GAME REVIEW: Empyrion – Galactic Survival (Early Access)

Seeing a sun rising over the contours of an alien world is still a sight that continues to impress me. If it’s like our own familiar sun, so much the better, as that just makes the strange creatures walking around in the twilight even more uncanny. Eleon Game Studios’ PC space survival-sim Empyrion – Galactic Survival provides this view on a regular basis, but like any decent game, you’ll have to work for it.

I started with the tutorial (often a good idea) and soon found myself directing a plummeting escape pod to the ground. Once imminent death has been averted, the tutorial fills you in on the variety of ways that you can keep this “death” thing looming on the horizon, rather than getting all up close and personal with it. You’ll be introduced to the various systems of the game and given a directed introduction to the equipment that you can deploy and use, from a rideable motorbike to machines that help you create stuff from raw materials, such as mined ore or… alien flesh. For the most part, the tutorial seemed fine, but on at least one occasion, if you had already happened to do something ahead of when you were “meant” to do it, such as equipping a certain thing, you had to re-jig things until the task list registered that you’d done it. After finishing the tutorial stuff, you are given possible missions that you can accept, but these proved a little problematic too.

This was where another problem came in with Empyrion. It’s an alpha state game and sits in the Early Access section of Steam, so some issues should be expected. The optional “missions” available for completion wouldn’t track anything I was doing. One of the first is to collect varieties of vegetation. This I did, in multiple orders, times and quantities, and the tic-boxes of the mission still refused to acknowledge I’d done it. I couldn’t get any of the other missions to track things either, no matter how often I clicked the mission and made sure it was active. I decided to use some of them as a guide to see what they suggested, things to try or experience, but in the end I fell back on mining. As far as running the game itself though, I had no crashes or stability issues whatsoever, so it is a very stable alpha, in my experience at least.

Don’t be in ore of my terrible pun. A hole I created by mining.

Mining is something that you will need to get used to as it’s the prime way to get the ores you need for item and base/ship building. Early in the game, you can only use a slow mining tool, something that only slowly grinds away at the deform-able terrain. If you need x amount of copper ore, you will need to spend x amount of time standing in a hole mining the stuff. Thankfully, as your character levels up, you can unlock higher quality equipment. A newer drill and even automated mining drones ease the mining process somewhat later, but it can still be a chore. When you have to factor in hunting for food and harvesting things like water and oxygen for your ship, there is plenty to keep you occupied. You will encounter aliens that can be traded with too, but I found the prices to be astronomical. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

The ships are truly things of beauty, the freedom they give feeling very enjoyable. Progressing from your little motorbike up to your first hover-vehicle feels really great. You can skim the land in giddy glee and pick up a decent sense of speed. Going from a hover-vehicle to your first small full-flight craft is again, a horizon opener. Gaining height helps you appreciate where you are and being able to fly over those hills and mountains is a welcome benefit. At the moment, there are some issues around the poles of planets however, a yellow forcefield that stops you flying through that area. This is apparently due to technical reasons but is something that will be sorted in the future.

Creating a capital vessel and punching your way through the atmosphere into space for the first time is another fantastic moment. When it came time for me to make my ships, I used the game’s Factory section in the player’s PDA. Basically, it tells you how many ores you need of each kind, gives you a production time and then lets you spawn said ship in an appropriate space. I decided to use this system and settle for some well designed ships that didn’t need lots of trial and error, but there is nothing stopping you (besides resources) from using individual components and blocks to create ships to your very own design. A simple YouTube search for “Empyrion Capital Vessel” will throw up a whole host of amazing ships. Capital Vessels are ships that allow the player to walk around inside, so if you want to build a bedroom that looks out at the depths of space as it perches on a tower in the middle of your ship, you can absolutely do that.

Empyrion has a number of game modes: single-player, multiplayer/co-op and creative, but I spent my time mainly in single-player. There are plenty of threats to survive, from hunger and running out of oxygen to alien hostility and poisoning. When it comes to the creatures and aliens you meet, they are sufficiently outlandish and strange but their behaviours and animations won’t particularly wow you at this stage of the game’s development. They either seem to ignore you or run straight at you in a line when attacking. Even the enemy drones that will appear and attack you while foraging show little ingenuity beyond staying still and waiting to be shot down. This is fine, for now, but they will hopefully be a little more interesting once they are developed a little more.

Creative mode is brilliant, especially if you’ve been used to the scarcity of certain resources in the other game modes. Want to build a massive base needing 1000s of blocks? No problem, spawn all you need. It’s very much like being pushed into a store that sells your entertainment of choice and being told to “Take all you fancy, it’s free!” As with many things though, the gloss does wear off after awhile, but what you are left with is a fun toolkit to create underground bases, strange ships and generally enjoy the environs of the game without fear of an enemy drone destroying your small ship. This can often leave you stranded with the task of mining enough ore to build a new one (this happened to me once. It wasn’t fun.)

Graphically, the game varies from being quite ugly anywhere up to being breathtaking. The creatures and objects are decent enough, it’s in the environment where some of the textures look a bit rough. Lighting is very good though, the way the sunlight changes the landscape is a genuinely lovely thing, even if the night times feel a little too dark, in my opinion at least. It’s a good thing you can construct lights. As far as the sound design, it gets the job done. Some creatures/aliens get a bit repetitive when they are grunting as they pass your base walls. This did lead me to going outside and slaughtering a host of tribal-looking aliens at one point, their grunts pushing me over the edge. A little more audio range would have saved their lives.

Empyrion – Galactic Survival is currently available for Windows PC and is £14.99 on Steam, with the price set to increase as more and more features are added. If development stopped right now, for £14.99, I think there is by far enough stuff in the game to warrant a purchase. If you enjoy science fiction, exploration, lots of mining, and the ability to build and shape the world around you, I think you will get on with Empyrion just fine.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Casey Douglass

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: