Space Combat Sim House Of The Dying Sun Out Now

House of the Dying Sun [official site] isn’t just an amazing name, it’s also a great looking space combat simulator that harkens back to the days of Freespace and TIE Fighter. Oh, and it’s out on Steam Early Access today with a lil’ discount to make it extra appealing—just in case the idea of revisiting the glory days of zero G dogfighting weren’t enough.

It’s taken House of the Dying Sun a helluva long time to get here. The game was first shown all the way back in 2012 and originally called Enemy Starfighter. Graham enjoyed it when we went hands on in 2014, but Dying Sun has changed considerably since then and no longer features procedurally generated levels. Right now, the main campaign features 14 scenarios that are “highly crafted, lightning fast fights that have designed enemy setups, sight lines, engagement ranges, reinforcements, custom AI behaviors, and more.”

Another big feature is the ability to give orders to your own accompanying fleet using a tactical overview or switch between fighters on the fly. Each mission is meant to be repeated several times on higher difficulties, which also earns you powerful upgrades for your ship and fleets.

One thing I’m particularly enamored with is the sound design. If you watch the trailer above, you can hear how all weapon and anything outside your cockpit sounds distinctly muffled, punctuated by brief blasts of radio chatter. I love it.

Dying Sun doesn’t officially support flight sticks, but you can still use them if you don’t mind needing to push every button once just to figure out what it does. There’s also support for ultrawide monitors and both the Vive and Oculus VR headsets if you happen to own one of those as well. We’ll be taking a closer look at the game in the very near future.

House of the Dying Sun can be picked up for $17.99/€17,99 on Steam.


  1. Michael Manning says:

    Played this last night on the Vive and on a monitor and it’s gooood. My brain doesn’t like rolling in VR so I couldn’t really handle it for long but it seems like very good integration.

    The music and audio direction is really nice, very Homeworld / Battlestar inspired, the sounds are focused on the cabin and the pilot. It’s cool yo!

  2. Hanban says:

    I love it, and I can’t wait to see how it develops. I really hope there will be expansions.

  3. Person of Interest says:

    I love the aesthetics on display in the trailer: audio, visuals, interface, and especially that typeface! I think I’ll watch it again, in fact…

  4. BaronVonsnakPak says:

    From what I’ve been able to play it seems fun, but it bugs out on me whenever I use the warp. Screen turns black for a few minutes but the sound continues playing, then the screen comes back on and none of the buttons work and it’s a completely empty “level” that I’m stuck in and I have to ctrl+alt+del to get out.

  5. HilariousCow says:

    So, I begged to do some alpha testing, because I was really turned off by others space combat games, and Tie Fighter was my formative game. I may be a little biased, but here’s how I felt about it:

    It’s a space combat game which really doubles down on the combat. An what’s more, it really gets it. Space combat games tend to just have different coloured lazar beams draining different coloured health bars, permanently chasing each other’s tails in grand arcs, taking periodic turns to land shots, and it’s boring as heck. HOTDS actually cares far more about spatial positioning. When you take a scalp, it’s decisive. It’s because you’re being smart. It’s because you’re keeping that cap ship at bay with a distraction, or because you’re getting in behind a craft’s bubble shield and shotgunning it to death.

    The flight model is tight. There’s no annoying inertia-for-the-sake-of-inertia. Apart from a clamped turning radius (adjustable by slowing down, natch) you just turn where you want. You can really easily go into slip mode to strafe capital ships.

    It puts its game play depth out in the world, rather than making core ship controls too complicated. So, while it doesn’t do much in the way of shields/weapons/engines balance, your weapon choice is really important (both loadout, and moment to moment). There’s very little overlap in terms of weapon roles. I’d liken your weapons to a cross between Halo and, well, Tie Fighter (mostly the space bomb is in full effect).

    Your focus tends to be on trying to speed run objectives in order to fit in the time to deal with the extra bonus missions. The craft you order, later on, tend to only win sorties if they’re the right RPS counter, or if you use line of sight (large asteroids providing cover which is sort of uncommon in space flight games, and most welcome. I found myself feeling genuinely clever for putting myself in the shadow of a boulder to stop incoming missles). Different parts of capital ships have different functionality, so shooting the engines will stop it escaping to light speed. God it feels good to have so much agency in combat!

    Missions are refreshingly short, and bring Tie Fighter wait ’em up missions closer to something like Hotline Miami. They have a definite “just one more try” factor. A ghost ship will appear after a timer and wipe you out, so the focus is all about guerilla strikes.

