I like welding.
Wait… let me try that again.
I REALLY like welding. Well, “like” is probably not a strong enough word. I need to weld. I need to grind, I need to zip off into the void, carve out hunks of asteroids, jam the nuggets into my cargo bays, dump them into a factory to make useful widgets out of each and every last unit. It’s amazing how some video games can turn the most basic, menial chores into satisfying endeavors that devour minutes and hours like a rotary mining drill biting into the meat of a uranium-cored asteroid… see.. there I go again.
Space Engineers is the latest attempt to ruin me as a productive person, attentive husband and good father by Keen Software House. Still technically an “Early Release” meaning you’re paying for a developing product, but it feels very ready for prime time. The general premise of the game is best described as Minecraft in space with physics. That might be a bit of an oversimplification but that’s as close as I can get without “geeking out” entirely. Basically you are a lonely space engineer left to his or her own devices against the bleakness of space. It’s your job, starting with a small set of hand tools, to begin carving out a life and an existence amongst the stars. Whether that life is mining out a meager subsistence building up a small ship or station to live on, or creating a huge battleship bristling with gatling guns and rocket pods to pillage the spaceways, or something somewhere in between, it’s up to you. Creative and Survival game modes exist, they operate just as you think they do. Creative is a limitless sandbox, great for that Slave 1 build you want to try or for experimenting with innovative designs, whereas Survival is the meat and potatoes game in which you must find the resources to eek out a life in the asteroid belt one step at a time. I find the Survival mode to be much more satisfying and therefore much more fun, but like I said earlier: I like welding.
The game at this time is devoid of true NPC’s but there are occasional derelict ships that drift through the area which can be captured and used for your own nefarious and/or altruistic schemes or ground down to their most basic components and reconstructed to expand your ship/station/fleet/armada. Recently an ‘infinite mode’ has been added that allows for procedural generation of new asteroids as you explore, meaning the game is literally endless (as evidenced by the bags under my eyes).
There is also a multiplayer element to the game, but as of yet, I’m not brave enough to try playing the game against real, actual people. I lack a certain confidence that my tiny, ugly, barely functional ship (that I’m IMMENSELY proud of) would hold up well against whatever Galaxy-class Enterprise or Super Star Destroyer that is floating out there waiting to vaporize me.
In speaking with a friend, I described it as meditation. There’s an immense feeling of satisfaction in looking at was once an amorphous chunk of rock and ore and seeing it turned into a functional space station, or ship used to explore the galaxy. I need uranium to keep my reactor fueled, so I’ll need nickel and iron to build the drills to harvest uranium. Ok, then I need gold, platinum and silicon to build a set of solar panels to serve as backup power just in case my reactor runs dry, oh in that case I should probably build an auto-turret to help protect my solar array from a passing meteor that could trash the thing. Well, if i’m going to build an auto-turret, I should probably go ahead and run supply lines to it from my factory so I make sure it never runs out of ammunition…
…. see? See what happens?