Wouldn’t you know it: One survival game has a big week and others want to follow suit! Space Engineers sheds its early access coil and then Conan Exiles and ARK also let loose with some pretty big updates. While this is certainly good for the genre, it’s not so good for me. How exactly am I supposed to get in and deep-dive all the awesomeness when there are too many games to do it in? Helllloooooo! No one elongated the weekend for me for some extra gaming days. It’s like the studios took no thought of how much gaming I could conceivably get in during one weekend! Well, I will still plumb the depths of each of these, both here and live on OPTV — they will just need to take their turns. First up: Celebrating one of the first early access titles as it finally leaves early access.
In the survival sandbox genre, it doesn’t happen very often that a game actually works its way out of early access, so when it does, celebration is in order. And Space Engineers has now reached that milestone that so few do. I started playing back in September of 2014 (a full year after it opened its doors!), so it is nice to see the game progress to the point that it officially launched on February 28th. During that time I have watched it grow from just mining and building your ship to landing on planets and creating outposts. Keen Software House’s space game is so much more now than when it started.
I remember back when I first started Space Engineers. It came out a good two years before other space survivals started showing up, so everything about it was new and different. I marveled at how thoroughly disoriented I became spatially as I maneuvered in space. After mining through an asteroid — trying to take care to remain upright, mind you — I ended up turned all around. I couldn’t even find which way was up anymore! It was so neat that I could be affected so much. The game also offered personal servers where my friends and I could play together, without the cost of hosting fees. Yay for multiplayer!
As the years passed, space expanded. The addition of planets was pretty exciting, and being able to construct bases made my architect-heart happy. I had trouble maintaining playtime, however, as the game kept developing and experienced necessary wipes (as games in early access do). Fast forward to 2019, and after nearly six years of development, this early space survival experiences a launch of its own. At this point, the game contains many more features, both those planned originally and others conceived along the way. Just how many updates? Over 200 updates have been applied to the game! These cover updates to sound and visuals, improved physics, a better HUD and UI, more blocks, and the introduction of wheels, solar panels, encounters, and so much more. Oh, yeah — and a survival mode!
Add in last week’s launch update and even more changes were in store. One feature that actually returned was ladders, a move everyone seems unanimously happy about. Ragdoll mechanics also came back. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. As the devs put it, “With this update, we are evolving from sandbox towards a game. This update is a real game-changer :-)” (Just another example of survival games becoming more MMO than MMOs!)
Survival was overhauled significantly, with the addition of a progression system and features designed to introduce new players to the game. In a nutshell, “the progression tree enables blocks in G-Screen depending on which blocks are already built. This feature is designed to prevent new players from being overwhelmed by options. The essential blocks are enabled from the start, the inaccessible blocks are greyed out.” This progression system, however, is only available in survival mode and is disabled in creative mode or space master.
Additionally, new scenarios were introduced. These offer players new goals and objectives to help folks learn about the game as well as offer challenges for experienced players who want to push themselves. Two scenarios are currently polished: Learning to Survive and Never Surrender. I am guessing each title says it all! Even better than this perhaps is that the improved visual script tool allows players to create their own scenarios; it’s the very same tool the devs use to create their scenarios. A sandbox world allowing players to create content for others in even more ways? Heck yeah.
Even with mostly and very positive reviews in Steam, that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. Some in the community voiced worries as to whether or not Space Engineers will continue to receive development attention. Will new content follow? Will problems that have persisted be ironed out? (Yes, being launched does not mean bug-free. Wouldn’t that be something new?) Players needn’t fret too much that the project is being abandoned — at least according to the devs. In a dev blog post on about release, CEO and Creative Director Marek Rosa very plainly states:
“Space Engineers is not finished. We already have a lot of plans to expand the Space Engineers franchise with new features, blocks, and scenarios. We’re going to take Space Engineers to exciting places when it comes to gameplay, immersion, and challenges! We will continue to monitor our support site for bug reports, questions, concerns and suggested features. We are also working on an Xbox One port for Space Engineers.”
So, yay for more Space Engineers… but wait: Are they just saying that devs will be working on Space Engineers 2 instead of the original? That remains to be seen. But those who might want to play on XBox One have a port to look forward to. The main note we have for 2019 plans from another of Rosa’s blogs is that now that the first phase of building large-scale modifiable environments is done, the next phase of steering games into being less sandbox and more games is starting. And a chunk of that has already happened with Space Engineers with its launch update.
Bucking the trend of jacking up the price at launch, Space Engineers has dropped its cost to $19.99. Although this caused the typical backlash from a few who complained they felt cheated for playing the game for a higher price for the past five plus years, Keen Software House argues that this price point is more fitting for bringing new players to the game. And more players means more player creations, a total plus to me.
Sadly, the proffered free weekend for folks to check things out ended already, but the cost to jump in and play anytime isn’t too steep. If you feel like giving it a go, jump on in! Or, you can wait and see what my adventures bring as I stream Space Engineers on OPTV next week.