Early Access Investigations: Into the Stars

I remember seeing Into The Stars on a Reddit gamedev thread and was instantly impressed. But, like turning the lights on in a nightclub, I’ve been burned before. Not just by Early Access but also by space games with Elite: Dangerous sitting on my hard drive with as much playtime as there is direction in the game. Into The Stars, though, promised to be a bit more like FTL: an overwhelming time pressure, random events, crew members’ skills increasing - these are all plusses in my book.

Into The Stars is gorgeous. It is an incredible testament to the team that this stands out in genre populated with lumbering heavyweights like Elite and Star Citizen. The bustling space-scapes of Elite: Dangerous are here traded for a peaceful, quiet expanse as you man your enormous ship through space, all the while being pursued by a race of extremely ugly aliens whose ship design leaves a lot to be desired.

Everything from the peaceful thud of your engine as it works into gear, the gentle computer voice that tells you all of your resources are low and your civilian population is dying, and the music all contribute to a very relaxing experience. That is until, in typical roguelike fashion, shit hits the fan.

Your mission is to transport the last remaining humans to a distant planet, all the while being pursued by the aforementioned ugly aliens. The threat level increases as you go, with your only safe havens the planets that you find along the way. Here you’ll gather resources, send your crew on away missions and fire out probes to gather resources for your ever dwindling supplies.

Those supplies are one of my main two issues with the game as it stands, and one that has been slightly remedied through patches and updates. When you start the game you’re asked to kit out your ship; choose the engine, life support, protein sequencer module etc from a selection. Some are cheaper with higher running costs, some are more expensive with lower running costs and with only a limited amount of money every choice is crucial. That’s fine, but when you’re asked to stock up on elements the game has proven to be a little obtuse. It lists the running costs of your ship; 75 Magnesium for this, 40 Hydrogen for that and has a daily cost of living included as well.

 

With no indication of how long it takes to get from your starting position to a planet many players will be immediately at a disadvantage when they opt for less resources in that area. Food and life support will go offline for you during this game, and it won’t be your fault the first few times it happens. The game does, mercifully, now have an extremely limited tutorial, something I want to see expanded massively before this game launches.

The only other issue I have, something that is completely incongruous with the game itself, is the menus. You can see from the screenshots yourself that the game looks incredible; maybe one of the prettiest and most evocative I have played, but the menus are amateurish and really detract from the look and feel of the game.

It’s a massive shame, but I guarantee it’ll be the first thing people notice when they boot. They won’t notice the amazing expanse in front of them, they won’t notice the ability to fly from the cockpit and amazing attention to detail that offers. It’s a shame because it’s one simple thing that will turn a lot of players off instantly.

As it stands, though, I would recommend Into The Stars to people who are willing to look past some Early Access teething pains. There’s the core of an awesome game under here, tied down by a couple of rough ideas and some dodgy execution. Look past that, and maybe have faith this stuff will get fixed, and you’re in for the game that FTL was in your mind’s eye.