If you’ve been a follower of space simulation, Kickstarter or MMO’s the name Star Citizen will probably ring a lot of bells. Depending on your point of view they might be good or bad bells. Describing the game is difficult – it does not fit neatly into any of the standard brackets. It launched as on its own crowd funding site then went onto Kickstarter in 2012 and made over two million dollars. Since that time there’s been a lot of back and forth and the game is currently on an early access alpha for backers and anyone who wants to pitch in. Fundraising has also continued separate to Kickstarter and CIG (the company behind it) recently announced they had made over 100 million dollars towards the game.
So what is the game like? It is designed to eventually be the ultimate space opera adventure. Fly your ships, trade, fight, mine and play in and out of the cockpit – it is designed to be a first person shooter as well as a flight simulation. These genres are then split into two sections – Squadron 42 is a single player campaign that gears you up and gets you used to everything and that is followed by the Persistent Universe or the PU which is an MMO. You can play online or offline and switch your character between them at will.
This is not a review of Star Citizen. The game is still in Alpha and is not coming out until late this year at the earliest. As things stand not all of the parts of the game are enabled and those that are are in need of a lot of work. At the moment there are four main sections available:
Hanger – this lets you inspect and move around on whatever ships you own. You can’t actually take off or do anything with the ships but they look good.
Arena commander – this is a flight simulator in the game. It lets you do PVP and PVE space combat, a little bit of exploration and some racing. This is going to be part of the training system that lets you fly and get better without actually risking your ship. At the moment this is where you’ll spend the vast majority of your time.
Social module. If you’ve ever played any MMO you’ll know that there’s always a place where everyone hangs around to chat. When I played WOW it was Ironforge or Stormwind then Dalaran and the Social module is this part of the MMO.
The Persistent Universe – this is currently restricted to a single system – Crusader but this has a number of planets, space stations and some missions and sandboxing available. I missed this module in this original article and am in the process of writing a follow up that will concentrate more on the PU and Crusader.
You may have noticed the things that aren’t in that list. There is some first person walking around but there is no first person shooting yet. That module – called Star Marine – has yet to be added. There is no particular storyline or structured game yet.
Price: $54 upwards
There are a number of packages available which all include small amount of ingame currency and bonuses and a ship. The cheapest is currently $36 (£37) and they go up to $140 plus. It is possible to also buy the larger ships with in game currency if you earn it.
There is no subscription requirement to play but there are two ($12 and $24) subscriptions available which include a number of ingame and out of game perks. These are almost entirely cosmetic and not required.
There is an ingame currency called REC and an external currency called UEC which at different exchange rates can be used to buy extras which are mainly but not entirely cosmetic.
Retailer: Cloud Imperium Games
About Cloud Imperium Games and Chris Roberts
Cloud Imperium Games was founded by Chris Roberts in 2011 with the specific plan of writing a space game. Roberts is famous in the PC industry for creating the original Wing Commander game as well as being very heavily involved in its sequels and the Privateer spin off and Freelancer. Cloud Imperium games has Studios in the US, the UK and Germany and has around 120 staff.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The hanger lets you walk around your ship or ships, climb into them and inspect them and acts as a central point to get to the other modules. At the moment it’s fun to walk around your ships (once you realise how to get them in) but it’s a fairly limited experience that is not really repeatable.
The Arena module is a simulator within a game. When you first log into a new game with your shiny ship the chances are that first time you take it out you’ll ding it or destroy it. At this point you won’t have the money to easily rebuy hence a simulator to let you practice both against AI opponents and in direct PVP against other players. The module lets you take out a basic ship and runs you through the basics of take off, maneuvering and weapons systems and combat and lets you go.
There are currently four single player scenarios – the tutorial, Vanduul Swarm, Free Flight and Murray Cup Racing and five multiplayer scenarios – Battle Royale, Squadron Battle, Capture the Core, Vanduul Swarm Coop and Murry Racing.
The Vanduul Swarm pits you and a couple of team mates (AI or other players) against increasingly large waves of enemies with the occasional Elite enemy thrown in. Battle Royale is a deathmatch free for all, Free Flight is peaceful space that lets you explore and practice, Murray Cup Racing is racing around set tracks, Squadron battle is cooperative team versus team and Capture the Core is capture the flag in space.
The area module is full featured enough and fun enough to be almost a game in its own right. The flight system uses a Newtonian basis and feels real and realistic – to the point that you can grey out if you try and maneuver too hard. When you start your ship is very basic but the more you play you earn in game currency which can be used to upgrade and get better and go further.
A word of warning – like many player versus player systems make sure that you are confident playing against AIs before you even think about trying them.
The Social Module
The social module is a first person chat area. CIG launched it to serve two purposes – to give somewhere for the game’s users to socialize and communicate in game but perhaps more importantly as a test area for the first person parts of the game – Star Marine – which will be in the full product. As with the hanger the chances are that you will spend an hour or two exploring and getting used to it and then just park your character in a corner whenever you want to use it as a chat room. Having the social module does add to the game and it is well designed and implemented but at the moment it is more promise than actualisation.
The PU – Persistent Universe
In the long run the PU is slated to be the largest part of Star Citizen. Once you’ve completed the single player campaign it will be where you can spend most of your time and effort. At the moment there is a single system – Crusader available with numerous planets, space stations and habitats. There are some missions and interaction also enabled but much more promised for the future.
When I first wrote this article I managed to miss this module. Every time I clicked onto it the game error coded out and I mistakenly thought that it had not been implemented – that the menu was a placeholder. This was my mistake. I’m currently in the process of playing in Crusader and will update this article (or link to another) when I’ve formed my unrushed opinion.
- Windows 7 (64 bit) – Service Pack 1, Windows 8 (64 bit)
- DirectX 11 graphics card with 1GB Video RAM.
- Quad core CPU.
- 8GB Memory.
It should be noted that the game is currently still in alpha and has not been optimised. My system is considerably more powerful than that minimum and it struggled even on minimum settings. The minimum can be regarded as a minimum to run not a minimum to be able to play well.
Star Citizen supports HOTAS sticks and if you want the absolute best experience it might be worth investing in but I found it playable with mouse and keyboard. VR – Oculus Rift – support has been promised although it is not currently implemented and there is no promised implementation date.
Star Citizen has gotten an awful lot and hype and attention. It is the highest crowd funded game by a long way and when it exploded onto the scene set expectations very high. At this point I don’t know whether it will reach them or not. It is going the right way but there are so many things that need to go right.
If you ignore what it might be and are looking at purchasing right now what do you get? A first person social area that while interesting is not anything unique. A hanger that lets you walk around your ships – cool and fun for five minutes but ultimately not something to keep your attention. The single star system PU of Crusader which I have yet to go into in detail. Finally you get the Arena. I said before that this is almost enough to be a game in its own right and if you consider the cost to get in is only £37 it becomes much more appealing as one. Space simulators are having a renaissance and I’ve played and awful lot of the options out there and the Arena Commander is among the best.
Star Citizen might turn out to be an amazing genre changing game or it might not. If you are a space combat simulator fan with a powerful system there is more than enough already here to be worth buying in to. Recommended for those people.
The article is based on Star Citizen 2.0. First published on 13th January 2016. This post was edited on the 14th January to reflect a missed game section.