    When your ship is destroyed, if you have other fighters in your fleet, you can control them. I think this was in XWing vs. Tie Fighter, and it’s sort of excellent. You can manually switch to others, too, and even order wingmen to do suicide runs.

    There’s no particular persistence in the individual craft you govern – more like, your fleet is replenished for each mission, so you don’t have to worry about losing a fleet to get a bonus objective done. I guess this could have gone another way, but I think this fits better with the nature of the sorties.

    Weapons/perk style loadouts are a little limited at first, but as soon as you have extra wingmen, you can kind of outfit your different craft with different approaches, and hotswitch during the mission.

    The game is singleplayer only, and revels in this – time dilation for weapon selection and for the map overview (very reminiscent of homeworld). Ordering people into positions on the battle-space (i.e. in the shadows of asteroids) is actually useful, and on harder difficulties, really matters.

    The story is a light touch – lighter even than Tie Fighter. Exposition comes through slow system mastery, and mission and craft descriptions. There’s almost a membrane breakdown between briefing and the mission itself. You warp in, check your mission objectives, and look at the map, and you’re just *in*. The fact that they’re quick (often tough) missions means you become intimately aware of the scenario’s timings and reactions to prodding. You feel like a warrior king, in amongst his troops, seeing the battle from the battle’s perspective.

    There’s a slow reveal to the story that… I can’t really spoil, obviously. But it’s my favorite kind of player-driven exposition. The story is there, hiding in plain sight, for you to infer at your own pace, rather than bookends to game play.

    I didn’t get on with the mouse implementation, personally, but then I was never as into freespace as I was into Tie Fighter. (I actually learned FPS mouse controls on Tie Fighter, so I’m probably a bit weird for sort of liking the whole “pick up the mouse, move it, place it back down” approach to turning). Besides, it feels purpose built for a game pad. I used an XBox 360 controller and was incredibly pleased with the implementation. Definitely re-used some Halo muscle memory/tactics.

    I’ve tried it in VR, as well, and although it definitely doesn’t require VR, it is an absolute boon to play it in there. It absolutely shits on every other VR space combat game I’ve played, in terms of core combat.

    • GWOP says:

      Thanks for your thoughts.

    • 0level says:

      Great! That gave me the final push: homeworldian XWing vs Tie Fighter. Cheers.

    • UncleLou says:

      Great, thanks.

    • Scraphound says:

      Thank you for this in depth analysis. You’ve really convinced me not to buy the game. Saved me some money and I appreciate it. We are polar opposites. I want inertia and complex controls. I don’t want zooming at the objective as fast as possible. The “smart” tactics you listed sound cool, but they also sound incredibly repetitive. I’m sure it’s a great two hour experience, but from everything you have described, two hours is about all the enjoyment I am going to get out of this. I need more.

      • Solgarmr says:

        I get that, I’m all for semi-complex controls and inertia but for that price, even though it’s short it’s a good buy for me, clean and simple which is nice as well.

        Beside I love the atmosphere in the game, sound, music, art. It just clicks together somehow

    • Premium User Badge

      Waltorious says:

      Thanks for your detailed reply. I also love TIE Fighter so I’m very interested in this game. But, generally speaking, I’m not very good with gamepads. I’m wondering if you (or anyone else) actually tried it with a flightstick? If so, how is it? Given that the developers aren’t recommending one, I’m a little worried. I’m afraid I’ll love the game but have trouble with the controls.

  6. SlugMan says:

    Why, hello there early birthday present to myself.

  7. Holysheep says:

    So a lot of people I know/read stuff from are complaining about a massive developpment change that supposedly would have impaired the game. They talk about “homeworld like” stuff that has been removed, no generated missions, etc.

    I have no idea what was planned, what’s available now and though I plan to get the remaster, haven’t played homeworld yet.

    What is it all about?

    • HilariousCow says:

      I believe the original intent was more of a kind of campaign mode where you’d travel your fleet through story missions (I guess each mission generated based on your current fleet make-up?) and that fleet losses/gains would persist along this, as with the FTL ship.

      Instead it’s more of a set of tailored missions that you repeat. At first you may not be able to beat a mission on the hard mode, so you might go back and repeat other levels at higher difficulty to get your fleet upgraded.

      I think procedural missions all sounds very promising (“infinite missions, yay!”), but in practice, they were probably quite generic, and just felt like “well, add more rock/paper/scissor units to make the game harder”, and rather than interesting combat, you just got endurance combat. It was probably hard to come up with procedural missions that were actually exploring different combat possibilities fully.

