Star Traders: Frontiers is the best space game I’ve played in ages

This picture originally had a lot of alt text, like the ones below. But it was replaced because it was the wrong size and, whoops, now the alt text is lost forever. You'll have to make do with the tales of piracy below.

Pirates! Can we outrun them? Damn! Well, would they accept a bribe? What? They won’t even consider it? Okay, well, drop the cargo. No? Give them the ship and they’ll let us live? Oh, they’re not actually pirates, they’re just mindless omnicidal monsters pretending to be pirates? Well… I guess I’ll just reload an old save, then.

That’s how some games treat pirates. It’s stupid, boring and rubbish.

Star Traders: Frontiers is better than that. It’s better than just about everything.

Crew comment now and then, but it's random chatter. Asking for detailed personalities is probably too much, but that's a side effect of good simulations. Like the uncanny valley, the more detailed they get, the more detail seems wanting.

The name undersells it. It implies a trading game, but the titular Star Trader just refers to any independent spaceship operator in this universe. Trade is one of many career options, and each can be dabbled in as you see fit. Even this is handled in a different way to comparable games. It’s somewhere between a strategy game and a party-based RPG, but without the tedious babysitting and micromanagement of either.

Let’s start at the beginning. Character creation offers four default profiles. Each Captain you create must have a starting job, which determines stat boosts and what special abilities they’ll be able to unlock when they level up. But you must also choose the exact priority to place upon 5 main aspects of your character.

A Captain who prioritises a ship will have a wider range to choose from, be it a cargo barge or warship, but fewer character attributes or starting NPC contacts (which take time, money, and skills to find otherwise). You might instead bank on experience, starting with a more capable crew upfront on a more constricting tub.

Let’s keep it simple and choose one of the four stock options, though, and then move on to our Captain’s appearance, and oh. Oh my.

Borderline useless in combat, but extremely terrifying. The ideal pirate. Blackbeard was remarkably un-violent for his reputation. Treating surrenders well is just good business. As was tying cannon fuse to his hair and lighting it before battle. But that just looks silly in space.

This is where my love affair began. The character art is just wonderful. Star Traders is light on setting, but what’s here is a gorgeous blend of Dune-inspired neo-feudalism, crossed with stylish future spacesuits, Western-style dusters, and Age of Sail flamboyance. Everyone on your crew can look a different kind of cool, and NPC portraits… well, just look at a few I’ve seen.

Piracy has historically been a political act, not mere Chaotic Evil crime. Piracy in the age of sail was rampant partly because sailors were borderline slaves (and pirates often recruited enslaved people who spoke a useful language). Many supported the Jacobite cause, although some of that may have been anti-establishment posturing, and others didn't care.

Entirely too stylish to be contained.

You don’t have to customise all your crew, but aside from looking good it encourages you to identify with them, because the crew are half the game. Unlike a typical Elite-ish sim, everyone on board matters. Everyone on board levels with experience, and their skills and talents are how you get things done. Each crewman has a job, granting skill points that contribute directly to running the ship. Too few points in Gunnery and your weapons will lose accuracy. Too few in Ops and day-to-day events become more hazardous. An excess of skill points gives the opposite bonuses. In addition, every so often (the exact frequency has never been quite clear to me) characters will gain a Talent, which you choose from those matched to their job. You can hire however you like to suit your goals.

Gunners give special attacks that can cripple an enemy’s guns or engines in turn-based ship-to-ship combat. Pilot talents enable better control of range or escaping. Pirates – one of the more rare, specialist careers – excel at crippling ships and extorting money and goods without necessarily having to fight. Pistoleers have crippling and disrupting attacks in personal combat. I addition to duking it out in space, some talents allow boarding attempts, which see four of your officers or fighters have a shootout with a hostile four (the same can happen during exploration of uncharted planets, or mission events). Winning such a fight weakens the enemy, and, again, if you opt for particular talents within particular jobs, lets you sabotage various parts of the ship before returning to the larger fight.

 Carribbean pirates were largely democratic, with everyone getting an equitable share of food and loot, and typically a vote in any major ship's matters. Autocratic or abusive captains wouldn't have lasted a month, and incompetent ones fared little better. Ethnicity and nationality mattered fairly little, and the classic 'peg leg' image derives from the general idea that anyone who can muck in was welcome, with some ships even keeping a disability fund, although women were generally out of luck.

