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DIY spaceships MMO Exocraft blasts off on Steam today

Excellent craft

Spaceship tinkering always gets me going. Captain Forever was one of the first games to shine a light into that void, filling it with eery bleeps and player-designed spaceships. Other games have followed, but never surpassed.

I'm still glad they're trying. Enter Exocraft, a colourful, free-to-play Forever-like-lite that launches on Steam later today. It's a relaxed, MMO-ified take on the genre, and you can actually start tinkering with the browser version right now. Perhaps you should.

I've only dipped my toes in for ten minutes or so, but I like what I've seen so far. (And heard: the soundtrack has some lovely spacey tinkling.) It's still got that shiny core of modular spaceship design, albeit in special hangers rather than on the fly. The combat lacks Forever's tension and creativity, too. You basically just dispatch drones and dodge projectiles while those drones whittle enemies down, and the high-level ships I flew past seemed to be doing exactly what I was doing - only with way more drones.

There's undoubtedly depth I haven't explored in ship and drone-type choices, as well as a crew system that I'm not a high enough level to even look at. But this is still simple stuff: mine crystals, buy stuff that makes you prettier, bigger and better at crystal mining, rinse, repeat. It's not a challenge to be overcome. It's a colourful playground to chill out in.

That said, there is a button that puts you in a queue for a race, where you compete against other players to see who can mine crystals the fastest. In teams, if you like. It all sounds much too stressful for me.

You can find splodges of a rare currency while you're roaming, or buy chunks of it for real money. Most spaceship parts cost both crystals and that rarer currency. It's hard to say without playing more, but a quick glance over the prices suggests they won't be a bottleneck - unless you really want a fancy looking wingtip or something.

You can play Exocraft for free in your browser right now, or wait until the Steam version goes live at some point later today. (Steam doesn't say when and a developer from Goldfire Studios is yet to back to me. The browser version is the same, though. Just play that already, jeez.)

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