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Kerbal Space Program Impressions

Kerbal Space Program is a game in which you manage a space program in the hopes of completing the fevered dream of space conquest. While the game is incomplete – having only its sandbox mode currently – the developers, Squad, are promising a host of updates. I decided to purchase it and see what it was all about, only to discover something wondrous.

The idea of Kerbal Space Program is simple enough. You build rockets and then use them explore space, performing various operations and missions. The game offers a wide variety of different types of junk to send up, including probes, satellites, and even space stations and little green men. Putting it all into motion however takes a lot of thought, or just plenty of mucking around.

Learning how to operate ships in Kerbal Space Program can pose quite a challenge, and will likely by your first obstacle to outer space adventures. The game does offer up some small tutorials on how to pull off the basics. There are also some scenarios you can start up to get some experience in the advanced tasks of the game. More importantly the game also comes with some pre-made rockets that you can load up and use so you can get to grips handling something well designed, or you just look at for inspiration. That said, overall I don't feel the game does that good a job in showing new players the ropes, especially when there's a lot of terminology to learn.

My first couple of hours in Kerbal Space Program were spent in the assembly area building constructing the most ludicrous rockets I could conjure in my mind. Having no idea on how half of the pieces worked I found that most of my constructs ended up exploding in some spectacular fashion. I went for the Jeremy Clarkson philosophy of engineering of more power being best and tried to attach solid fuel rockets to everything all the time. Then I added more rockets to those rockets. It was fun to watch a stupidly over designed contraption fall apart in a ball of fire before it even left the landing pad. Even when ships did take off they would often have an unplanned disassembly in mid-air. Detaching parts would break another vital part and the entire thing would spin out of control.

Kerbal Space Program has nice sense of humour in general. It never shies away from making the little green Kerbals the butt-monkeys. Even so, I did grow attached to them, and even felt upset whenever one of my mishaps ended badly for them. The descriptions of all the rocket parts have a light-hearted and silly flavour to them as well.

But what's Kerbal Space Program like when you start going beyond dead end rockets only ever destined to barely best anything North Korea employ. Once I started figuring out the different parts and how stages worked I was able to start getting rockets into outer space and the game began evoking some very different emotions. The first time I was able to put a probe in orbit of the sun (never mind the fact that I was aiming for a Kerbin orbit) it was very enriching an rewarding experience. Hours of trial and error had finally come together to put something I had made into the heavens. I stared at my creation as it floated with the sun the far distance. It was beautiful.

Once you've learnt how to get something into orbit Kerbal Space Program will have you working on grander projects. Soon you'll be wanting to land something on the Mun. Performing these tasks requires a lot of planning, good building, and some improvisation from time to time if things start getting messy. The end result a game that feels very gratifying. The size of the game accommodates the exploration of far out planets in the solar system, so there's no shortage of goals to aim for.

Once you're done creating ridiculous rockets to launch satellites into space you can go into the hanger and construct space planes as well. Then, instead of watching your creation exploding on the launchpad you can crash them on the runway as you try to take off. The building here is basically the same as the rockets. What did bother me here was the lack of visual customisation. It's no big deal, but having something other than a white ship would have been sweet. That said, there is a modding community for this game, so there're endless possibilities.

The construction stage is fairly easy to get the hang of besides one issue I'll be covering soon. You drag and drop the parts which then snap together. A handy symmetry tool exists to help make sure your rocket remains well balanced. The different “stages” can be easily edited on the right hand side, and can even he changed during the launch phase.

One irritating thing in Kerbal Space Program is that the building can feel awfully fiddly at times, especially when you're trying make something complex. The piece snapping usually works smoothly, but sometimes you'll be trying to get one part to connect to another only to have it try to connect to everything else instead. Trying to use the symmetry options can result in one side being approved by the other not, which can sometimes be fixed by wriggling the part around. However, these are minor annoyances, and overall they don't interfere much with the process of building stuff.

On a ground level there's nothing particularly impressive about Kerbal Space Program on an aesthetical level. The terrain is very simplistic and low fidelity. It's only when you reach upper atmosphere and the vastness of outer space that the grand scale of the game starts to make an impact. It's soothing to watch things drift in orbit and watch the sun on the horizon. The music is your typical relaxing affair. Perfect for drifting endlessly to, but nothing to write home about.

One more thing worth noting is the low pace of the game. While Kerbal Space Program does allow you to speed up time once your ship is high enough the game on a whole is steady. It makes sense, considering the delicate nature of what you're controlling, but this is perhaps not a game for people who don't have much time to spare.

In the end there's too much to say about Kerbal Space Program. The most important thing for me is that it's perhaps one of the most engrossing games I've played in many years. Out of all the games I've written about this is the only one that's had been playing at every available opportunity. At $23.00 it's not what I'd call a bargain for an unfinished game, but it was worth the price as far as I'm concerned. You can visit the official website for more information or to buy it. The game is also available from Steam. I highly recommend giving Kerbal Space Program a try, for a very unique and rewarding game.
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About Shuudaone of us since 5:34 PM on 03.27.2012

Online I go by the alias of Shuuda. I am currently living North Yorkshire, England. In 2011 I graduated from the University of Hull with a first class degree in Design for Digital Media, where I studied both the creative and theoretical sides of the digital technology and the internet.

As someone who is passionate about about video games than the fantasy genre, I am highly interested in how stories can be told through interactive media. I concern myself with how the genre is portrayed within the medium and its implications. I give it both criticism and praise, but mostly criticism. Writing fiction has been my hobby for many years, and I feel that video games have influenced and inspired the content of my work in recent times.


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