      • Snidesworth says:

        That’s pretty much what the developer said, as did his playtesters. I understand the hunger for endless missions, but I think he made the right call. There is no fat on the game whatsoever. I blew through the campaign on the easiest difficulty in a little under 2 hours, but there wasn’t a moment involved where I wasn’t enjoying myself.

        Also, the narrative that’s there is a treat.

  8. Utterdrivel says:

    Dammit, I just broke my “I will not buy Early Access games” rule.

    • HilariousCow says:

      Mike is very fast to respond to feedback, in my experience. And it’s already very polished.

      • Elusiv3Pastry says:

        “Dying Sun doesn’t officially support flight sticks, ”

        WHAT?? What the heck is with all the recent flight sims not supporting joysticks?? I don’t get it. Are there any plans for this?

        • Jekhar says:

          That’s not a recent trend. Freelancer officially ruined it back then. There were other offenders, true, but Freelancer was the one game which dropped joysticks entirely and only offered mouse+keyboard controls.

        • Holysheep says:

          From what I understood in steam reviews, HOTAS, controllers and such are very much supported.

          • Solgarmr says:

            Yeah, the developer just didn’t want to put an official seal on it since I guess you have to fiddle with the controls to customize them or something (which is the norm anyhow I thought) but he did the work to support at least some joysticks

          • Zenicetus says:

            I dunno… I’m reading very mixed reviews on HOTAS support. Like “The game currently only supports one Input device. Be it a game pad, a joystick, a throttle, or pedals. Pick One.”

            Now, I can get around that with my Thrustmaster Warthog stick and throttle, and Saitek pedals by using a utility to make it look like a single controller. But there are still apparently problems with making that work when accessing menus. On top of that, my setup is those three flight controls and no gamepad, which confuses some indie games.

            I’d like to try it, but $19 is a bit steep if it doesn’t work. Maybe I’ll wait a bit and see if HOTAS support improves. I know it’s a one-man project, but if you’re going to support joysticks at all as a selling point (and why wouldn’t you for a game like this?), you have to support all the common configurations.

          • HilariousCow says:

            The controls screen is one of the most fully featured I’ve ever seen. Not only does it have sensitivity and deadzones for each stick, it also has power curves! As a long time controller developer, I’m seriously impressed at how much work went into it.

            But, when it comes to using HOTAS, I just don’t think it’s the right tool for the job.

            I know there’s a presumption that any space combat game is == a simulator and thus something like a HOTAS is going to make it better but it really feels like the game is tuned for a controller. Every button is in the right place *for this game*. This is much closer to Halo in terms of feel (though not as basic as the space missions in Halo). Like, Imagine playing Halo with a HOTAS. It just turns out it’s not the right fit, here.

            So yeah, you can definitely set it up, but it’s only going to use a subset of what the HOTAS can do. The intended control does seem to be a more standard controller.

    • mishagale says:

      I was excited to read RPS saying it’s “out now” because I too have this rule. Then I remembered that I can afford it anyway, so it’s a moot point.

      • mishagale says:

        And when I say “can”, I obviously meant to type “can’t”.

    • Geebs says:

      Me too. I absolutely love the way it looks and sounds. The fact that a GTX970 seems to be enough to run HotDS in 4K is great, as well. All those lovely sharp edges…..oooh.

  9. AskForBarry says:

    “Traitor flagship detected.”

    I’m liking the setting.

  10. Ufofighter says:

    Main problem is that, if you are mildly skilled, you will beat the game in the harbinger level (highest) in less than 8 hours.

    And as far as I know there’s no more content in the pipeline, nor a mission editor. At least for now.

    • freedomispopular says:

      It’s $20. How much more are you expecting?

      • Ufofighter says:

        Around 8 hours, 32 minutes, 12 seconds and 78 tenths of a second more to be honest, although I wouldn’t complain if it was only 8h 32min 12sec an just 77 tenths of a second more. I’m not a picky person.

  11. Solgarmr says:

    Yeah, love it just needs more missions and expansions, would definitely buy some dlc for this

  12. deadlybydsgn says:

    What a weird font choice for a space combat sim.

    Regardless, the trailer has me tempted to make it my first early access purchase. (forgot that I bought Dungeon of the Endless… probably because it felt so polished)

    • Archangel says:

      The font immediately evokes those awesome 70s sci-fi posters. I believe the fiction is very “emperor, great houses, future nobility”, like Dune in particular. It’s a great (and innovative) hook.

      Also: The difficulty level descriptions in the trailer are BRILLIANT.

  13. Catweasel says:

    What makes this a Space Combat Sim? It looks like it’s deliberately going for a more arcadey approach. Nothing wrong with that, either, I’m just curious cause it’s what the article calls it.