Space has long been a mystery and a source of desire for us here on Earth. If humanity runs out of resources, the logical place to look is to the stars. Ostranauts, from Blue Bottle Games, puts you in the role of a new ship captain, amassing your resources and team to travel the galaxy.
Blue Bottle Games, developers of the critically acclaimed Neo Scavenger, return with a space management simulator set in the Neo Scavenger world. Set after the collapse of Earth, the System is a capitalist dystopia, and players find themselves in the role of a fresh ship captain, tasked with building their own crew and guiding them to greatness. Power source management, hunger, failing batteries, missing conduits, and space police are some of the things you’ll be dealing with, on top of ensuring that your crew sustains their own sanity. A management sim to the fullest extent, Ostranauts is perfect for the player that wants to control every little detail.
An important disclaimer: Ostranauts is new to Early Access and is still very early in development. Blue Bottle Games has provided a roadmap for feature goals and implementation, but as with any other Early Access title, this is not reflective of the what the final product will look like. That being said, the game shows a lot of promise, and for fans of the genre, getting in on the ground floor might just be what you’re looking for.
STORY – FRESH BEGINNINGS
Ostranauts starts in the bathroom of your ship. A number of objectives appear, guiding you to explore the area below deck. First and foremost, players are asked to look in the mirror to determine their appearance, name, and preferred pronouns. Currently, players cannot customize the character appearance in detail, the only option is a randomize button. However, there are so many hairstyles, skin colors, scars, even vitiligo, that players are likely to find an appearance that they relate to or prefer.
Once done in the bathroom, you move on to the Career Kiosk and choose a starting path. How you answer questions in this kiosk is important, and your choices will directly result in the amount of money you start with for supplies. When in doubt: hack it out. No matter your answers, the same basic premise is the same: you’ve been dreaming of your own ship your whole life, and now the opportunity is upon you.
There’s a handy supply kiosk in the next room where you can grab necessities such as a crowbar, work lamp, food, and conduit pieces. Ensuring you launch with satisfactory supplies is an important first step on your interstellar journey! You are now go for launch.
GAMEPLAY – CLICK AROUND AND FIND OUT
Ostranauts is primarily controlled with a mouse cursor and the W/A/S/D keys. While inside your ship, movement is handled through mouse clicks, and actions are executed through the right-click menu. This menu is contextual to whatever you have clicked on, be it your character, the floor, or a heater. Every part of your ship will need to be supported or repaired at some point, so ensuring a manageable layout for access and storage will be a top priority.
Players will need to be attentive to battery levels, hull damage, oxygen levels, vacuum pressure, and conduit lines, and that’s just ship issues. Your character will encounter a wide range of problems, including hunger, temperature, and emotional stability. Being alone in space can be traumatic, be sure to write home to your family! As you grow your crew, each crew member will also have their own emotional and psychological needs. There’s a lot of plates to spin, and at this stage of development instruction is minimal, so a lot of progression is going to be tied to failing and learning.
But that’s just the things to handle inside the ship. Spaceships are known for flying! To grow your enterprise, you’ll need to travel to derelict ships and scavenge what you can to either outfit your own team or sell at trading posts and colonies. Getting through space to these derelicts is a delicate procedure, as you must ensure not to overshoot your target, or send your rotational thrusters into a tailspin. Docking is incredibly satisfying once you get the hang of it, and is done through a wire-frame alignment interface, giving you that futuristic space pilot feeling. Physically venturing in to these derelicts can be profitable or deadly, as there is no power and you must grope your way through, grabbing what valuables and tools you can along the way.
GRAPHICS – OLD SCHOOL COOL
Graphics are not always the main draw of system management simulations. The “endorphin loop” is usually tied to trying, failing, trying, and succeeding at making everything run smoothly. Ostranauts presents the actual player movement and ship interiors from a top-down viewpoint, with a great looking pixel-based art style. It’s simple when it needs to be, and ensures that you can keep track of your conduits and broken technology.
Flying through space is done through a virtual control screen. Your ship appears as a classic triangle, just like in Asteroids. This helps cut down on system load, and keeps things simple when flying through the vastness of space. Half of the screen looks like a computer station, and gives off an aesthetically pleasing look that any fans of space simulations will appreciate. There’s lots of buttons and toggles to press and flip, and they are all labeled relatively well. Characters are simple 3D models that you’ll be zoomed away from most of the time anyway, but their character portraits are fantastic.
The dev team has released multiple updates to address bug fixes this weekend alone, so progress is coming along nicely to ensure a great experience. I’m really excited about the character variety implemented at this stage, and I can’t wait to see what additional appearance options the developers might add in the future.
Ostranauts was previewed on Steam Early Access. A key was provided by Modern Wolf.