When I first heard about Space Engineers, my first impression was that it was basically Rust in outer space. After playing it for a while, I realized that I was completely wrong.
Sure, there are raiding aspects to it, but Space Engineers a building game to the core. That being said, it’s got plenty to do for those who enjoy complex building games.
However, people that don’t enjoy building will have a much harder time getting into the mechanics. I’ll discuss each main aspect of the game and let you decide if the game is for you or not.
Space Engineers’ name describes it perfectly – you engineer vehicles or structures in space. There are a ton of components for you to build with, giving the game a decent learning curve.
Players can download other people’s creations from the Steam workshop if they’d like, and it’s impressive what players have been able to create in this game.
There’s somewhat of a progression in Space Engineers, which you go from having the basic tools to the upgraded ones. The upgraded tools allow you to collect resources and build much faster than the basic ones, and allow you to spend less time collecting and more time building.
Despite this, you’ll still spend quite a while mining resources to use for your latest creation. The creative mode negates all of this, so that’s always there for players who hate grinding.
The clearest goal of Space Engineers is to have fun building new things, which the game accomplished nicely. People in servers can also make their own goals, like having space wars with their custom-built ships. The goals may not be defined in the gameplay, but the players can be creative and make their own goals.
In game I saw someone complaining how there weren’t prebuilt ships to craft, to which several players pointed out that a game with “engineers” in the title requires some creativity.
If you aren’t the type of person who enjoys creating things, you’ll struggle in this game. The entire point is to engineer crazy structures and ships to help you traverse the massive world.
You can start out by playing the story/tutorial, which does an okay job of explaining the mechanics to you. I ended up watching a lot of tutorials and getting help from my younger brother, who’s a pro at tons of building games. After a few hours, I felt confident enough to creatively make things on my own.
There’s a ton of things to keep track of, such as power, thrust, and tilt. It took me a while, but eventually, I got my first (horrible looking) ship off the ground. The flight mechanics work impressively well, and it feels good to fly ships.
The way you build and destroy is pretty interesting too. You get a welder and a grinder, and when you want to build you place a component down and weld it until it’s done. Grinding an item with a tool will break it down into basic components for you to craft other items with.
Both the build and destroy animations are unique, as you see how every block has several stages of creation. The first thing you see is the frame, and then some interior components, then the walls of the block, and then the finished block.
It’s pretty impressive that the developers took the time to modify the interior of every block in the game. This is a minor detail, but it definitely helps to give Space Engineers its charm.
Besides the basic blocks, there are tons of electronic components to work with. Doors, weapons, explosives, turrets, control panels, and flight components are some of the many things you get to play with in game.
The movement mechanics are actually quite unique. You can either use a jetpack to fly around, or turn it off to succumb yourself to a planet’s gravity (or lack thereof).
Turning your jetpack off in space will cause you to indefinitely keep your trajectory until you hit something, but space is so vast in this game that you could float around for hours before seeing anything of note.
Walking around with gravity can feel a bit wonky at times, but it’s easy to get used to. Most of the time I end up flying around anyway, but that does put me at risk of crashing into things.
My friends and I were repeatedly flying into each other for fun, causing one of us to die and get annoyed, which was amusing for a little while. Sometimes it seems like even slight bumps will kill you, which can be frustrating.
I did love the amount of freedom and control the game gives you with the movement. It’s like having a creative mode where the flying isn’t too overpowered. There’s just enough mobility to move around a small area, but you absolutely need vehicles to get around faster.
Space Engineers has perhaps the easiest survival mechanics I’ve ever seen if you can even call them survival mechanics. You need to worry about oxygen and jetpack fuel, but you can easily fly to a recharge station and quickly be on your way.
This gives you the opportunity to spend more time creating and less time farming food. In my opinion, harsher survival mechanics would make the game more time consuming, so I’m happy with how loose the survival is in this game.
When you’re in space, the emptiness and loneliness are immediately apparent. It’s not like no man’s sky where planets are mere seconds away from you, but instead, it accurately captures how vast outer space actually is.
Every once in a while you’ll see an asteroid field, but besides that it’s pretty empty. You’re able to make bases on asteroids which is pretty awesome, and really gives you the feeling of being a pioneer in space.
On a certain planet, I saw a rather large ocean, which excited me since I was hoping for an underwater area to explore. When I got to it, I realized that the entire ocean was frozen and that I was able to dig straight through the ice.
This world isn’t for exploring, it’s for creating. There aren’t any aliens to find or large cave systems to chart. The main purpose of going to other planets is to find new places to build in, and not to see what you can find.
Space Engineers’ world is so vast that you’ll rarely come across another player. You’ll see them in the chat or see them in a hub station but you won’t often meet someone wandering a planet.
The single player missions showcased a massive underground base with amazing elevators and other electronics, but the multiplayer server I was playing on didn’t allow underground bases due to server performance.
I’m not sure if this is the case with every server, but I would much prefer an underground base to a base sitting out in the open.
To summarize the world, it’s vast, lonely, and desolate. There isn’t any life besides the occasional player, and there’s plenty of space for many players to build. It accurately captures the loneliness of space, but lacks variety and detail on the planets
Graphics / Performance
While better than what I was expecting, the graphics aren’t amazing. They’re good enough for what the game is trying to accomplish though, so they’re fitting.
The earth planet is actually quite beautiful, but my frames take a hit even with a beefy PC. The components are detailed and unique, and you can tell that a lot of care was taken on modeling every building block.
Single player runs great, but many of the multiplayer servers suffer from performance issues. Even though I was on an empty planet, the entire server was running at 30 FPS, causing it to feel very laggy.
My most enjoyable experiences came from playing single player, where the game ran great most of the time.
As far as a story mode goes, there isn’t much. There was a fun set of missions with some text-based dialog, along with enemy drones to destroy. I’ve actually played that several times since I thought it was so fun, particularly a mission where you use tanks to destroy a bunch of drones.
There isn’t any overarching story, though there are enemy bases around the world to attack and destroy. Usually, I seek out these bases just to attack for fun.
One of my favorite parts of any game is the music. Space Engineers has a fitting soundtrack, but nothing that will wow the player.
The game starts up by playing classical music that’s mildly reminiscent of Interstellar’s music, which is one of my favorite movies. I actually really like the menu music a lot, and it sets the tone for the game.
The music during gameplay is fitting too, and not distracting. It’s not a soundtrack that will stick in my head, but it immerses you into the world even more than the game would without music.
For people who enjoy this genre, I see the replay value as being insanely high. If you scroll down the Steam reviews, you’ll see people with 2,000 hours regularly leaving reviews.
Obviously, the amount of replayability won’t be the same for everyone, but it has an incredible value for people who enjoy engineering things. In terms of an end game, there really isn’t any. It’s a purely sandbox game with no clear goals besides building bigger or better creations.
I could see someone only mildly interested in building get at least 50 hours out of it, which is pretty good. My brother loves it and has well over 100 hours now, which was definitely worth the money for him.
If you’re part of the group of people who can’t get enough of building, then you might become addicted to Space Engineers.
Space Engineers is a good game with a lot of replayability, but it definitely has a specific audience it caters to. People that don’t enjoy building might be able to enjoy it for a bit, but this is a game for people who are creatively minded.
If you fall into that category, then I highly recommend picking up Space Engineers.