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Should I be excited about… Space Engineers (PC)

Tam Eley plays with lego in space

High-res Minecraft in space!! Have I got your attention now? If not, how about high-res Lego in space!!!! I should have your attention now, purely from those two descriptions and they sum up the game in question. Space Engineers.

4If you know of or have played the game, then me saying it is a Lego/Minecraft style game might annoy you but bear with me here. This is for the folk who haven’t had the joy of seeing this. The developers Keen Software House have a similar game out that is fully playable and with its own MMO called Miner Wars all available on Steam already. Space Engineers is a shining polish of this game, as it were, with the game slowly taking shape into something that will be truly epic. While you can play the game now it is only an Alpha release with patches coming quickly to update little tweaks and new functions. Since it is an Alpha, people will think not to try and wait till a full release is out. Frankly I would be happy as it stands now and not miss a full release if it didn’t happen. So please, please keep reading so I can wet your appetite for this glorious little gem in the Steam catalogue.

As I’ve implied, the game is similar to Minecraft as you develop using blocks. That is where the similarities really do end. The game is in glorious full 3D high resolution first/third person and due to the Alpha nature it is one giant sandbox. You start in an either completely blank asteroid ‘world’ or start from several pre-made worlds, with prefabricated ships and platforms to explore and get to grips with. From the start you can do whatever you want as there is no main objective or story yet. Your building tools range from three tiers; a small ship, large ship or a station. Each cube is placed in space where you are facing and you can add on whatever you want to customise your craft or station. The basics are all there, thrusters, cockpit, gyroscopes and landing gears. So you can make whatever shape and design you desire and it will fly happily for you. The teasing part is all the extras that you can add on that aren’t enabled yet. Rocket pods and Gatling guns are just for the small ships, and then you can add Gatling turrets, interior turrets, missile turrets to your larger ships and stations.

2You have complete freedom, you can make blocks whatever colour you want, you have windows, slopes, grates, hatches, ladders, stairs, med bays, gravity generators, rotators, lights and I assume many more trinkets on the way to add to your creations. So with that you really can make anything you want, if you go to the Workshop you can see what bright sparks have already been hard at work with. Do you want to fly around in an X-wing? Serenity? BattleStar Galactica? StarCraft Battlecruiser? Imperial Star Destoryer? The Death Star? Then all you’ll have to do is look it up and I can guarantee that most, if not nearly all iconic sci-fi spacecraft have been made and are fully functional. Even if you don’t want to fly around a sci-fi ship in a space game, why not try flying Homer Simpson, a giant washing machine, a green mushroom from Mario, a galleon, giant swords and a 180+ pages more of ingenious designs.

So having a gigantic catalogue of toys to play out of the way, it finally comes down to the main question, “What do you do in the game?” Well as the games name suggests you are an engineer…in space. You are surrounded by asteroids that are filled with resources and it is your job to gather those resources so you can construct your dream ship and space station. Multiplayer is to be implemented later on in the game so you and your friends can help one another to turn asteroids into pebbles and make your dream play fort inside said asteroid. This is where I have to mention the workshop section again for the great ideas already coming out. You can chip away with a hand drill and hand gather resources or you can attach a bigger drill to a small ship and carve bigger sections out. Then you can go the whole hog and get a Red Dwarf-esq mining machine that uses a gravity generator collector, extendable drill head with 80 drills and a ram to hold the asteroid in place. Why hand pick gold ore when you can spend two minutes gouging from one side to the other of the hunk of rock and collect a 1000 tonnes of ore that directly funnel into your refinery automatically. I mean come on! Screw Minecrafts pickaxe, I want Red Dwarf!

7Resource rich you think “Well the game is surely pointless now?” and usually you would be right. However, let me tell you about the physics in the game, the sweet collision physics. Usually in any game when your vehicle collides with another or a wall it gets a dent even though you’ve hit it at 80 mph. Conversely, the smallest dent and your vehicle explodes. So what if your piloting a ship that is made up of thousands of blocks and weighs in excess of 10,000 tonnes? Well you get to the really fun part of this game.

No longer will your ship suddenly be useless after a few bumps and you need a new one. No longer will you glance of asteroids when you ram into it at 100m/s. Instead your ships and station will react accordingly. Blow the wing off your small ship then simply add more blocks to repair it. Do you feel like being cocky in landing in your hanger at full speed? Then watch out as you smash into the hanger bay edge and blow out a chunks of your ship. Yet the best bit is using a large ship and ramming, well anything, at full speed.

5Check out the videos for this as it is just lovely. I cannot emphasis this enough. Imagine taking two cruisers and smashing one into the other. What would happen? Well if the moving ship is bigger and say hitting the other ships walkway corridor. Simply put, you will slice right through it and half the ship, sending both ends floating aimlessly into the endlessness of space.

When you crash into an asteroid you expect loud noises and booming groans as metal buckles against rock. Thankfully in space, no one can hear you being a muppet. It is only when you turn your camera around and notice the front nose of your ship, that was formerly pointed and awesome looking, is now flat with ragged edges with chunks of it floating away.

6It is hard to talk about a game that well really isn’t a game yet, I feel like a fan boy who is squealing in anticipation of what is to come. With any game that lets users make anything they want with a few basic parts then the possibility is limitless. You will get the basic players who will enjoy mining tunnels with a hand drill to people who make the aforementioned Red Dwarf clone to put fellow space engineers out of business. Frankly anyone can play this and enjoy it to their fullest desires and I know it will only get better as more improvements are added. I will be giving you more updates on this as things develop, and I’ll try and add in details of my slowly coming together plan ‘Cover an asteroid in warheads and blow it up to see what happens’.

Space, asteroids, engineers, ships, drills, explosives, mining, jetpacks and awesome collisions. Basically everything you need to know to get on board with this! Show off your creativity and ingenuity and take pride in showing it off. That is, until your friends fly their cruisers at your creation or fire a gravity cannon and obliterate it. Seriously, go watch some videos and your jaw will drop at how awesome these small ideas are. Mine certainly has and the grin of pure joy, which I hope I was able to get across in this review, will be sure to stay with each update. I look forward to updating you all on this excellence and getting my hands on a fully operational battle station!

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