Star Citizen Preview

Written by Rick Lane

March 21, 2016 | 10:12

Tags: #blade-runner #chris-roberts #elite-dangerous #star-citizen #star-wars #wing-commander

Companies: #roberts-space-industries

Let's start with the small stuff, because that's clearly where RSI also started. The attention-to-detail in Star Citizen is impressive. Your player character commences each run by awakening in their bunk on a central space station. From there you wander down to a computer hub where you can select a ship that appears on one of the dozen or so landing platforms on the station. You negotiate your way through the ship's twisting corridors, pass through an airlock, climb into your vessel, and begin your adventures.

Star Citizen Preview [Monday] Star Citizen Preview

I've seen a few people gripe about the length of this process just to get in your ship. But personally, I'm quite fond of Star Citizen's determination to replicate every moment of that procedure. It sells the great space fantasy the developers are trying to create well, and once you've drawn a map of the station's interior in your head, it only takes a minute or so to get from star-bunk to starship.

Once you've climbed the ladder into your cockpit and the holographic dashboard readouts have loaded, you're free to take off and explore the dozen-or-so locations in this build's small slice of spacetime. Again, a lot of early write-ups criticised the feel of Star Citizen's spaceflight, especially in comparison to its main competitor, Elite Dangerous. But from my experiences in version 2.0, pootling about in a Hornet FC7M space-fighter feels pretty darned good. Turning is a little slower and more inertia-laden than I recall Elite being, and I find the simulation of g-force a step toward realism too far, but otherwise I have no real qualms.

Star Citizen Preview [Monday] Star Citizen Preview

What Star Citizen has over Elite in spades, right now at least, is immediacy. Much as I enjoyed Elite when I reviewed it, there's no escaping the fact that doing anything in that games takes sodding ages. Travelling between systems, docking, completing a mission, even combat is often a drawn-out, at times laborious process. By comparison, Star Citizen is a lot smoother and snappier.

Star Citizen Preview [Monday] Star Citizen Preview

To give an example, Quantum Travel, Star Citizen's equivalent of Hyperspace, is entirely seamless and almost insipidly simple. You press B to highlight potential destinations, point your ship at one, press middle-mouse to activate the drive, and within seconds you're there, without a loading screen or level-streaming hitch in sight. Landing on a space-station is equally straightforward - there's no fiddly docking procedure and you don't have to spend fifteen minutes figuring out where exactly you can land. The act of landing safely is still a bit of a challenge, although this is more down to getting acquainted with the flight mechanics rather than anything wrong on the game's side.

Even combat is fairly intuitive. Once you've figured out which keys do what, it's largely a case of keeping your target in sight, and redirecting your shields if you're on the receiving end of laser-fire. It doesn't quite have the spectacle of Elite yet, but it is getting there. At one point I blew up a pirate ship and flew straight through the exploding wreckage, which caused an involuntary whoop to escape my lips, as if I was Luke Skywalker doing a Star War.

Star Citizen Preview [Monday] Star Citizen Preview

All of this is done well. But it's nothing we haven't experienced before, be it in Elite or the X-Wing/TIE Fighter games. Where Star Citizen gets truly interesting, however, is when you have to get out of your ship. Unlike any other space game I've played, Star Citizen actually allows the player to climb out of the cockpit and perform and EVA in space, drifting slowly about in the galactic void using propulsion jets on your suit.
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