Hundreds of light years away from Earth lies Apollo, a cluster of star systems that is the backdrop for all the space-faring trade and combat missions that make up Objects in Space.
The moment I booted up the game I was reminded of old-text based with cut scenes and the sci-fi style adventure games of my youth.
And I was scared.
Because I was always awful at them, I didn’t take notes and didn’t remember names well back then. But years of Dungeons and Dragons had me prepared… or so I thought.
Modempunk? What’s that?
The art style, aesthetic and design of Objects in Space is sold to me as Modempunk.
I know Steampunk, Cyberpunk and the lesser known Dieselpunk but this was my first time of hearing about Modempunk. It’s best described as “radical computer hackers in a totalitarian 80s that never was.”
And that’s probably the best way to describe the feel of Objects in Space. Your ship doesn’t have a windshield and you don’t hurtle through space watching the stars. It’s blips on a rusted computer terminal and the sounds of asteroid or torpedo impacts outside.
Flashing lights when something breaks, a blinking cursor for an incoming message and so on.
The interface is much more realistic than titles like Elite Dangerous or EVE. Controlling the ship is done by flipping across a few different screens in the cockpit. Checking fuel levels and temperatures, watching a circle move towards other circles on a black screen as numbers countdown to give approximate distance.
If other space games are like flying a fighter jet, Objects in Space is like crewing a submarine. You won’t find high action space dog-fighting in Objects in Space.
What cool space stuff do you get to do?
Objects in Space is a game about exploration, trading and espionage. You’ll spend time evading pirates or taking bounties to bring them to justice.
Completing jobs for NPCs will give you cash and improve your reputation, so they give you more cash and jobs. The first few missions have NPCs guide you. Incoming messages guide you through ship repairs and navigation.
Whenever a new skill or system is available on a ship, you receive a mini tutorial on how it works. The HUD uses a lot of acronyms for ship systems, but I don’t remember what most of them mean. I found flying the ship and scanning sectors confusing.
Whenever I found a bit of proficiency with my ship, I was ready to upgrade and the layout changed. I needed the larger ship to haul more cargo or mount more weapon systems but it was so damn confusing because there wasn’t a tutorial for the new ship.
Meet interesting people and trade with/kill them!
Interacting with NPCs on the space station involves simple dialogue options.
But no one ever moves.
The game and world don’t feel ‘alive’ like modern games. The hangar-master stands there with his arms folded all day every day, waiting for you to talk to him.
It’s a small gripe, but I never got to really interact with the diverse range of NPCs more than once. The developers report that they focused on fluctuating dialogue options based on missions and reputations. Work hard for one guy and you’ll piss off some other dudes.
I didn’t get much more out of them than missions and rewards. The dialogue was really well crafted and rarely did I not have diverse response options. Unless I was being a dick and backed myself into a hostile corner.
That being said the NPCs are quite detailed, and some of them quite memorable. They aren’t all just some dude in overalls and a funny hat. But I didn’t get to explore enough of the reputation building and influence with the NPCs. With more time I’m sure I could have unearthed a deeper story-driven experience, with factions and rivalries.
At its core, Objects in Space is a highly technical space trucker game. You drop into different truck stops and sometimes someone there will pay you a bunch of money to knock-off some other space trucker who is a bit of a dick.
I struggled to get deeper into the story because I kept getting lost and having to restart the game. My ship was blindly spinning through space with broken navigation equipment, lots of flashing lights and sirens and the sound of broken rock pounding into my hull outside.
With lots of celestial phenomena to plough into or aimlessly fly through, it takes a lot of practice to safely navigate space.
Explosive pockets of radiation litter space like a dreaded ‘red barrel’ or burning car in Call of Duty. Ready to explode at any moment.
If you plan on meeting your deadlines as you haul freight across space, be sure to bring lots of spare parts. It took me about three ships to work that out. Like I said earlier, I thought I was more prepared now I’m older… but I wasn’t.
I found much of the ship damage and repair mechanics frustrating, but that’s mostly because I forgot or misinterpreted the threats in my proposed route.
Sooo… is it fun?
Looking back over my assessment, it’s easy to assume I didn’t like Objects in Space. But that’s not true at all. I didn’t realise that I needed to slow down, plan my routes and get into the proper headspace of a space trader.
The same reasons I don’t play EVE Online anymore. Objects in Space is a great game that offers a retro twist on the ‘simulator’ experience. I can really only describe it as space truckin’ and brawlin’. At the time of writing, I’m starting a brand new game, taking it slow and really getting familiar with my vessel.
Not just jumping to the best ship I can afford as soon as possible or taking on masses of debt early.
Being impatient or in a rush will be your downfall, it was definitely mine. The retro aesthetic will really appeal to a lot of sci-fi fans. It’s also neat that it features a seemingly endless system to explore that relies on core game mechanics over pretty visuals.
With Objects in Space development team Flat Earth Games announcing more updates and content in the works, Objects in Space looks to be a title that will keep its player-base enthralled for a long time.
Objects in Space was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by Flat Earth Games.
PowerUp! Owner and Managing Editor Leo Stevenson has a personal relationship with members of the Flat Earth Games team and as such has not been involved in the review process.
Game Title: Objects in Space
Retro Nostalgia - 8/10
Attention to Engineering Detail - 8/10
Random shit to collide with in the infinite vastness of space - 10/10
Game mechanics description in the tutorials - 6/10