So, my recent review of Moonbase: Alpha got me thinking about space games. That is, games set in actual space, with a bent towards realism and hard science over TIE Fighters, lazy beams and reversing the polarity of the… whatever-the-fuck. There’s been a serious drought of these recently.
It’s reached the point where there’s even been a drought of even the fluffy, space-opera style games of late. Used to be we got a new Elite or Wing Commander-style game every few years – now we’re limited to rehashes of Freelancer like DarkStar One and insanely complicated and bug-infested Spread-Sheets-In-Space like the X-series.
We’ve seemingly overshot the era of truly enjoyable joystick-flyable space operas such as Freespace by a few astronomical units, and past hard-science space games by several hundred thousand light-years. But here’s the thing: not all the hard space titles have vanished into obscurity due to archaic platforms and outdated user-interfaces and hardware support. There’s a couple that either still run marvellously on modern hardware, or are maintained in open-source / hobbyist-developed form so they can once again grace our computers.
This article is about some of the hard(ish)-science space games that have survived the test of time, some that haven’t, some newer titles worth looking at, and even some notable failures that did their darnedest and should be commended for trying.