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Game Info:

Space Engineers
Developed By: Keen Software House
Published By: Keen Software House
Released: Feb 28, 2019
Available On: Windows 7 and 10
Genre: Action, Simulation, Strategy, Sandbox
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Number of Players: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Keen Software House for sending us your game to review!

Space exploration is captivating, but the margin for error is tinier than a dot. Thank goodness for video games that let our inner astronaut explore the galaxies without that pesky risk. However, Space Engineers by Keen Software took a different approach - a touch more grounded approach. Now, sometimes realism can elevate a game, but it can overcomplicate and hamper the fun if overdone. I don’t usually spill spoilers here, but I think it’d be fair to warn you. With Space Engineers, you’ll be blessed just to lift off the ground. I’ve got a few things to say, most of which not good.

Before I start ranting, let me tell you what this game is all about. Space Engineers is a sandbox game. Sandbox games are basically open worlds where you can build, survive, and explore at your leisure. Consider Minecraft as a popular example. These types of games often come with multiple modes, most common of which include a survival mode and a free mode. For Space Engineers, in particular, you get modes focused either on building or surviving. There is a story mode that’s available, but trust me, it’s awful. Save your popcorn. I’ll crack that nut later. There is also a custom mode where you can develop your own challenge, but considering how open-ended that can be for criticism, I chose to just focus on the pre-set modes already offered. You’ll be glad I did too. There’s only so much negativity I should stuff in one review anyway.

Space Engineers
Highlights:

Strong Points: Versatile Modes; Good Potential
Weak Points: Too Niche; Abysmal Story Mode; Terrible Learning Curve
Moral Warnings: Minor cursing; Robot destruction

Okay. Here’s how the game goes. When it comes to building stuff in Space Engineers, creative mode makes everything available to you. You will need to mine for metal ingots though for construction materials. Your handy-dandy drill is your chief tool for breaking apart rocks or asteroids for such ores. Once you’ve collected your minerals, you’ll need to process them through a machine that will smelt the ore into metal sheets, tubing, or whatever geometrical shape you acquire. The process only branches off from there, as you gradually add more processor machines to further productivity. If you made all the parts you need, you then can construct your desired structure. Then just click and hold with your welding tool and watch your solar panels, turbines, and spaceships build themselves. Of course, you can do the opposite too by scrapping the whole thing with the hacksaw. Just click, hold, and reuse the pieces as you wish. Now, I realize I made all this sound easy. Ha, ha, ha, it’s not. While I understood the concept, I couldn’t distinguish which processing machine did what, how to run it, or when it worked. Every time I clicked on one, I kept getting confused with popup screens. One window had customization options, another was inventory, and I didn’t know how they affected each other. There were no animation or sound prompts when I used them. There’s no indication if or when they did anything useful. I didn’t know how anything worked! I got so bogged down by it all, I hardly built a thing! You heard me right. The very thing I was supposed to do in this mode, I couldn’t do, and if you couldn’t already tell this did not sit well with me at all.

Unfortunately, my conga line of disappointments is just getting started. Survival mode doesn’t differ from creative mode a whole lot and somehow manages to be worse. It adds in robot enemies and makes maintaining oxygen, hydrogen, and energy levels more crucial. Plus, you’re given basic weapons like machine guns and rocket launchers. You’d think firing them would be fun then, yes? Wrong! Boy howdy, wrong! Not only do the evil bots have health-bars that soak up whole magazines, the game never tells you where to get ammo or how to reload. Okay then. Shooting from ground tanks and spaceships is better then, right? Nope! The game never fully informs you how to easily switch between weapons, and the calibration on these guns are beyond abysmal! I could set my sights dead-set on my target and my shots still hit a good six feet off. Not even Robin Hood could hit bullseyes with equipment that faulty!

Space Engineers
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 48%
Gameplay - 8/20
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 5/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 88%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

And then there’s the story mode. Good grief. The story mode. Being a bore is this poor excuse for a plot’s least crime. It took the problems I mentioned before, bundles them up and adds more! Directions were occasionally unclear. A few bugs stunted my progress, and then their boss fight was the worst haphazard mess! It was so unfair and nonsensical, I believed the computer just threw it in on its own. For starters, my spaceship was bombarded by killer bots in a cramped room. Add in the fact that I’m armed with un-reloadable weapons that don’t shoot straight. Yep, I died, and whenever I died, the level wouldn’t reset! I’d just respawn! Right there! Where the exact same bots are firing! I would have no ship, no weapons. The game essentially held me hostage, locked in a no-win box. My sole escape was to delete my save file and restart the whole story again. You’d think doing that once is awful, but I ended up doing that not once; not twice; but three times! Three times, people! Three! But wait. As if this couldn’t possibly get anymore insultingly hilarious, it got worse! Once I did finally beat it, it’s lame-sauce conclusion was so pitiful and confusing, even my little sister rolled her eyes at it, and she’s more forgiving than I am! I’m sorry. I tried to stay positive. I tried, but no matter where I turned, I couldn’t squeeze an ounce of entertainment from this game. The one way I found any shred of fun in Space Engineers was by committing suicide. Yeah, suicide. I thought slamming my ship at a million lightyears per hour just to watch myself spin in a fireball of doom was a hoot. Take a moment to think about what I just said. I liked dying more than playing in Space Engineers!

This is probably gonna be my shortest review ever. I have very little else to say about this mess. Even the presentation, while well rendered, is pretty generic. Music is near non-existent. Explaining controls would require me to write a book, and moral wise, its sin counter only amounts to one use of ba****d and minimal violence. Honestly, I’m boggled just by how much this game got me to resent it. I’ve played a lot of games over the years. Some I loved. Some I liked. Some I disliked, but rarely do I hate a game this much that wasn’t technically amoral. It’s a shame. Space Engineers could have been something too, but as of right now, I can’t experience it. Why? I can hardly play the darn thing! That’s why! I thought Oriental Empires’s steep cliff of a learning curve was bad. This is a straight drop through the atmosphere while bare naked into a raging volcano bad! Sadly, I feared I was gonna have a hard time from the second I started. You see my dear readers, when the first thing a game does is prompt newbies to leave the game entirely just to watch hours worth of YouTube tutorials, there’s a huge problem. Yeah, you heard me correctly. This game did that. It encouraged me to exit the moment I entered to watch super-long tutorials. Talk about inhospitable. Their videos weren’t even that helpful anyway. I watched some and still wasted two hours just trying to run an oxygen machine.

Now, I don’t want to be that critic. You know. The grump who’s grumpy because it’s ‘cool’. I’ve got enough sense to recognize the years worth of programming it would have taken to generate anything this large. Plus, I know there are some people who found enjoyment in this game despite its shortcomings. So I tried to be reasonable. Space Engineers is somebody’s baby after all. However, I refuse to lie, and the fact is, I never got around to actually playing it. Instead, I wasted time learning how to even hit my head on a wall just so I could break it and reach the next wall and hit my head against that. I want to say a few final words to my readers before I close. To developers, please, listen to this advice I offer. Take this as from somebody who truly cares about you and wants you to succeed. If your game is so convoluted that you feel the need to outsource tutorials to make it playable, some reevaluation is in order. Mandatory YouTube videos for video games shouldn’t be a thing. To readers, if you’re in that niche club that can enjoy the density Space Engineers offers, that’s fine. I think that’s great. If you read this yet are still willing to major in Space Engineer-ology so you can build that dream spaceship, that’s swell. You do that, but I’d be off my rocket to suggest buckling up the average consumer into this rickety shuttle. I’m sorry. It’s best to ask Scotty to beam you up any other way.

About the Author

Hannah Colvin

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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