Apart from the random encounters are planet-based actions, where you patrol for troublemakers, hunt out merchants and smugglers on which to prey, or spy on the local factions. Each is open at any time to any character, and it’s a fun system. Five possible results are laid out each time, with a positive or negative score based on how threatening or rewarding they are. You can also replace or remove a card to improve your odds, if your crew has the talent for that. If you fancy your odds, four cards are removed and you get your outcome. This could be resources, useful information, or a specific ship encounter. It’s a simple, enjoyable system, and totally optional, as is the exploration of wild planets, which works the same way but offers another set of rewards and threats (and the ability to stash items for later collection when you find a buyer – buried treasure!).

Or you could focus on NPC missions, or commit to trading full time (something I only dabbled in when offloading booty). Or do a bit of whatever takes your fancy.

Black Sam Bellamy was arguably the most succesful pirate in history, and was notoriously merciful to victims, and benevolent to his crew. He gladly targeted English vessels, and had this to say to a captive captain who refused to join up: "They vilify us, the scoundrels do, when there is only this difference, they rob the poor under the cover of law, forsooth, and we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage."

Space itself is a trifle dull, but I honestly think it works better than, say, the busy, confusing simultaneous turns of Space Rangers. It’s a 2D plane, with planets dotted about in clusters linked by warp lanes. Fairly standard. But you’re depicted alone. Any encounters happen in planetary orbit or with unavoidable random encounter style screens.

Each ship belongs to a specific faction and has a role, like smuggler, merchant, spy and so on, and their attitude is based largely on your reputation locally and with their faction. So if you’re considered a criminal by the Thulun, running into a Thulun bounty hunter will likely start a fight, although you might be able to bribe them, or one of your crew might even have a talent that lets you micro-warp out of danger.

Ships too can be customised enormously. Components are split based by size, not function, so ships aren’t confined to particular roles. Not doing much with your cargo space? Rip out two of those medium-sized cargo spaces and replace them with a targeting module and a brig. Now you can take on prisoner exchange or bounty hunting jobs. Maybe replace that small missile launcher you never use with a navigation doodad to improve fuel efficiency. It’s all yours.

 Irish readers are likely familiar with Gráinne Mhaol, or Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen of Connacht. Although ultimately undone by England's now stock, then-fledgling divide and rule policy, in the late 1500s she came down hard against English imperialism after a period of massacres and scorched-earth tactics. And her own son that one time. Also there's a probably exaggerated story of her responding to a Turkish officer's laughter by shooting him with dual blunderbusses. An above average day in Ireland.

I’m talking a lot about systems, but while complex, everything is intuitive and light on rules, with clear help text explaining what everything does. The range of options and attention to detail are really impressive, and it’s rare that you’ll be railroaded or make an under-informed decision. Missions have colourful but succinct text-based decisions and outcomes, and you can be late or let them expire without everyone throwing a strop. You can refuse without penalty.

In a lesser game, pirates would attack you no matter what, but here they might even exchange pleasantries if you’re chummy with their faction. Surrendering to pirates is generally safe, as they rarely do more than rinse your cargo hold. Stealing from smugglers incurs no reputation cost (who’re they gonna tell?) You can carry illegal cargo without the authorities psychically divining it. I once bribed a spy ship, hoping they wouldn’t report me to the local faction, only for a bounty hunter to arrive almost immediately. That fight was brutal and dangerously close until I sent a boarding party of my most ruthless bastards over, who cut down the defenders, blew up the enemy’s biggest weapon, and sprayed Parthian shrapnel over the survivors before leaving. That broke the deadlock, but we took such a pasting in that battle that two of my best crew lost their cool and quit at the next planet. It reminds me of Darklands in that regard: you might have a long and fruitful career, or a desperate scrabble for survival on a sellotape-bound boat with a revolving airlock, or fits of both.

Aside from your own story, there are plot missions that are optional, yet if ignored might proceed without you. After many, many piratical hours I was pleasantly surprised to get wind of a galaxy-changing event instigated by a character I’d briefly worked with five years earlier. Oh, did I mention that NPCs all have personality traits, rivalries, and friendships that affect the types of mission they offer? I still feel like I’ve barely explained the game to you.

