Kerbal Space Program Review

 
Score 90Before his deadly trip up Mount Everest, George Mallory was asked why he would want to take such a dangerous journey; he replied “Because it’s there.”  This stellar game may look like the next ‘I Am Bread’ cash in, but Kerbal Space Program is a huge leap in the right direction.  Building your own ship, planning your route, and fighting against the laws of nature; it all creates an amazing experience that few games does.  It gives you small pushes, until you’re soaring headlong into experimenting with new spaceship prototypes, building orbiting space stations and landing on distant planets.  This unexplored solar system is there- are you ready for a journey?

WHAT WE LIKED
º Building a physics defying ship is immensely enjoyable.
º The feeling you get when you successfully land on the moon.
º Managing alien astronauts that smile when you blow them up.
 
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The lack of apparent life outside of the space center.
º All of the various controls are difficult to learn at first.
º A few minor glitches one could expect from a game like this.

You remove your eyes from the controls, just long enough to capture the immense heat outside of your window.  You return your intense gaze to all the levers controlling your pitch, yaw, and roll; your finger ready to detach the booster rockets.  As you finally break through the friction of the planet’s atmosphere, your eyes adjust revealing the Mun.  You’ve taken a huge step for all your fellow Kerbals, as you branch out into a new realm of existence.  This is just scratching the surface of this space flight simulator, which brilliantly allows its players to explore the amazing vastness of space and physics.

Simply put, Kerbal Space Program puts other physic engine games to shame.  One could spend hours messing around by building giant flying mechs, monumental catapults, hovercraft or spend an evening attempting to retrieve an asteroids from your orbit.  The playground it provides is what I imagine keeps NASA and ESA scientists up at night, laughing themselves silly.

It’s hard reviewing a game that’s an open sandbox with no directions, story or missions- the only thing I can really do is tell you if it’s fun or not.  Not only is it enjoyable; it’s hysterical, cute, smart and imaginative.  There’s no reason you shouldn’t pick this game up right now.  Given that I’m only 12 hours in and have stopped writing this review several times to take another stab at it, it’s probably going to get a least another 20 hours out of me.

As a newly christened astrophysicist, the game starts off with a couple of choices.  You can play a sandbox mode, where the game throws every single tool available to you; or there’s career mode where you deal with finances, hiring, R&D and increasing your extraterrestrial knowledge.  Playing the career mode, you’ll start out building small rockets hoping to break speed and height records.  You make money and gain ‘science points’, by taking on contracts and discovering solutions for your fellow Kerbals.

There’s a huge amount of customizability to this game.

As you progress, you’ll begin to unlock new tools.  Before you know it, you’ll be breaking the atmosphere to attempt an orbit over the planet.  Then it becomes a challenge of getting out to other celestial bodies, and successfully landing on their surface.  Hopefully, you’ll have a return planned for your Kerbal cosmonauts as well before you start.

I can just see the Kerbal now; standing up there and smiling despite his oxygen running out.  Could you imagine- having to live the rest of your life as an overly enthusiastic punching bag, stranded on some weird planet?  You need to get him back to his home planet, so he can continue being launched or ejected out of some physics nightmare that only Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku could’ve thought up.

Even after visiting every distant planet, you’ve only cracked the surface of what you can do.  This game simply has so many levels of enjoyment to be discovered.  It’s like Squad took the endless exploration of Minecraft, and blended it with the absurdity of Goat Simulator.  Soon you’ll start building your own aircraft, submarines and other strange experiments involving huge explosions.

Space is a sight to behold, but traversing it is an experience like no other.

And if you exhaust all of your in-game options, Kerbal Space Simulator has an active and dev-supported community of modders (includes a link right in the main menu), that offers endless customizability and new tools to try out.  There seems to be over 100 different patches on the official mod page, and from the videos I’ve seen, they really add to this already immensive experience.

I’m hard-pressed to find negative things to say.  I guess if I wanted to miss the point of the game, I could say the design of the land is very barren.  Visually, it can sometimes be very bland, as there’s hardly any ‘design’ to the planets.  I guess expecting huge cities or interesting geographical locations is a tad unrealistic when you’re designing a fully explorable world, but it still looks weird that there’s only a space center on the surface of it.  However, I was able to find tons of sci-fi and real-world inspired easter eggs hidden throughout the solar system and on your home planet.

The physics may not be one hundred percent realistic, but I don’t believe the game was really going for that.  I’m not a rocket scientist; I am looking for enjoyment out of my experience.  It is real enough that you’ll throw your hands up in frustration, unsure of why your rocket won’t work after twelve tries.  The game doesn’t allow you to slap whatever you want together, and expect it to fly.  It requires you to really put some effort into your designs, and only then will you get whatever chaotic piece of science you’ve been tinkering with to work.

The music when you’re building creations, while enjoyable, does tend to repeat too much.  When you do break into space, the soundtrack slips into a floaty outer space track that really works well with the stunning visuals.  If you’re someone easily annoyed by repetitive music, you may want to throw on a pair of headphones and listen to your favorite space-faring soundtracks.  Outside of the OST, the sound effects are fine, but given most are propulsion sounds, there’s not saying much.

With a game this robust, it will take some time to get comfortable with it. Its got a steep learning curve to learn all of the controls for this game.  Knowing every piece in your toolbox, how to properly plan out your craft’s stages or using the SAS system in order to stabilize it.  It all takes time and patience, but once you’re familiar with the game, the whole universe becomes your playground.

There’s a tutorial section, that walks you through some of the basics, but it leaves out some of the key components of the game.  Researching online yielded a ton of fans who have created helpful tip guides and inspirational tutorials, and their enthusiasm will likely inspire you to yield the game by its Redstones and explore space.

Simply put, this game will have you looking up aerodynamic and space travel theories, and you’ll have fun doing it. Building mass relays to shoot asteroids out into the deepest recesses of space is something that is so infinitely enjoyable, that success becomes a bigger incentive than any achievement could ever be.  The game rewards creativity and inspires the mind to think outside of the box.  If you’re at all interested in space or physics, this is the game you’ve been looking for.

Publisher: Squad
Developer: Squad

Genre: Flight / Physics Simulator
Release Date: April 27th, 2015
Pegi: 3   ESRB: E
Version Reviewed: Mac

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