I feel small. Very, very small. Not only that but my jaw has been on the floor for over an hour. That’s because I have just been flying through the universe in Vladimir Romanyuk’s space “game,” SpaceEngine. I use quotes because SpaceEngine isn’t really a game, its more than that. It’s more like an Existential Crisis Simulator.
This definitely isn’t No Man’s Sky. There aren’t any alien outposts, cute, cartoonish creatures, gaudily fluorescent flora, or any floral-tinted oceans. There’s also no corporate, triple-A level publisher backing SpaceEngine, and it’s only $25. That’s less than half of No Man’s Sky’s absurd $60 price point.
There’s just an astronomer-turned-game developer, Vladimir Romanyuk, and his computer. He’s built an entire universe sandbox simulator that boasts the entire Hipparcos catalog of starts, 10,000 known galaxies, as well as every known celestial body, both big and small.
SpaceEngine’s Steam page, which by the way has achieved an “Overwhelmingly Positive” review rating, boasts: “All of time and space are yours to explore – cruise between the stars at a million times the speed of light, and accelerate time to watch the orbital motions of a thousand worlds play out before your eyes.
Every planet you encounter in your journey will feature procedural 3D terrain with detailed textures. Everything you see in the sky – stars and galaxies, planets and moons, asteroids and comets, black holes and neutron stars, star clusters and nebulae – are yours to explore at the press of a button.”
When I read this passage alone, I was already sold. But when I tried this title out and actually saw that if anything, that blurb was almost a disservice to the actual transcendental experience? Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
One of many things that SpaceEngine has over No Man’s Sky and other space sandbox games such as Elite: Dangerous, is that it’s totally seamless. That’s right, there are no loading screens that you have to sit through. You can fly through space from planet to planet, inspecting each planet’s varied topography, and then off you go to another galaxy while stars whizz by you at breakneck speed.
SpaceEngine’s visual fidelity is frankly phenomenal. As opposed to a more arcade-y look, everything in it looks like NASA-quality photorealism. Float over or through highly-detailed canyons on one planet and skim across vast oceans on another—there is so much to behold that it’ll make your head spin.
You can fly virtual spaceships in SpaceEngine (you can even edit them from Steam’s Workshop). However, this title has a much harder learning curve to grapple with than Elite: Dangerous or No Man’s Sky. That’s because you have to learn how to factor in such obscure factors as inertia, gravity, and relative velocity.
And thankfully, Mr. Romanyuk doesn’t plan to dumb things down and make SpaceEngine more hand-holdy in the future. He intends to keep things based as much in hard science as possible.
In all, SpaceEngine is highly recommended by those out there who would like a relaxing experience gliding through space, as well as people who have even the slightest interest in astronomy.
SpaceEngine has some pretty good looking graphics that make its science-based gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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