 Recent-ish piracy around Somalia draws some faint parallels. A largely anarchic nation treated abominably by global powers, given little to lose, but access to ships, guns, and citizens of oppressive nations waltzing in and out of your waters to transport their wealth. Under certain conditions, piracy is a natural response. And the rules are broadly similar: captives and cargo trump pointless slaughter.

It really comes to something intangible. Star Traders feels like having space adventures. As a pirate I was the scourge of Steel Song sectors, extorting and ransoming freely with a nigh indomitable ship, the Night Minx, and a crew of elite specialists. The Minx was a mid-range hull but I’d adapted it specifically for my needs – minimal cargo but an array of missiles and beams specially selected to cripple systems. Passenger modules replaced with boarding-boosters and fuel tanks for those long journeys home (locals closed their ports? Screw ’em! Blockade the planet and siphon fuel off your victims). My bunks were packed to the rafters with gunners who rapidly reduced anything to a misfiring, leaking ball of fire and dead or terrified mooks, and a variety of experts adept at cannibalising defeated foes for repair parts. I was an absolutely terrifying bitch queen and I loved it, but a practical, piratical one. A sanctioned privateer in some cases, thanks to my astronomical reputation back at home.

As a Spy I was the opposite. My tiny ship could house half the crew of the Minx, so each officer was cross-trained to fill in for missing crew, boarding soldiers replaced with quick-escape pilots. I even considered removing my guns entirely. My living was one of quietly snooping for secrets to sell on to my network of shady contacts. Intel records can be gained by several means, but a dedicated Spy can rake them in, and they’re not just money tokens – each relates to specific factions and sometimes conflicts or deals, so people interested in helping or harming those factions will pay more. I barely fired even in self-defence, but the information I sold probably killed millions. I gained status even amongst my enemies, and all with little cost. These are, after all, secret deals, so even when my skulduggery changed the course of an entire war, nobody knew it was me. My wealth of contacts offered me all manner of perks and my pick of missions. I even found myself roleplaying as a spy with a “humble trader” cover story, filling my tiny hold with ores, clothes, or the addictive, omnipresent Spice that’s definitely not melange.

 Woodes Rogers is generally credited as the biggest contributor to the end of the golden age of piracy. A dutiful servant of the crown, his reward for years of spying on, turning, and capturing pirates was basically a royal shrug and eventually debtor's prison. Nobody likes a grass, Woodes.

An experimental Bounty Hunter run with the biggest, priciest starting ship possible was a curious one. Few could match me in a fight, but while that giant ship could take a kicking, it was so expensive to repair, and to pay the large crew needed to run it, that I was constantly running missions for my pitiful 2 contacts just to break even on the repair bills, sometimes not even replacing dead or disgruntled crew. A mutiny-quashing talent for my Quartermaster saved the day just minutes after I’d picked it.

There are a few problems I have to pick at. Flying through space has a constant stream of ‘tests’ where random numbers are thrown at your crew’s stats. Success grants a trickle of XP, but failure causes morale loss or damage to the ship and crew. This works to gradually train your team even when it’s quiet, but it feels a bit lacking, and I found I either had a crew that passed everything, or a ruined mess that failed constantly, and this did nothing but cause more hassle.

The failure cycle can be quite brutal, but then part of that is mitigated by the difficulty options. Enemies can be given bonuses or penalties, but crucially there is a range of immortality vs permadeath options. At the kindest setting, you’ll never lose crew except through desertion. Somewhere in the middle, officers can die, and if you’re willing, you can take the risk yourself. But when it happens, death can be a huge anticlimax. My first Spy, for example, randomly ran into an extremely rare alien ship. That fight had my ship instantly crippled without even a chance to escape. Game over. I wasn’t even angry, just deflated. And this is by far the biggest flaw: It’s a single save game.

 Piracy is violent by nature of course, even if you use as little as possible. Stories about brutal, evil pirates are typically exaggerated in British culture because most of us were the saps back home being fed colonialist propaganda. But even 'good' captains often recruited by force (particularly surgeons), and some really were sadistic, Ned Lowe being perhaps the most infamous. For every sensible captain who mostly wanted the goods and ships, there was probably one who'd bite your face off just for a laugh.

