survival and everything else in Empyrion is pretty good, simply because ‘everything else’ is so vast and compelling, that dominating it with survival mechanics would be self-defeating.

Let’s be clear, the survival part of Empyrion kind of stands in line with its level of overall realism in terms of space physics and science etc. It embraces all that, because it is set in space and on other worlds, but it doesn’t ever forget about fun and the pleasure of ‘playing’. You know, it’s not the Falcon 4.0 of sims, or even KSP on hard mode, but it does enough to keep you thinking and engaged.

Reader
Anton Mochalin

Try Don’t Starve. Surviving through the first winter is tough before you learn the mechanincs very well (through trial and error or through reading wikis).