I had a dream as a boy, fuelled by Star Wars and Dan Dare and Thunderbirds: spaceships, yawning through the void of space, taking me from one adventure to the next. Games have always been a way for me to realise my childlike flights of fancy, allowing me to feel the grace and freedom from unrestricted flight and adventure that normally wouldn’t be possible.
And then Space Engineers came along and it’s basically the game of my boyhood dreams.
If you were to imagine Minecraft in space, you wouldn’t be far wrong; and if that’s enough to get your waters flowing, then it gets even better. Space Engineers places you in a spacesuit with infinite air in your lungs, infinite resources at your disposal, and infinite space around you in which to build. If you’ve played the excellent Kerbal Space Program, then the component parts will be familiar; fuselage, cockpit, thrusters, gravity generator, landing gear, and so on. This being in Alpha form (released through Steam’s Early Access system) it’s just a creative mode with some unfinished edges, but this in itself is a ridiculously effective timesink.
So much of its allure lies in its extremely intelligent building system. By placing a single starting point for either a small ship, large ship, or stationary station, you can add different sized blocks with ease and the game automatically switches what’s available dependant on where your building cursor is pointing. As such you’ll be building little scout ships in no time, whipping between asteroids and humming the John Williams back catalogue as you do so. Then there’s the quickstart setup that gifts you a giant red ship and a giant blue ship just waiting to be smashed together. When crashed, they break apart not in chunks but in metal splinters, shards spinning off in all directions. And you’re left in the middle, jetpack hissing as you effortlessly move in amongst the wreckage. It’s brilliant stuff.
And now I’m off to have a quick five minutes in the stars. See you in an hour.