Space Engineers: Minecraft in space

(I didn’t want to create a new thread just for this, but I couldn’t find a recent discussion where mentioning this was on-topic)

Space Engineers is available on Steam for around $15. I am generally a bit wary of early-access games, fearing developer abandonment, but since Kerbal was so successful I thought I’d give this one a shot (and I was hankering for something new). The Steam reviews were solidly “recommended”.

First, this is labeled as “alpha” and early-access; there is a lot that isn’t in place yet, but it is certainly playable enough to have hours of fun; the depth just isn’t there yet (but promised).

Describing it as “Minecraft in space” is spot-on. You can build ships and space stations from basic blocks, including corners and ramps, so it isn’t as “blocky” as Minecraft. You can also mine asteroids and feed the ore to a refinery to get ingots, but since crafting isn’t implemented yet there isn’t much point.

Currently only the “creative” mode is available; “survival” mode is coming, with various crafting mechanics making their way piece-by-piece. Building spacecraft isn’t as deep as Kerbal Space Program, but then again you’re already in space. Without drag to worry about, you can shape your spacecraft however you want, so long as you are careful to include the proper directional thrusters and a gyro.

Once I got the hang of the basics, I spent several fun hours creating a multi-level space station. And once I realized I could individually change the color and intensity of the interior lights, I spent a couple more hours just tweaking those.

They have just added multiplayer capability, but as with any such game you’ll want to screen who you let in. There are (optionally) guns.

The Nits
It’s alpha. The “world” that is automatically generated is currently only about a 50km square cube; beyond that is just empty space, whereas within that are asteroids and a few starter items (2 large and 2 small space ships and a small space station platform).

The base building blocks (“armor” pieces) are the only thing that can be colored. And while there are enough geometric shapes to make an attractive-looking ship or station, there really aren’t many different pieces: no glass windows (but there are see-through vents), no furniture, and only one interior lighting fixture (although customizable, as mentioned).

For $15, I’d say there isn’t enough content just yet, but the concept is sound and what features are in place seem to work fine (no crashes, no clipping issues, etc). The developer has been pretty responsive to the user base (for example: adding a beacon device so you can find your way back home), and updates have been somewhat frequent. I believe modding is also either in-place or planned-for.