Starsector Is A Singleplayer Strategic Space RPG

We’ve written about Starsector [official site] before. It went by a different name then, starfarer, but it’s the same densely packed space RPG today as it was back then. More so, in fact, thanks to the recent release of version 0.7a, which added new ships, weapons, system-specific abilities, sensor mechanics, space terrain and recruitable combat officers, along with even bigger battles. I haven’t played for a couple of years but found the focus on singleplayer and ability to command fleets very compelling. I’m keen to see more.

Starsector is an Elite-like. A game in which spaceships are your avatar as you seek fame and fortune in an open world, that allows for trading, piracy, inter-faction military actions and exploitation of surrounding systems (and that’s both game systems and star systems). You can buy it now, for instant access to the alpha version and all new releases. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.

The first time I played I was surprised by how flagship-centric the action is, having expected a fleet management game rather than a space-based RPG. While it is possible to add ships to your fleet, and to give them instructions when you enter combat, there’s also fun to be had exploring the procedurally-generated galactic sectors.

Development seems to have been coming along well in the years since that first look. The “bigger battles” mentioned above are a more significant addition than you might imagine: rather than simply ramping up the number of ships allowed in combat, there’s a new system in place that allows nearby fleets to join ongoing fights, making the galaxy even more dynamic. Even more alive.

You can follow development here, and the full changelist for the most recent update is here.

29 Comments

  1. tanith says:

    Finally some love for this amazing game.

    • CaidKean says:

      Amen. Though I still wish they hadn’t had to rename it to Starsector, I felt that Starfarer was a far cooler name.

      • tanith says:

        You and me both. Starfarer had something really fantastic and intriguing while Starsector sounds a bit like run of the mill sci-fi but since the game is really awesome (and because they really cannot do anything about it) it can be forgiven.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Yep, I’ve emailed RPS a few times asking for more coverage. I’ve been playing this since it was Starfarer and its a gem of a little game.

      To get the best experience possible I recommending installing a few mods as soon as they are updated for the new build, Starsector+ is usually the best starting ground, mostly just adds content while retaining a vanilla feel.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    The development blog for this is pretty interesting, particularly the one where the dev sadly realises they should take all the densely-packed greebles off the ship designs.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      I’m considering doing the same thing to my car.

      …what’s a greeble?

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        You know on old SciFi shows how the models of spaceships would be covered in little radar dishes and prongs and lumps? (The hull of Red Dwarf is a good example). Well, all those little sticky out bits are called “Greebles“. It seems the term was first used at ILM.

  3. Rich says:

    How Escape Velocity-like is this?

    • Premium User Badge

      SlugMan says:

      There are some similarities, but it’s really more like a ‘grown-up’ Escape Velocity. The combat is more in depth both from outfitting your ships to commanding your fleet from your ‘flagship’ and managing your fleet while exploring the sandbox environment. The basics of factions (and faction relations) and trading have just been put in. So if you played EV as a kid and wanted something with a little more Mechwarrior (expanded strategy and tactical options), check this game out. On top of that, the mod scene is terrific. Just like with EV ;)

    • Premium User Badge

      municipalis says:

      I think the combat in Starsector is much more interesting and varied than it is in EV. The ships feel much more differentiated and the optimal strategy will vary greatly depending on what you’re piloting. Added to this is a very clever flux mechanic: firing most weapons and absorbing damage in your shields raises your flux. If your flux gets too high, your ship spazzes out for a few seconds, making you extremely vulnerable as everything reboots. Alternatively, you can “dump” your flux, which also renders you useless but is much faster and – crucially – at your initiative.

      But if you liked EV for the exploration of all the different worlds, there’s not much of that there right now. Everything just kinda feels samey, though this isn’t to say it might not develop into something more eventually. Likewise for narrative, right now it’s non-existent.

  4. Shar_ds says:

    Serendipitous, I’d just reinstalled this after seeing that a new update had been released. Took me a while to find the key that I’d bought back in 2013!

    • qrter says:

      This article reminded me I pre-ordered this game in 2011..!

      • Jay Load says:

        2011 here as well! I had to go back through not just an old email, but an old email account to find my key!

      • SomeDuder says:

        No kidding! I totally forgot that I actually have access to this game, having played it for a few months way back when. It was still confined to 1 sector, but the battles were juicy. After a few months, I decided I had enough and had better wait for the full release. Glad to see it’s still going strong, hope they’ll get on Steam so I won’t forget about it (again).

        The blog (at the time) was an interesting read too – it’s kinda like Factorio’s Friday Facts (a devblog on Factorio), where it deals with whatever stupid little details come along with the game development, stuff that “professional” “videogame” “journalists” don’t really write about. Not that they could, I mean, they are investigative journalists in the groundbreaking, dangerous field of videogames, not developers.

  5. Baring says:

    Huh, can’t believe there’s a game this interesting that i missed. It looks very sleek :)

  6. Cvnk says:

    Thanks for reminding me I bought this. Maybe this long weekend (Thanksgiving here in the U.S.) would be a good time to take another crack at it. I forget why I bounced off the first time. It may have just been the realization it was going to require some effort which I wasn’t ready at the time to commit.

  7. Hanban says:

    Development has been slow, so it’s been a long time since I played it. It kind of scratches the same itch for me that Mount & Blade does, so I’ve still despite of it having been barebones put in maaany hours.

    • David Bliff says:

      The overworld’s feedback loop is basically exactly like Mount and Blade, yeah.

  8. anHorse says:

    What’s up with all the RPS article headlines that are just “GAME is a GENRE DESCRIPTION”

    Is it a search engine thing?

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      It’s an easy way to write a headline explaining to the reader what a game is.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      This one was definitely an “Adam is ill and struggling to do words” thing. You should have seen some of the draft headlines – the STARtist Formerly Known As Starfarer was there at one point. I need meds.

  9. JFS says:

    Is this still around? Bought into it years ago, but development is slow. Also, I didn’t like the name change. Starfarer is so much cooler.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      It is, and that’s why it turned out someone else had named their thing starfarer first.

  10. TaylanK says:

    The visual style reminds me a lot of Space Ranger games. Is this one related at all? Does it play similar?

    • scut says:

      TaylanK, if you enjoyed Space Rangers as I did, I think you will enjoy Starsector. It doesn’t have the wackiness of SR.

  11. namad says:

    this game is a lot more like ev nova or spaz than elite…. it’s not a cockpit fighter, it’s a strategy/action/topdown game!

  12. Reapy says:

    Ohhh new release, score. This game is great. It’s core combat design is just so well developed, and it’s just building up so nicely around around it in the campaign.

  13. Dirksolomon says:

    I would describe this as Mount and Blade in space from what I used to play it a bit ages ago, time to check out the progress!