Steam-style survival with traces of No Man’s Sky? Interesting! Also, familiar.
Empyrion: Galactic Survival is Steam’s latest out-of-nowhere top seller, and while usual complaints—“Ugh, more survival? Really? That’s already my full-time job”—apply, this one’s got an ambitious streak the size of the Milky Way. It’s still in Early Access, but already you can explore planets, fight creatures, collect supplies, build a spaceship, and blast off to explore the cosmos. Granted, you start on a dull dustball of a planet with only the most basic of supplies to your name, but exciting, No-Man’s-Sky-style planet-exploring antics happen, you know, eventually. Sorta.
Here are the things Empyrion currently has going for it:
Space and planet exploration: An absolute free-roaming experience awaits you: fly across space, land on planets and freely walk around.
Building and construction: You can build everything out of blocks & building parts: capital vessels, small vessels, ground vessels as well as space & planetary stations.
Survival mode: Survival is key - try to stay alive in a hostile environment. Food and oxygen are rare, resources scarce and dangers lurk around – be well prepared.
Creative mode: Freely build on planets or in space and do not care for food, resources or enemies.
Space and land combats: Empyrion features a variety of enemies reaching from (peaceful and hostile) creatures living on planets to aggressive robot drones that can attack you in space and on planets.
Single and co-operative: Besides single player, Empyrion supports co-operative gameplay with your friends.
Mining and resource gathering: For building and construction, you must gather and mine resources that you find on planets and asteroids.
Extensive crafting system: Using and combining resources, you can craft your own equipment and weapons.
Farming and food system: Grow your own vegetables and fruits or hunt creatures for their meat to prepare yourself a delicious meal. Find rare plants to prepare medical supplies.
Terrain deformation: You can entirely modify and deform the terrain. It’s a true sandbox game!
So a lot of standard survival stuff, but also... space! To be completely honest, I’m a sucker for games that let you take a ship from surface to space and back again. I mean, that’s the space game dream, right? That’s what makes us whimper and swoon even when games like No Man’s Sky and Star Citizen serve up pie-in-the-stars promises they might not be able to deliver on. Empyrion looks significantly, um, less good than either of those, but what it lacks in the audiovisual department, it makes up for with a) potential depth and b) existence.
In the future, the developers plan to add a whole solar system of fully (instead of partially) procedurally generated planets. Right now, though, there already seems to be quite a bit to do despite a relatively small selection of planets. Problem is, the early goings are kinda... boring. I’ve played for about an hour so far, and I’ve spent that time in a typical survival rhythm of supply collecting and slow-but-sure base-building. In that respect, Empyrion is serviceable but hardly stratospheric. It seems to have cribbed some of its construction elements from Steam spaceship-building (and crashing) hit Space Engineers, but with significantly less complexity.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Empyrion’s survival mode starts you out stranded on a planet, but not entirely high and dry. I haven’t felt like I’m lacking for supplies like food and water, but construction’s another matter. Once I figured out how to not die, I spent the lion’s share of my time tracking down deposits of various materials to craft into other materials to craft into building and spaceship parts. Unfortunately, it’s all pretty clunky, and—even with the help of a developer-endorsed wiki—it’s taken time for me to get up to speed with where all my life support and construction systems are, what I need to make base parts, and things of the like. I feel like I’ve got it all figured out now—an hour later—but it often feels like Empyrion has two systems or sets of menus where it could’ve had one.
I’m still working my way toward the whole spacefaring Han Solo fantasy thing, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the game soon. For now, though, I’m definitely interested—though perhaps a bit more in the concept than its execution. Expect another report when I make it to space. (Note: I wish I could end every post with that sentence.)
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