I have a huge bugbear about single save games – buy me a drink sometime and I’ll start telling you about it for at least a few seconds before going off on a tangent – but it seriously undermines the fun here. Losing a run in Spelunky because you messed up a jump is disappointing, but losing 7 hours of networking and training and trading because you got two unavoidable random encounters in a row is just awful.

Crew Combat needs tuning too, as positioning is a little fiddly. Shooty/stabby talents are often restricted to a particular place in the fight queue, and as many special attacks have a random “advance/retreat” action bolted on, I can never remember where everyone should go – making movement a prompt option would be a good fix.

But anyway. You don't have to be a pirate. Not everyone can be as cool as the crew of the Night Minx.

Happily though, it’s still in Early Access, and updates are regular and well communicated. I’m very excited to see what else will be added but as things stand, Star Traders: Frontiers is already the best time I’ve had in space for a very long time.

Now hand over your goods or we’ll vent your bridge.

Star Traders: Frontiers is currently in Early Access, and available to buy for £11.39/$14.99 from Steam.

68 Comments

Top comments

  1. bookworm21 says:

    Hi there!

    Just want to link the locations of savegames for people that wanted to back them up manually :)

    https://steamcommunity.com/app/335620/discussions/0/1486613649677550152/
  1. Iaksones says:

    Oh cool! I played Star Traders: Elite on Android a little and thought the guts were interesting but the platform was constricting. Crude UI mess on a small screen. Going to have to try this here though.

  2. Kushiel says:

    This sounds fantastic! Thanks for the extensive writeup.

  3. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I picked this up on your recommendation, Sin, and I haven’t regretted it at all. It’s a fine space adventure anecdote generator.

  4. klops says:

    Ahh, Sin Vega goodness with again a game I’ve never even heard of! And alt-text about pirates! This’ll be my top priority article to read tomorrow. Thank you and good night.

    • MiniMatt says:

      I’m a sucker for a good alt-text yarn & this is Marsh Davies level of awesome. I learnt stuff! And was entertained! And will probably pick up this game too!

  5. ashleys_ears says:

    Damn. This sounds kind of radical. I’m sold.

  6. Someoldguy says:

    It sounded so good up to the single save. I have no problem with games offering an ironman mode, but there need to be other options for games of any duration.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Yeah, if it’s not made optional by the full release I would have to mark it down strongly because of it. I’d be a bit surprised though.

      • Mr. Unpleasant says:

        The devs seem to be quite adamant about it if I recall some of their replies to steam reviewers correctly.
        Still, I dabbled a bit in the game a couple weeks ago and put it on the must-buy list for when it’s done.

      • TheRomantics says:

        I honestly think you’re massively misunderstanding how important the save system in this game is. It adds the real risk versus reward that’s missing from most of today’s games.

    • Evan_ says:

      I can load each of the two different characters I started yesterday. Double checked. I suspect a patch or a mistake.

    • Mertu says:

      Single-save just make it more cumbersome to have backup/multiple saves, but it still can be done manually.

      You can exit the game and zip up the .DB files in the
      C:\Users\[YourWindowsUser]\AppData\Local\StarTradersFrontiers
      directory (on Windows). If you need to restore, exit the game and unzip the DB files to revert the game back to when you created the ZIP file.

      (You need to fully exit the game because it “locks” one of the DB files while running.)

  7. harley9699 says:

    I’ve been playing this since it came out. Man! It’s a Great game! It’s 20 times the game I started with even. They are Always adding, tweaking, balancing…adding more.
    This will be GOTY one year. It’s ‘that’ good.

    @Someoldguy Don’t usually like Ironman myself, but it just works with this. Make a mistake, live with the consequences. Plus, I guess a guy could always find the savegame and back it up to a different spot? Just an idea. “I” wouldn’t because I like the Ironman for this one…even after having been guilty of save-scumming other games in the past.

    • Blad the impaler says:

      I’m super intrigued by this and the Steam reviews. I don’t care about Ironman if it enhances the narrative. So where does this lie? – is this Darkest Dungeon in space, any 4x elements – who do you think would like the game?

      • Sin Vega says:

        Not 4x-y or roguelike-y at all, and the save system adds nothing. It’s most similar to an Elite-style trading/fighting/etc game with simultaneous turn based combat and light text-based decisions.

        • TheRomantics says:

          Again… stating that the save system adds nothing in such a matter of fact way is terribly misleading for your readers.

