Before you go further, enjoy some of my early experiments with sending poor, defenseless, WOEFULLY unprepared Kerbals hurtling into the void… some of them even make it back!
The @JPSRandomizer actually allowed me some free will for this episode (-Enjoy it while it lasts, human). This time I decided to take on the Herculean task of creating a functioning rocket in Squad’s Kerbal Space Program
I really enjoy this game- It’s very approachable in the early stages (building things that don’t necessarily explode during liftoff and returning your hyperventilating crew safely to the surface), but really encourages tangential learning by making you WANT to discover the secret to a stable orbit and how to calculate the proper trajectory to send the little guys all the way to the Mun. At this point, some patience is definitely in order- Learning the skills needed to attempt lunar landings can be a long process, but you definitely feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment every time you make new advances in design and execution. Make no mistake, being a good designer is very important, but being a good pilot is just as necessary. Fortunately, the controls so far appear to be tight and responsive (impressive considering I’m using a keyboard to control pitch, yaw, roll, etc.). Even my most miserable failures never made me feel like the game let me down. I made bad choices, and my poor Kerbals paid the price- over and over and over again (Admission time- a few of them may have been poor choices on purpose…)
The graphics are acceptable. Parts are fairly easy to recognize after a brief familiarization, the interface is clean, and helpful descriptions are plentiful. There are some robust tutorials for creating and piloting your initial rockets, although I wish they had covered a little bit of advanced rocketry (at least to the point of achieving orbit) in this section. The game’s Wiki is your friend here, as is a solid background in math. The Kerbals themselves are adorable, and while sparsely animated, are imbued with a healthy sense of personality. Sometimes I almost even felt a twinge of guilt when I created my newest monstrosity, as I was overcome with a desire to protect the little dudes. The look of relief they share when they reach the ground is really charming. I liked the fact that the surfaces of both the Mun and Kerbal are contoured. It wasn’t necessary, considering how much time is actually spent in space, but it made for a nice touch and added to the suspension of disbelief. I DO wish the Space Center itself was more detailed, but as this game is only in Alpha (version 0.16), I can understand that all of the polish has not been applied yet!
Like Crashtastic, the fun in Kerbal Space Program right now is in the experimentation. With the default parts, you are able to create a staggering variety of craft, and with user made add-ons freely available, the possibilities are truly endless. Unlike Crashtastic, the rewards are not as immediate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the anticipation of the upcoming launch is half of the thrill. Unlike a real space program, “I wonder if THIS will work” is a completely viable design philosophy at this stage of the game.
Currently, there are no goals in Kerbal Space Program, except the ones you set for yourself. The fact that the various rocket parts have prices clearly indicates the eventual presence of an economic system, or some sort of campaign mode where choices about functionality, safety, and cost will have to be weighed. As long as the true sandbox mode is kept, I think this will be a welcome addition. Nothing spurs creativity like restriction, so seeing how people will do more with less will make for some great moments. The team just implemented EVA for the Kerbals as well. I couldn’t find a practical application for it in MY experiments, but I look forward to seeing what additional activities this opens.
$18 might be considered a bit high for this game at this stage. Everything is completely playable, and VERY stable, but some might feel the game is just too unfinished at this point to justify the price tag. As I said, I’ve been having a great time with it, so take that for what you will.
The game is available here. There’s an active and engaged community out there who seem willing to assist new players, and there’s a demo available, so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t at least check Kerbal Space Program out.