October 8th, 2019

star wars!

Why I love Empyrion: Galactic Survival

I've been playing this game a lot recently (and inflicted some of the screen shots on you all last week), so I figured might as well give it a proper introduction. Empyrion: Galactic Survival is a game I started playing after getting tired of No Man's Sky within a month of picking it up. I was interested in NMS because it promised I could explore cool, uncharted alien worlds, fly nifty space ships, and build functional, customizable bases like in Subnautica. A functionally infinite, procedurally-generated universe was supposed to mean that I'd never have a chance to get bored with the game, as there would always be new stuff to check out.

Technically, that was true. Technically. There were a couple issues, though--and maybe some of these have been fixed in the year since I last played, so don't take this as a final verdict. But the worlds were a little too large, and your character's stamina too low, meaning that you had to trudge huge distances on foot, through inconveniently-contoured landscapes with weirdly evenly-distributed plants and rocks. There were buildings/Points of Interest, but once you'd explored five or six, you'd basically seen them all, and none of them had more than a few rooms that were accessible, no matter how large and interesting the exteriors looked. None of the space ships (and I traded through a bunch) had clear differences in how they handled, aside from the amount of cargo space (never enough, no matter how much you managed to add)/quality of guns. And the aliens were just ... annoying after a while. Not to mention the confusing complexity of the menu screens and just how to access them.

So I was back to the drawing board. I wanted what NMS had promised--surely there was something out there that could give it to me, or most of it, without all the frustrations? And eventually, after several days of digging around, Steam offered me EGS, and while it wasn't quite a match made in heaven, it was pretty close--and given their steady update schedule, it's getting closer every couple of months.

A big part of this is probably due to the core mechanic of scavenging and building--anything can be turned into resources, and with enough resources you can build pretty dang near anything you can imagine, with a huge amount of customization available even on the prefab designs. If you want to plonk twenty more engines onto the X-wing replica you just fabricated, you can totally do that, and it will have a direct effect on how the ship flies. There's a very active workshop on Steam with dozens of new builds available from other players every week--and most of them are gorgeous. I once spent a week in creative mode, just spawning in different ship and base designs and wandering through them like I was going house-hunting.

Unlike NMS, you're working within a single solar system, not a whole universe, but each system is procedurally generated and there are quite a few different planet types available, so you never know what you're going to get--as well as customized packages from other players with even more options. (I've been madly taking pictures of some of them, so expect more screen shot spam posts in the future.) And the worlds are generated in such a way that makes them much more amenable to being traversed on foot/motorbike. There are mountains and canyons and rolling hills, but the scale is better matched to your character's endurance stats--and being able to build a bike very early game makes a huge difference in contrast to NMS.

There are aliens, too--only three kinds, and they're still pretty ... um, let's say unpolished outside the realm of combat. But the interactions that really matter happen on a faction level--certain actions in claimed territories will affect how they react to you, and your interactions with one faction affect how the other factions view you. Or you can just stay out of the claimed territories and be mostly ignored in turn. I expect this is one of the areas the developers will work on building out a bit more once they've finished polishing the more core mechanics of the game, but it's already far better integrated into the regular gameplay than in NMS.

Mostly, they've just done a really good job of making worlds that you want to explore. Sometimes because you desperately need to find more oxygen or fuel, but mostly because there's probably something cool on the other side of that hill or lake, so let's go check it out.