          I just purchased the game about 3 days ago and the save system is so terribly important to how this game plays out. If you can just save scum as much as you want, easily (because you can still save scum if you really want to), it ruins the risk reward system the game follows. That’s one of the things that makes the game amazing.

          I’m assuming since you think the save system adds absolutely nothing to the game that you have not done ANY long-term story line missions? I assume this because you just said very light text-based decisions. That is SO untrue about this game. The text based decisions are based on your skill and any of the long-term, political or otherwise missions are weighed very heavily in the way the universe plays out for you long-term in the game. Try putting 40 or 50 hours into the game where you really get embroiled into the political intrigue and all the backstabbing and nuance going on in the story. You will see that the save system is very, very meaningful.

          The story missions are VERY in-depth and massively rely on the choices you make and the dice rolls you fail or succeed on. It changes the narrative for the rest of the game. Kingdoms rise and fall based on your decisions and successes or failures. If you could save scum, it would ruin this entirely.

          Even the basic aspects of the game such as your crew members dying, getting beat really badly in battle, etc… add so much to the authenticity of the “space captain life” that removing it would be a tragedy for this game.

          I whole-heartedly disagree with you on the save system being pointless. Also, do you really think this dev, that put so much thought and effort into this game, would add this save system on purpose with zero reason for it? Let’s think critically about this now.

          • Sin Vega says:

            Again… stating that the save system adds nothing in such a matter of fact way is terribly misleading for your readers.

            Okay, now you’re just being obtuse and insulting. I’d thank you to choose your words more carefully, and not falsely accuse people just because you disagree with their opinion.

            Criticising a system that seriously undermined what I got out of the game is not only entirely reasonable, it’s literally part of my job. If you pull your head out of your arse for a moment you might realise that other people exist, and there’s absolutely nothing preventing the devs from pleasing everyone except some misguided idea that it’s inseparable from the game.

            “thinking critically” is exactly how I reached the conclusion that the devs are wrong. Nobody is trying to take away your permadeath. You could make it part of the difficulty options very easily, and players like yourself could still have their masochistic, 20-hours-wasted-for-nothing experience if they want to.

            And yes, while the difficulty is customisable (as was stated in the article, thanks), the lack of saved games is not. It’s not just about dying, it’s about axing a core feature of games for longer than many of our readers have been alive, just because of a variation on “it’s hardcore”.

            If you really can’t see beyond your own nose on this, I don’t know what to tell you. And please, stop with this obnoxious “save scum” business. It’s extremely unedifying.

  8. DEspresso says:

    Those alt-text seem so familiar, were you reading ‘The Invisible Hook’ by any chance?

  9. jeffy777 says:

    Nice to see this awesome game getting some love!

    I only have 2 things I’d like to see changed/added:

    1.) As a pirate, I want to be able to capture/steal any ship I come across. You can’t do that currently. Let the pirates have free reign….Arrrrr!

    2.) More interaction with the crew. Events during navigation that require you to talk to and make decisions with your crew. Currently the events are indeed very automatic, pass/fail tests, and it would be nice to have a bit more interaction. For instance, if a fight breaks out, maybe you’re forced to decide which side to take and who to punish. Or if someone sleeps in and misses their shift, do you give them grace or dock their pay to make an example to the rest of the crew? There could even be ongoing narratives and consequences from your choices (divisions among the crew, loyalty issues, etc.)

    • Sin Vega says:

      They recently added a system where you can take ships as a prize, however it has to be under circumstances (I think during clan wars and the like, to fit with the kanly-esque rules of warfare and honour thing). I imagine for balance reasons it won’t ever go much beyond that.

      I agree about the crew interactions. I like that the constant background skill tests sort of hint at stuff going on, but 99% of the time you just don’t notice it, and if you had to get involved with it, I imagine they’d soon become a pain in the arse.

      • jeffy777 says:

        Yes, I saw that update. It just seems kinda odd to me that pirates have to abide by laws and such (outside of pirate codes of course). I don’t think it would be a balance issue to allow pirates to capture any ship since you only have so much room in your dry dock. I guess I’ve just played too much Sid Meier’s Pirates over the years that being a pirate in Star Traders just doesn’t feel as free and rewarding.

