Andy O’Flaherty with some first impressions of Stable Orbit…
“From the lead PC programmer that brought you Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Tomb Raider”, blurbs the teaser trailer for Stable Orbit, the new Early Access strategy game from Codalyn and Green Man Gaming. Perhaps that statement would be a bit more impressive or indeed relevant if this game was anything like the aforementioned games. Alas, what we have here is a ‘space simulation’ game, where the player is tasked with building a station and keeping it functional out in the ever hostile environment of space.
The background of the game sets up the premise of there being a new space race in the year 2034, after the decommissioning of the International Space Station. Players assume the role of the ‘Station Commander’, who must oversee the project and re-establish mankind’s permanent presence in space. What this entails in reality is clicking on the nodes around the starting core and choosing what to build, while the station constantly orbits a planet that loosely resembles Earth. You need to build sleeping quarters, laboratories, docking bays, solar panels and the like while maintaining a balance between power, water, and oxygen levels. The bigger your station, the more crew you can have and the more difficult the task of keeping them all happy and the station safe and functional.
Now obviously, at present the game is extremely early in development and as such a lot of content and functionality is yet to come. However, the core concept is definitely promising. Resource management simulations are a popular genre at present, but the setting of this title is certainly a bit more niche. The look of the game is impressive – despite all the ‘current graphical assets being place holder’, according to the developers. The day/night cycle on the rotating planet looks stunning, even at present, so I look forward to seeing how the visuals improve throughout development. The only problem I had with the visuals is I found some of the text difficult to make out, especially on a smaller monitor. Look at the screenshot below. Can you read the text at the bottom of the screen? I’m sure this will be fixed over time but I thought it worth mentioning.
The game could also do with some sort of direction. I had to read up on the game just to find out what I was supposed to be doing. In a day and age where tutorials are lengthy and unwelcome it is refreshing to tackle games blind, but in this case I think a few basic tips at the beginning wouldn’t go amiss. I would also maybe like to see some different planets your station could orbit – perhaps leaning toward a more discovery based angle…
The gameplay is a bit basic at present and there does not seem to be any sort of goal to aim for, but reading the developer’s roadmap it is clear that they plan to expand on the gameplay greatly by the final release. I am eager to see how this title develops and think it is definitely one to keep an eye on!
Stable Orbit is currently available on Steam Early Access