The crew behind the fantastic Neo Scavenger have returned to the universe of their post-apocalyptic survival game with Ostranauts, a "spiritual sequel" about struggling amongst the cold stars rather than on the ruined Earth. Launched into early access this week, the sci-fi life sim makes us the captain of a spaceship trying to scrape out a living while dealing with the mechanical problems (and many buttons) of our vessel as well as the emotional and physical needs of our crew. You might want to wait for a patch or two first, mind.
There you are, starting by making your own captain, then off you go to survive in the capitalist dystopia we left Earth for. You will have to yourself control ship systems through panels covered in switches, buttons, screens, and lights. You will have to maintain your ship and any upgrades as they wear out. You will have to make ends meet, somehow. You will have to keep your crew alive and happy - well, some of them, anyway. Blue Bottle say the socialising system is "a lot like Neo Scavenger's combat, where players have social movies that can affect their moods and which replies are available."
Our Nate played a preview version a few months back and came away impressed by the concept, the complexity of the simulation, and a lot of the game.
"The writing is great," he said. "It achieves that thing science fiction so often attempts and so rarely manages, in giving the sense of a world that's fully realised and consistent with itself, and which will keep about its business whether you happen to be looking into a tiny corner of it or not. You get the sense that wherever you look, you'll find something interesting."
Buuut Nate stalled hard on dealing with the user interface, enough that he said "I've concluded that I really like everything about Ostranauts, except for actually playing it." The UI was one of Blue Bottle's focuses for improvements before this early access launch, but it sounds like maybe not enough, and other areas needed care too.
Many of the initial reviews complain about issues including bugs, crashes, trouble with the UI, losing save files... yeah, I wouldn't go just yet. Blue Bottle say they expect to launch a patch today to fix some crashes and glitches.
Ostranauts is available on Steam Early Access now, with a 20% launch discount bringing it down to £12.39/€13.43/$15.99. The devs expect it'll be in early access for around two years, adding and polishing bits along the way. Plenty of time for improvement.