        As for the crew interactions, maybe only certain events would require interaction, randomly here and there. I agree that it would be overkill to make you respond to every single one. As it is now though, they just seem meaningless, especially on long journies where you don’t even have time to read all 20 of them.

      • jeffy777 says:

        I want to add that these are just wishlist items for me. The game is truly awesome and just keeps getting better all the time. The rate at which the devs put out updates is truly staggering. It just keeps getting better and better.

  10. bookworm21 says:

    Hi there!

    Just want to link the locations of savegames for people that wanted to back them up manually :)

    link to steamcommunity.com

  11. Gomer_Pyle says:

    Thanks! I’ve been playing FTL recently to scratch that sci-fi itch, but while it’s a great game, I’ve been looking for others that can offer more in certain aspects that FTL was lacking. This looks right up my alley.

  12. Pneuma_antilogias says:

    Star Traders: Frontiers is a very interesting game and it’s lovely to see a review that shows meaningful time was spent with the game.

    Personally, I found it hard to learn how to play the game, something just did not click in the way the game mechanics work, but I fully intent to come back to it, as it was an exemplary KS project, the updates were regular and it’s clearly a labor of love.

    I just wish you could start small(er) in the game, learn the ropes a bit, before moving on to bigger ships and larger crews.

    But, as I mentioned before, perhaps I did not get the way the game works, so…

    Hope the game gets the coveted RPS Recommended badge, though :)

  13. Harlander says:

    Looks like the Trese Bros are just getting more and more skilled in their gamecraftery. Hopefully they’ll revisit Cyber Knights some time in the future for a similar beefed-up treatment.

  14. Eraysor says:

    Am I the only one who thinks the captain’s head looks enormous?!

  15. Evan_ says:

    The generic sci-fi graphics and a beyond generic title almost made me miss that one. Glad I didn’t.

    Thanks Sin!

    Hey wait, I already associated you name with finding awesome titles below the radar after the X-Piratez article.

  16. Evan_ says:

    Note: started two characters yesterday, and I can pick which one to load. Can’t tell if single save games were patched overnight, or the author missed the option.

    • Harlander says:

      Yeah, but do you still only get a single save per character?

    • Shadrach says:

      A single save per character is what we’re talking about. A staple of rogue-likes, and takes away the fun for those of us who don’t have hundreds of hours to dedicate to playing a single game. Pure kissing up to the loud “hardcore” crowd.

      • Evan_ says:

        Ahh, I see, I misunderstood.

      • TheRomantics says:

        It seems like people totally misunderstand the single-save system here.

        The save system is there for a reason and I can only think that if you can’t see the value of it in this game, that you haven’t played the game enough or taken part in the story missions especially.

        You can set the game’s difficulty as such that any combination of crew/officers/captain can or can not die. If you want a nice challenge with no chance of actually “losing” the game, you set it to where your crew and your officers can die but your captain cannot. If you lose a ship battle or even a turn based crew battle completely, you do not lose your ship or your captain. You just have to go to a starport and repair as well as hire new crew to replace those you lost. It’s pretty difficult to mess up the game so bad that you can’t continue at all.

        Quite the misunderstanding on the save game thing that I think has sort of proliferated and expanded from what the reviewer stated about it making it sound objectively useless and bad when it’s the total opposite.

        • Sin Vega says:

          A few people have taken what I said to mean that you can only have one character active at a time. That’s obviously my fault for not being clearer. But I don’t think there’s any value whatsoever in making the choice either permadeath or immortality. There are plenty of players who find this highly dissatisfying, and if the only defence is “It’s a roguelike!” (it’s really, really not) or “you just don’t appreciate the game”, frankly it’s only going to put even more people off.

          My reputation isn’t so great that anyone will blindly agree with my every opinion. Permadeath in a game that can go for dozens of hours is going to be a huge negative for a hell of a lot of people, as it was for me, so I’d be remiss if I hadn’t mentioned it. It’s a terrible design choice and one that will actively harm the game if it’s not corrected.

          You can either choose dissatisfying immortality, or you can have it so that random fluke can wipe out 8 hours without a chance or warning. What about that have I misrepresented, exactly? What’s good about that?

          • Athios says:

            Just to give this conversation a bit of historical perspective, this game’s original predecessor, Star Traders RPG was released around 2010. That, along with about half of the company’s other games since that time, are all permadeath-optional single save RPG games. I played STRPG on and off across ~4 years until this current successor came along.

