Kerbal Space Program from developer Squad is a game that lets you take control of the little green men's, the Kerbals, newly formed space program. In the game, you take on every role necessary for running a successful space program; director, pilot, scientist, and engineer. You control every aspect of the program; maintaining funds and public opinion, researching new parts and technologies and completing missions to upgrade the various facilities in your space station. Kerbal Space Program is a time consuming, but satisfying, learning experience that will keep you coming back for more. The game is available on PS4, Xbox ONE, and Steam.
The game follows a very bare story told to you through the context of missions. Basically, the Kerbals have explored their world of Kerbin pretty fully, and are ready to venture out into space. And voila, a space program was formed. While the game itself gives you no fleshed out campaign, the game's community has offered several guides that tell you in what order to take on missions to get the full story out of Kerbal Space Program.
Let me start by saying that when it comes to science, I am a DefCon 1 idiot. Usually, tutorials are this gamer's worst nightmare, but they were my saving grace in Kerbal Space Program. If you take the time to play through all of the tutorials this game has to offer, you will have taken a 2-hour crash course in rocket and jet science, but it will have been fully worth it. This game has so many different aspects and features to it that the more than 25 tutorial episodes don't quite cover everything, but they are supplemented by a very helpful in-game wiki. The tutorials also do a good job of splitting the line between hand-holding and sending you out on your own. Basically, most tutorials will have you build a ship capable of a different thing each time (breaking the atmosphere, orbiting Kerbin, getting to other planets) while explaining several scientific principles like Center of Gravity and Center of Thrust, then you use your tutorial ship to try and do what it's designed for. Usually, that takes several tries, so it's a good form of practice in terms of learning to steer your ship.
I spent about 4 hours trying to find my own way as director of Kerbin's space program. This led to my completing one total mission (and failing 2 whose difficulty is rated "trivial"), spending 30,000 in funds learning that it's bad to deploy the parachute immediately after takeoff, and wanting to call my high-school physics teacher and apologize for sleeping in her class. I think the only bad thing in terms of tutorials is that the game is very nonchalant in offering them to you. I wish they had just told me "You will suck if you don't play at least of few of these tutorials, Angel. For God's sake, you got a D- in physics with over 100 points extra credit."
When you talk about the gameplay of Kerbal Space Program, it becomes quite a complex subject. The game has lots of avenues that you can go down in terms of the goals you'll accomplish with your space station, and each one lends itself to different gameplay experiences. You can go the straight and sweet route of just building the best rocket ship possible to get into space, trying to visit all 7 planets. Or, you can be a plane station, and work on breaking records in travel distance and speed in the skies of Kerbin. There are 3 basic game modes; Sandbox, Career, and Scientific. In Sandbox, everything is unlocked from the get-go and you just try to build the best ship possible. In Career, you run the space station. Finally, in Scientific, you work toward researching all of the technologies available without having to worry about those pesky funds and reputation.
Running the Space Station
The actual running of the space station is easily the most accessible part of the game. To start, you have access to missions which, upon completion, grant you extra science and reputation points. These missions can range from reaching a certain altitude with a specific part attached to your ship to conducting research near a certain sector of the planet Kerbin. The other thing you can do is allocate your resources to boost your science and reputation gains. You can spend money on advertising to make sure everyone holds the space program in high regard, and outsource your scientific research to give you extra science points based on how much money you have. Speaking of money, it's quite easy to get. You start with around 30,000 in funds, and more can be earned by retrieving parts of old ships. The higher and farther a part has traveled, the more money you get for retrieving it.
There are also upgrades to your various facilities available. Upgrade your vehicle assembly building to increase how many parts a single ship can hold, upgrade your launch pad to increase how heavy your ships are allowed to be, or upgrade your mission control to allow for auto-retrieval of ships, speeding up how often you go on flights. Running the space station isn't too difficult, but it keeps you busy when you're not blasting off, and it is usually quite satisfying when you gather enough funds to upgrade a facility.
Rockets and Space Travel
When you first start the game, the first thing you'll be able to do is to build a tiny rocket and blast off! Your goal right after blasting off is keeping your ship on course by moving your control stick to balance it out. Once you run out of fuel, you begin your crash course back down to Kerbin, and at some point, you have to let your parachute fly so your little astronaut man can survive, and gain EXP for future flights. As you progress, things get a bit more complicated. Breaking distance records will net you science points, which you can use to unlock more ship parts. You can attach extra fuel tanks, put more thrusters on the side of your ship, and even get a decoupler to shed some of your ship's components once they outlive their usefulness. The trouble comes in making sure your ship is balanced enough to keep its trajectory on its way to space while also making sure it's light enough to get as far as possible. You control every aspect of your ship from the time that each engine will activate to exactly how much fuel each engine can carry and how much power it can output every second.
