Game: Space Engineers
Developer and Publisher: Keen Softwarehouse
System Used: PC
I like Lego’s. I had a basement full of them as a kid, it was cold, wet, and I needed a jacket to play down there when it was wintertime, but every day I would go down there to play with Lego’s. Some days my siblings would join me if I let them, but I mostly liked to play alone. I’d build towers, and ships and monsters make things fight and explode and tell stories in impossible locations. Most people have that sort of experience with something, getting a bunch of toys and telling stories to themselves. Almost every toy requires it. Dolls, Cars, Boxes, Trains, Action Figures, Kitchen Sets, etc. all are for telling stories. That kind of feeling is what I want to have whenever I play Space Engineers, and sometimes I do, but while it gives you all the parts you need to create crazy inventions, the game itself can’t live up to what it wants to promote. Yet. The problem is that yet. There is enough good in the game that it deserves a yet. But I don’t see it ever being fulfilled.
Space Engineers is a sandbox game, one that I’ve sunk entirely too many hours into. For evidence, I submit the project that took me almost 3 weeks to complete.
And another project that took me almost 3 months:
I have put so many hours into this game that I am ashamed to tell the number but know that it is well above 1000. I’ve been playing for over 4 years, which isn’t much for a game that should be limitless. That is the advertisement of sandbox games. Unlimited possibilities.
Gameplay consists of mining for resources, refining raw ores into usable materials, construction of useful parts out of materials, and welding parts onto blueprints of physical objects. Think Minecraft on steroids. Everything in the world is destructible and is affected by physics, allowing you to make everything from starships to cars to hovercraft. There are planets to visit, pirates to fight, and aliens to hunt, plus the reaches of outer space to explore. The map size of an unlimited sized world is maxed at 6AU, which honestly is too huge, and that is the first problem. Everything to too big, and there is nothing to fill it.
The engine can’t handle the largest ships in the game, and multiplayer is buggy at best impossible at worst. Airtightness in the ships makes the entire game run at snail speed, and as soon as in-game scripting is used the game freaks out. Pistons and Rotors flip around wildly when they break and do more damage than the actual bombs sometimes. All these things should be what makes the game an interesting experience to play, and freshen up the dryness of space, which realistically, is extremely boring. Without the interesting features working correctly the game consists of endless mining to build a cooler looking ship, which after visiting another donut-shaped asteroid for the thousandth time, becomes extremely tedious.
You may be wondering how I managed to play this game for so long without tearing my eyes out and quitting. That would be the games two saving graces. Updates and the Workshop. The game is Updated biweekly or weekly, with constant patches and upgrades being made to it over time. Seeing the game being made and fixed is what kept me in for the first two years, as I could always see some hope each week that the game was getting better, that it would eventually be fixed. The thing that kept me playing the other two was the Steam Workshop. Thousands of players use the open source game code and blueprint system to build replicas of spaceships from sci-fi and real life. Some people create in game scripts that are limited enough to let people control entire fleets with the push of a button. Other clubs build mechs or battle bots and post their designs to compete for prizes. The modding community in the game is almost as large on Steam as the Skyrim community which is insane for a broken game that barely works most of the time. Everyone is there because they care more about the idea of the game than the actual current state. They all have the same hope that I had when I started playing. They want to build with Lego’s.
Unfortunately, even though I loved this game once I can’t recommend it anymore. The modding community has started to die off as everyone has started to realize that the game will never be complete. It will never live up to the goals it set for itself. If I were to review this game two years ago I would have recommended it excitedly, because there was still enough passion in the people who played the game to make it an enjoyable experience. Now I can only regret the time I feel might have been wasted, waiting for a game to give all that it promised.