            As to “What’s good about that?” I can only say that traumatic experiences are what gets lodged in our brains. While yes, the encounters and dice rolls are up to chance, but the strategies and decisions I made were not. I’ve had a few beloved STRPG captains get killed because I made dumb mistakes or didn’t plan well enough. The thing is, I remember their backstory, what they were doing, how they died. I also have captains on lower difficulties that I kept playing until I got bored of them, and don’t remember much about them. When the game was too easy, I already knew enough to manage to survive and there was no further pressure to improve. As I go up in difficulty level, I quickly learn (sometimes with deadly results) how to better manage money, fuel, crew mutinies, hostile enemies, etc.

            I think the difference regarding whether this is “acceptable” is your mindset. One thing I learned (and had to relearn) while playing this series is that your crew and officers are disposable. Yes, they gain levels and skills and are very useful, but if they die, I can hire or promote someone to replace them. It took a while to get used to that. By extension, even the core character —the Captain— is disposable. Why? Because the one who is really gaining experience, becoming proficient, developing useful strategies is YOU, the player. Learn your lessons, make a fresh start (at a higher difficulty if you’re feeling lucky) and challenge yourself to do better. Just try not to make the same mistake twice.

            Hope this was a helpful discussion. I’d be happy to respond to any questions.

  17. Megatron says:

    I like the cut of this one’s jib, me hearties. It looks like an experience I’ve been seeking for quite some time. And I like that it’s available on Linux too (For preference I am that rarest of beasts – a Linux PC Gamer. You may now tell all your friends you’ve seen one in the wild).

    The save option, though. Damn but that’s a mighty bucket of cold water to be pouring on me flames. And Early Access…I’m starting to not be a fan of Early Access except in rare cases of demonstrable quality (I’ll be purchasing Skywanderers the instant that appears). But it’s kind of tedious getting update after update, the game changing every time. Great if it brings improvements. Not so great if they disrupt progress (Starbound and Subnautica made me start from scratch more than once).

    So I reckon I’ll be keeping an (unpatched) weather eye on this unless something deeply spontaneous happens this weekend and I forget I’m a deeply cynical grouch. Arrr.

    • TheRomantics says:

      Read my above comments about the save feature. It should alleviate your worries about it. It’s not at all like it’s been portrayed in the article and in the comments.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Oh man, I own this game’s… predecessor? On Android, and I had a lot of fun with it.

    Thanks for the writeup, I probably wouldn’t have heard of this game otherwise.

  19. ziddersroofurry says:

    No manual save kills all interest I might have had in this.

    • TheRomantics says:

      Read my above comments. It might alleviate your fears. You CAN save-scum btw if you want to go to the trouble of it but there’s really no reason to at all unless you just can’t handle losing a single battle or making a bad decision in a game that encourages you to make decisions and then live with the ripple of consequences throughout the game. That’s the intention. It’s important to the game play in this one.

      If you’re just a habitual save-scummer that can’t handle those things, then you will still hate it but take my word for it, the save system works the way it does for good reason and you can’t actually lose the game if you have the difficulty set up correctly. (difficulty is HIGHLY customizable)

  20. jeffy777 says:

    Highly recommended. Bought this a couple weeks ago and I’ve been amazed at how often the devs put out updates, usually at least a couple times per week. They put 100% of their heart and soul into this game and it definitely shows. It’s already an amazing game, and it’s so cool to see it getting better and better with each rapid update.

    • jeffy777 says:

      Just a few hours after posting this, they already release an update loaded with new content. These devs are animals! This, my friends, is how Early access is done.

  21. grimdanfango says:

    Woo… everything I’ve seen the Trese Brothers make has looked super-interesting, but I’ve never managed to get into any of them because they’ve always been so bare-bones and clunky on the visual/UI front.

    This looks like it might just edge over that line… not to the point of being pretty and/or slick, but functional enough that I might not find it an active impediment to my enjoyment.

    Definitely going to give this one a try.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Christianhd says:

    Long time reader first time poster here!
    I Love how I find so many gems like these thanks to the RPS crew. Great article Thank you!

