Review: Kerbal Space Program (PC)

Kerbal Space Program is a game that is extremely close to my heart, but as with these kinds of games, I have no idea where to start. So lets start at the beginning.

I first saw Kerbal Space Program on YouTube. I stumbled across a collection of videos by a guy named Scott Manley, a gentleman who seemed to be extremely passionate about this strange game with little green men (Kerbals) in well constructed and slow paced rockets. In the first video I saw he was sending a single Kerbal astronaut to a strange planet named ‘Duna’ which strongly resembled our very own neighbour Mars. The video was 5 minutes of rocket blasting action followed by 20 minutes of empty clear space, followed by another couple of minutes of ‘Duna Landing’ action. Thats when the hunger started, thats when I knew I was going to lose myself to something.

Before I go any further I want to take a moment to say, this isnt the kinda game anyone can simply pick up and play. This isnt a casual game where you can hop in for 5 minutes, have your fill and then leave. This game is literally a career. You will start a learning curve you have never experienced before. No single other game you have played will prepare you for the unforgiving, highly calculated and engulfing gameplay that is KSP. S people will give up within the first 30 minutes of play. I wasn’t one of those people.

The majority of people will give up within the first 30 minutes of play. I wasn’t one of those people.

Firstly, I didn’t even buy the game. A good friend of mine purchased it for me as a gift via steam as I showed some passion for it in a conversation seconds after finishing the Scott Manley video tutorial. This probably didn’t help.

The game comes with 3 different modes, which all change the way you play the game:

 

Career Mode – you control everything. This not only includes controlling your ship, but also training the Kerbals, financing your mission and more.

Science Mode – this is a simpler version of career mode where all you have to do is fly the ship with the added dynamic of conducting science experiments whilst on your mission. Doing this unlock your tech further and allows you to go on more adventurous excursions into the void.

Sandbox – for me, sandbox is where the party’s at! Every single piece of technology available in the game is at your fingertips. There are no restrictions on how many Kerbals you can call upon, no financial limits on how much you can spend on incredibly inefficient rockets, the solar system is yours!

 

So, I jumped in at the deep end. I skipped all the tutorials the game provides and had nothing but the rose tinted memory of the tutorial I had seen earlier on YouTube combined with a false sense of expertise. It was never going to go well. I literally spent hours trying to get my NASA’esque looking rocket into a steady orbit. At this point a friend of mine jumped into chat and tried to help me ascertain the problem. The issue was simple, I hadn’t turned the ships computer on and was doing everything completely by hand. It was a miracle I even reached orbit.

Once orbit was easily achievable I moved onto docking. I spent a whole week of gaming trying to dock two ships together in space, the sense of reward from it was almost euphoric. I needed more! It was then time to land on a moon, the closest being ‘Mun’. I landed a team of my green little buddies on that hump of rock, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted a REAL mission. I wanted to go to Duna.

I spent hours designed and modifying my first ship for Duna, eloquently name “TheLoveDuna” lander (as I tend to brand all of my ships). This lovely piece of engineering made it all the way to Duna and even landed successfully. It wasn’t till I planted my flag on the planet and celebrated with a beer that I realised I hadn’t taken enough fuel to get back. This spawned another dozen of hours to create a new ship, “TheDunaRescue Mk 1”. The rescue vessel made it all the way to Duna and even landed successfully. Again I forgot to take enough fuel. “Dang nabbit” I said to myself. At this point there were 4 Kerbals stranded on the planet. To cut a long story short, it took 3 weeks for me to create another 3 ships (The mk 2, mk3 and mk 3.5) and a refuelling station orbiting the planet to complete the rescue. In the end there were 10 passengers on the final return trip.

Failing is fun, success is sweeter

So, finally time for something that resembles a review.

Kerbal Space Program is an amazing game. The ship design system is brilliant but not without its flaws. The flaws tend to be user error and I might be too forgiving of this by blaming myself. Sometimes when putting parts of the ship together you have to have your camera angle perfect, otherwise parts don’t connect properly. Most of the time it is pretty top draw,

When it comes to piloting ships the game really comes into its own. Taking something you have designed, built and then putting it into space is a really rewarding experience. The manoeuvre node system that allows you to change your orbit and head towards moon, planets, ships is amazingly accurate. It takes everything into consideration and if it’s wrong, well…….its never wrong.

All in all the game has taken close to 200 hours of my life away from me over the course of 2 months. As I previously stated this game isn’t for everyone and not everyone is willing to stick out the painful learning curve, but trust me, when you climb the curve the game becomes a pure simulation and a joyful one at that. Sometimes I find myself stood on the surface of ‘Mun’ staring into the clusters of stars in awe of how beautiful this game really is. I don’t think I am halfway done with this game and the game is no where near done with me. There are still regular updates  for the game via steam and there is also a ridiculously dedicated community of people all sharing their experiences, posting mind shattering mods and helping each other achieve their missions.

I admit that most of the games I play are all cooperative rather than single player, but Kerbal Space Program really made me enjoy ‘ME’ time. I didn’t need to rely on anyone else, it was just me and space. I have already begun to film some of my adventures and mark my words they will be appearing on the site for any kerbal fans out there to enjoy and mock.

 

 


 

Author: Dale Wright

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