Written by Caleb Taylor, April 10, 2016, at 4:30 p.m.
Space, mysterious and distant by nature, is unreachable to the majority. Years ago our ancestors looked up, trying to make sense of the innumerable brilliant stars and planets. Some worshiped them, turning to the heavens in times of trouble and confusion. Others feared the stars, blaming the constellations when plagued with famine or war.
Great explorers navigated the seas aided by the omnipresent twinkle of landmark stars. Breakthroughs in physics and science stemmed from the study of celestial bodies, bringing new understanding and technology to the world. With the recent successful space shuttle launches and satellite deployments, we’ve only just begun our exploration in space.
Perhaps this newfound excitement for the unknown of space, along with the invention of and distribution of VR hardware has generated the widely felt desire for space simulation games in recent years. Having to compare so many similar space sims is time you’d rather spend zipping in between asteroids or commanding a fleet of dreadnought gunships, especially since the more popular games are almost indistinguishable from each other.
This article will guide you through the similarities & differences, pros & cons and first impressions of the four most popular space simulation games on the market right now.
1. EVE Online
The scale of EVE Online is massive. Over 5,000 solar systems recorded, and about half of that in what’s called “wormhole space,” it takes a few hours to fly from one end of the universe to the other (even with shortcuts like jump drives, jump bridges, etc.).
With an entirely player-run environment, what is mined, scavenged, bought, and sold directly dictates the economy in the game. You’re able to mine on planets, moons, and space rocks, which you can then go on to sell or produce tech with.
Using wormholes could launch you into dangerous space, where the law doesn’t reach and the NPCs are tough. Pirates lurk just outside jump gates, bombs loaded and ready to be launched at whoever decides to warp through them.
The PvP aspect of EVE is possibly the most attractive aspect of the game. Every few months, a massive, cross system war on EVE makes headlines. These battles typically last days, resulting in millions of in-game currency lost and thousands of ships destroyed. Large factions send fleets of ships to their doom or victory.
If you’re the type of player that loves the glory of charging into battle with hundreds of comrades behind you, or the type of player that likes to sit back, explore, and mine in your own corner of the galaxy, EVE is the game for you.
2. EVE: Valkyrie
EVE: Valkyrie is a spin-off, first-person space sim of EVE Online. Featuring immersive, face paced dog fighting style game play, EVE: Valkyrie is perfect if you prefer more of a space shooter over a space simulator.
Utilizing the VR headsets that are on the market, EVE: Valkyrie is fully optimized and runs smooth (assuming you have adequate hardware), with little screen tearing or lag. The game has single player scenarios and a variety of sizes for multiplayer games.
Having three classes of ships (fighter, heavy, and support), there is a ship variation for everyone. EVE Online to EVE: Valkyrie is like Biathlon to a carnival dart game, so if you prefer to hop right into a ship and start shooting, EVE: Valkyrie is the game for you.
3. Elite: Dangerous
Elite: Dangerous is similar to EVE: Valkyrie and EVE Online. It features the same spontaneous dog fights, albeit less predictable when and where they will happen. On a much smaller scale than EVE Online, Elite: Dangerous allows you to explore the milky way alone, taking up odd jobs, selling cargo and fighting in order to survive and progress.
One feature in Elite: Dangerous is its most redeeming quality and its biggest downfall. Its long, lonely hours of transit between events and tasks make the game feel drawn out and dry.
However, it is on these long trips that players experience random encounters with “unknown signals.” If the player chooses to explore these mysterious signals, the player often encounters abandoned loot from a recent fight, a wanted space criminal being chased by the law or a player carrying expensive cargo. One could spend hours jumping from signal to signal, earning bounty money while incurring bounties on themselves.
While this is a game where action finds you, Elite: Dangerous makes up for it with glorious victories, harrowing defeats and fruitful rewards. If you enjoy solitude with a bit of action sprinkled in, Elite: Dangerous is the game for you.
4. Star Citizen
While still heavily in development, Star Citizen has the goal of an open universe, allowing the player to jump right in and play how they want. Star Citizen promises a multitude of ships for different jobs; some for mining, exploring, fighting and more.
One of Star Citizen’s main selling points is the ability to walk around your ship. While other games have remote salvaging via lasers and other tools, Star Citizen requires you to physically leave your ship, or send a crew out to salvage a wreck. This opens up the possibility for a lot, and the development team is in the process of implementing both FPS gameplay and multi-crew ships.
Star Citizen is said to have on release over 100 solar systems to explore. While this number is far fewer than Elite: Dangerous’ projected 40 billion, or EVE Online’s 7,500, the developers are handcrafting each star system in Star Citizen, ensuring each system has something unique and exciting to see and do.
While this is still all on paper, Star Citizen shows a promising concept for the perfect blend of fast paced action and long rewarding game play with a lot of replay value. So, if you prefer a dynamic, unique space sim with all essential the factors of a good game, wait for Star Citizen.
Let us know in the comments what space sim you prefer and why. Shoot straight, space cadets!