While Elite: Dangerous makes planetfall and Star Citizen makes another million, there's a thriving 2d space RPG scene for anyone without the horsepower to run those modern behemoths, or anyone who prefers singleplayer simulations to multiplayer playgrounds. Starsector is a recent addition to my playlist of galactic sandboxes, as is the splendid Endless Sky, and now we can add another to the list. Star Nomad 2 [official site], the sequel to a game I don't remember even hearing about, is another challenger to Space Rangers 2's position as Best Open World Dynamic Space Game.
Set for release on the 15th, Star Nomad 2 is a lovely thing. I've only had a quick go on the beta so can't say how well every feature will hold up, but it all feels solid. It'll have to be if it's going to support the kind of freedom that solo developer Huy Phan is aiming for. As is usual in the genre, you can trade, pirate, hunt bounties, mine, smuggle, escort or protect. You can also drift around, nomad-like, and encounter random events or watch as factions dynamically fight for territory. You could even pick a side if you so choose, commanding your squad as capital ships light up the void with their fleets buzzing around them.
There are plenty of games that try to simulate space trading and all of the violence that inevitably surrounds these silk starlanes, but Star Nomad 2 might be one of those that captures something really exciting. Here, taken from the FAQ, is how trading works:
"How deep is the trading system?
"Deep. There's the basic dynamic supply & demand mechanism, such as price fluctuations based on buying/selling of goods. Beneath that, there's local system wealth that affects production of goods.
"This is affected by global events such as trade crises (think a viral outbreak on the colony), as well as Piracy, Alien Raids and Faction Conquest turning the system into a massive war-zone.
"An NPC merchant ship that successfully trades with a port will up its wealth/production, while those en-route that fall prey to Piracy (NPC or player) or Zerker raids will diminish the wealth of the port."
It's all of that, along with the random encounters and dynamic factions, that has captured my interest. I haven't seen any dynamic events in-depth during my brief playtime - I dived in to check that it wasn't held together with duct tape and prayers (it isn't) - but I'm hoping for good things. And it'll be released this side of Christmas. 2015 - you've still got it.