Star Citizen Alpha/Early Thoughts

If you haven’t heard about Star Citizen, you must have been living under a rock. Or don’t care about video games. Or don’t care about video games and have been living under a rock. Enjoy your rock cave.

From Chris Roberts, the brilliant game designer and lets-not-mention-that-directorial-debut, Star Citizen is what every fan of Privateer, Wing Commander, Space Rogue, and every other space sim have always wanted.

At least, that’s the promise.

Now, I and other backers (damn right I have them my dollars), have had a chance to try out an early alpha snipped of the game: space combat.

I have thoughts.

I want to be clear, this isn’t a review. That would be folly. The game isn’t going to be out for months (or longer, it pains me to say). All we have now is the Hanger module, where you get to walk around the ship, and the Arena Commander where you get a taste of space combat.

The Hanger module was incredibly cool, even as just the barest of tastes of what was to come. You get to walk around (and in, depending) the ship you bought as part of the initial crowdfunding campaign.

But that was like walking around a museum. Look, not much touch.

With Arena Commander you can take a ship out to the stars. Well, part of the stars. And some of the ships. I bought a Constellation, but initially the only ships flyable in Arena Commander are the smaller fighter craft: the Hornet, 300i, and Aurora. If you have something else, you get access to the Hornet. That’s fine by me. Better than that nothing, and the rest will come soon. 

There are two zones, one with a blue planetoid in the background, the other with a orange star in the distance. Both have a collection of objects (like asteroids and such). You can either fly around, or fight wave after wave of Vanduul fighters.

Combat is… mildly frustrating, actually. I can’t say I love the controls, and talking with some friends who are playing, they don’t like it either. Part of the issue is you can’t re-map the controls (something I’m sure will be added eventually). But regardless it just doesn’t feel quite right. By comparison, the similar Elite: Dangerous nails the feel of space combat (more on that game soon). Elite is much closer to release however. I’m sure Star Citizen will get the tweaks it needs in this regard.

One thing SC nails, though, is damage. Both visually, and feel. Clip an asteroid, and your ship spins and tumbles as the remaining thrusters struggle to gain control. Take heavy damage in a fight, and you start to lose control as specific thrusters are damaged or destroyed. This aspect feels perfect.

And also, it's gorgeous.

We’re a ways out from launch. So far what I’ve seen shows me they’re on the right track. On paper, SC is the game I’ve wanted to play my entire life, a sentiment shared among many of my gamer friends (and seemingly, Chris Roberts too).

I plan on doing regular updates as new modules are released. I also plan on getting an Oculus Rift, and seeing how SC plays on that. 

In the mean time, I highly recommend checking out SC, if you're a fan of space sims at all.

gunhed's picture

Glad you mentioned Elite Dangerous as the original was released years before Wing Commander. A freeform reactive universe with 8 galaxies and 256 planets in each crammed into 52Kb of code ! Surely one of the best examples of machine code programming ever produced.