  23. dontnormally says:

    The only thing that doesn’t appeal to me is the seeming need to individually kit out every crew member, which starts to move into “a bit too fiddly” territory. I’d like something along the lines of “this dude is a fighter, autoequip fighty stuff”.

    Perhaps I’ve just missed it, though?

    Regardless, this looks great and I’ll likely pick it up. and kudos to them for making a series of increasingly complex yet always interesting titles along the same lines.

    • Sin Vega says:

      It isn’t as bad as it looks – only crew with combat skills can fight at all, and officers, so you can ignore most of them as far as combat is comcerned. If everyone else is dead, random crew fill in, but by then you’re probably hosed anyway.

    • jeffy777 says:

      As far as equipment goes, it actually does auto-equip that for you on everyone based on their class and you only have to customize if you feel so inclined, but it’s not required. The only elements you have to manually manage are talents/jobs when someone levels up, but it’s a breeze and a very enjoyable aspect of the game imo.

    • TheRomantics says:

      You get the option from the get-go to have your crew automatically maintained by the game. You do not have to do the fiddly. It auto-equips them from your ship’s crew lockers anyway. You upgrade an entire crew’s equipment all at once by upgrading the crew locker to a higher quality level in a ship port.

      The game even has options to have stuff like your fuel and whatever else auto-filled when you dock.

      It can be as fiddly or un-fiddly as you like.

  24. Captain Narol says:

    Thanks for the preview, Sin !

    Sadly, you didn’t covered the part that interest me the most : The Trading.

    Could any of the other people who tried the EA version of the game give us some feedback on the trading side of thing, please ?

    • xylo says:

      TL;DR really good, requires about as good a head for it as a particularly good entry in the X series. Maybe more.

      Though I haven’t gotten too far into the game, the information on in-game economics is pretty easy to extrapolate from UI elements and in-game events, so I feel at least marginally qualified to answer this.

      As well as the usual Elite-derived fare of differing planet types having differing supply and demand (Industrial planets have cheap industrial goods but need imports of food and medicine, etc.) the faction interaction system affects prices. Factions may enter a trade war with one another and the economic outlook of entire sectors can be shaped by the conflict. Overall, I’d say the trading is magnificently meaty.

      Different landing points (planets and orbitals) have different ranges of values that vary even within settlement type, so two Industrial planets controlled by two different factions might have wildly differing Trade Law restrictions, and in the higher tiers of Trade Law, certain goods will be locked behind a faction-specific license.

      As an aside, I usually fall firmly into the role of “Smuggler” in games like these, and the way that works is phenomenally handled as well: Contacts are divided into categories (Prince, Pirate, Arms Dealer, Smuggler, you name it) and certain types of contact can give you access to black markets to peddle illegal wares.

      • Captain Narol says:

        Thanks Xylo, that sounds top-notch !

        • TheRomantics says:

          To add to that, working your contacts to gain rep and get specific trade licenses is an excellent and fun mechanic. You can even pick contacts that you start the game with that lend to economic trade stuff and will even give you trading style missions.

          Wars and the main story arc (which will continue to progress once you’ve started it, with or without you doing it) will also affect trade.

          There are numerous levels of allowed products to trade from legal everywhere to illegal everywhere. Some of the other categories are things like, legal within a specific jurisdiction, restricted but not illegal, etc…

          You can also couple in exploration to the trading if you like such a thing and focus on exploring planets for goods like xeno artifacts which are restricted or illegal in some places but fetch a hefty sum.

          It’s a really good system.

  25. left1000 says:

    I’ve always been a fan of the space rangers series, but it’s a bit too clunky for me to want to go back to in 2018. Glad to see this dead genre revived, not in least part because of you and this article. I’d never have found this game otherwise, it’s hard to spot a good indie game from a bad one in a list of 1000s. So, thanks.

  26. cpt_freakout says:

    Great, really enjoyable in-depth article. One more for the wishlist – thanks!

  27. Rainshine says:

    Ooh, thanks! I’m always on the lookout for a nice space game. I keep murdering myself when I try to fly around in Evochron or whatever it is, this looks simpler and fun!

  28. Tompitt123 says:

    Great,I am really enjoyable in-depth article.Thanks for your preview, Sin !

  29. Bearded Games says:

    Agree, this game is amazing, and there are soooo many systems. Glad you guys are also picking it up, it deserves the press.

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