The Kerbals that actually pilot the ships are just important as the ships themselves. You have three options when choosing who you'll send off into the great beyond. There's pilots, engineers, and scientists. At first, you'll likely rely on the pilot to get you into space, because they have the ability to actually keep the ship on course better than a human can, allowing you to create less balanced, but exponentially more powerful ships without having to worry about them going way off course.
The parts you'll be able to unlock are too numerous to list. There're different types of command pods that hold your astronauts, allowing you to take more than one Kerbal on an expedition. You can also unlock different science experiments to bring along for the ride. The game starts you off with this mysterious canister of goo that you have to attach to your ship so that the pressurized vacuum of space can break it and unleash…something. For performance, there are hundreds of parts to unlock ranging from bigger and bigger engines to tiny thrusters that will allow you to control your direction in space. It's testing new parts in different ways (which usually led to failure) that will take up most of your time in Kerbal Space Program.
There's one phrase I can use that rings true when it comes to all forms of failure in this game; "It's all worth it." Each time you crash you learn something new that will help out on your next run. Eventually, you've subtly learned your way into this huge, 50-piece spacecraft that blasts into space, jettisons off its primary engines, and uses tiny thrusters to make its way to one of the game's 6 other planets to discover the secrets that lie in wait.
Once you get to a new planet, you'll want to explore it and learn all of the secrets it holds. There are basically two avenues to this; research and experience. You can research a planet's different biomes and send that info back to Kerbin, which gets you significant science points. The other thing you can do is simply hop in a land rover and actually zoom around, finding different formations and easter eggs such as rock formations on the Mun that are akin to those in Arches National Park.
Planetary exploration is also where the other two astronaut types come into play. Engineers can repair the damage your ships will sustain when entering a planet's atmosphere as well as operate your rovers to maximum efficiency. Scientists will be able to conduct experiments on new planets and send information back to Kerbin for MASSIVE science points.
Getting to new planets in Kerbal Space Program is certainly an exciting experience, but it takes a lot of time to actually get to that stage. Don't expect to get to this point within an hour of starting up the game, and don't forget to bring more than just a pilot along when you do.
After you've explored what the solar system has to offer, you may find yourself wanting to see what else Kerbin has to offer, and take to the skies! It takes about 23 science points to get started in creating jet planes, but once you do, it can become a pretty wild ride. Jets can't make the journey into space, but they offer a quick way to see the entire planet of Kerbin. Jets also offer you a different method of learning science and reputation points. You get a good amount of points from making longer flights as well as breaking speed records. Exploring the skies of Kerbin is a small portion of the game, but it offers a fun bit of variety after some long hours of space travel.
graphics and sound
The look of Kerbal Space Program is a mix of cartoonish and realistic. The Kerbals themselves look goofy and overstated, which works toward the game's subtle humor, but when you get into the space station, it's no laughing matter. Parts that you can use to build ships are tight and intricate, and it's hard to imagine anything closer to the real thing. Squad decided to put the graphical power in where it really counts, on the characters and vehicles. That being said, the planets look to be a bit underworked. Textures are bland and monotone. At times, the only thing that kept me going when traversing a planet on my rover was how many research points I could get, rather than appreciating this new planet I had discovered. The weak planetary graphics make this game about the journey. While that's all well and good, spending an hour reaching an undiscovered dwarf planet to find it's just a flatland with different hues of red can make you feel unfulfilled.
The sounds are tight and satisfying. The music when you're building a ship has a lackadaisical feel that can put you at ease immediately after a devastating crash. The sound effects for the Kerbals are funny and never annoying. Squad loses no points in this area.
Kerbal Space Program isn't for the rage quitters out there. About 80% of the game consists of failure, so the trick is learning to accept your failures and grow. Once you do this, you're in for a super satisfying experience that you'll return to again and again.
For me, it was an inner learning experience. I looked deep inside myself and came to one conclusion; I'm not a rocket scientist. In spite of that, I had a blast (no pun intended) for over 30 hours with this game. Kerbal Space Program is something akin to a masterpiece that will have players everywhere criticising NASA for shutting down and constantly saying "Well it worked in Kerbal Space Program."
|+ Lets you be a rocket scientist without a college degree||– Huge learning curve|
|+ Hundreds of parts to unlock||– Rage inducing after several failures|
|+ Multiple planets and biomes to explore|
|+ Finally get to do the T-minus countdown several times a day|