After years of neglect, space sim fans have plenty to look forward to over the next few years. Here are some of the most exciting up and coming space sims for old enthusiasts who've missed them, and new gamers looking for a genre which they have not played before.All of the following games are MMOs which allow fully player controlled ship flight in first person with 6 degrees of freedom.
(Disclosure: I am a Star Citizen backer. This also means I know more about SC. I apologize if I have missed information on the other two, but I have researched all three games to gauge my own interest.)
It's hard to miss this one, the most successful crowd funded anything of all time, but SC is the most ambitious space sim to date. It is comprised of two components, a 50 mission single player military campaign, and an MMO persistent universe sandbox. Both will include first person character control (boarding, FPS/0g combat, planetside activities), single pilot ships, and multi crew ships. Activities will include trading, piracy, bounty hunting, mining, salvaging, exploration, racing, science, medics, data running, entrepreneurship (player-ownable factories), and player organization activities/espionage. Six space faring alien races exist in the game, each with their own ships, combining to 50 playable ships announced thus far and more coming. Ships range from single seat racers to 100+ crew 1km long capitals, all with fully modeled interiors. Ships are heavily customizable, including weapons, thrusters, armor, shields, computer software, and more. The game takes place across 120 hand crafted systems with around 800 landing locations.
Long term, the dev team hopes to continue updates for at least 10 years, including full atmospheric flight and manual planetary landing, the ability to play as alien races, and The Sims-like player ownership of planetary structures.With over $60 million already raised, and little wasted on advertisements or publisher salaries, its funding is already on the level of some of the biggest AAA's; However its ambition and long development cycle also make it the most likely to fail to deliver on all its promises.
Star Citizen is expected to be released on PC in 2016, with a $30 price tag for preordering or $45 for access to the current alpha module and the late 2015 beta. The payment model is buy to play (no subscription), with microtransactions to support future development.
The return of a famous space sim series of yore, E:D looks to bring back the old genre with new graphics, an online experience, and more sophisticated procedural generation. Very similar to Star Citizen in its goals, it lacks some of the detail, but makes up for it in sheer volume of content. E:D will have an astonishing 400 billion star systems. The primary difference which can be seen at this point in development is the flight model. Although both have full 6DoF Newtonian physics, turning in E:D is significantly slower than it is in SC causing battles to feel more like airplane dogfighting combat.E:D's first person open universe can be played single player or as an MMO, with trading, piracy, bounty hunting, mining, salvaging, and exploration all possible. All 30 of the ships planned for its initial release can be customized with a variety of weapons, reactors, thrusters, and more to best suit the player's style.
While they are not planned for initial release, multi-crew ships, FPS movement (combat, ship interiors, and walking through space stations), and manual planetary landing and exploration are all planned for future expansions. If you're looking for a space sim you can play today, E:D is by far the most complete of the three, but late beta reception has been mixed, so waiting for launch reviews would be ideal.
E:D is scheduled for release on PC on December 16th, 2014, and currently costs $50 to preorder. Beta access is available for $75. The payment model is buy to play (no subscription).
A surprise announcement for consoles, NMS intends to have a more significant focus on exploration, allowing the player to seamlessly land on the surface of planets and explore at launch. Like E:D, it will heavily feature procedural generation to make an effectively limitless game universe. FPS combat and single seat ships are confirmed, with the player able to collect and trade materials to upgrade their space ship and gear.
NMS's release date and launch platforms are not known, nor is its price.