Space has often had an almost romantic appeal, from the very first trip outside of our little blue orb, all the way to the present day. You only have to look at the Jupiter mission and the recent Mars Curiosity mission, to see how lovingly we view the worlds in our solar system, and how that represents our deep longing to see the stars. It’s this romantic side of space travel that RymdResa is trying to capture.
Using a top down viewpoint, coupled with its very stylised retro visuals, RymdResa is a roguelike game that does something quite unthinkable in today’s definition of the genre: it eschews the deliberately punishing gameplay in favour of a more relaxing, exploratory theme. This is accompanied by a series of poetic verses, either in diaries scattered around the randomly generated universe, or upon reaching certain numbers of years in space. Honestly, sometimes the poems make it seem like the game is trying to be deep and thought-provoking, but many of them were just nonsense to me. Some of them sound like the ramblings of a person going slowly mad, alone in their travels, some are genuinely intriguing, but none of them really add anything to the experience. Though perhaps that’s the point?
Playing the game is easy enough. Using a simple point-and-click interface, your chosen ship will always face in the direction of the cursor and holding the left mouse button will engage the craft’s thrusters, which is used for general travel, but also to correct your course or to slam on the brakes. This is particularly useful when a meteor hurtles across your path, or you find yourself heading into a nearby sun. Given the almost claustrophobic field of view however, this is sometimes easier said than done, as the camera is so zoomed in that you’ll often find meteors hitting you before you’ve even registered that they’re there. Again, perhaps this limited view is to accentuate the claustrophobia of space travel, but that doesn’t make the design choice any less unacceptable in a game with finite ship life.
This finite life comes in the form of resources, a general term that encompasses fuel for your ship and living supplies for its squishy, mortal pilot, acting as your life bar. It’s similar to that very popular (and incredibly entertaining) other space-based roguelike, FTL. In more than just its setting, resource management and genre. But unfortunately it doesn’t have the same sense of purpose that fills FTL, there’s no real endgame or plot, and although it’s not necessary, it does rob RymdResa’s players of a reason to play. Its main game offers a kind of tutorial level that then unlocks progression through three missions, each with their own objectives, but it recycles the same material gathering mechanic with every mission. The third mission is the absolute worst though, as it requires the completion of an obscene amount of fetch quests and it also introduces enemies for the first time, which rather goes against the more relaxing spirit that the game advertises. And again, the game’s viewpoint lets it down, as you find yourself drifting into range of enemy ships far too easily and with no real warning of their approach.
Actually travelling through space can be quite tranquil though, when it’s at its best. There’s a fair amount of relaxation in keeping your ship moving, using the right mouse button to scan derelict ships and planets on your journey, in order to find precious resources to keep your ship in the air. Some of these scans result in a mini quest of sorts, again bringing to mind FTL as the game describes a situation involving the current planet/derelict and gives you a number of options as to how you proceed. Do you board the derelict ship to find parts to repair your damaged escape pod, or risk it and eject the pod? Boarding may also net you some extra resources or Spacepoints (the currency for buying new ships for subsequent playthroughs), or it could damage your ship somehow and possibly leave you stranded in space with no refuelling station nearby. This adds an extra layer of depth when you’re trudging through the campaign’s fetch quests, and it also adds a little bit of mystery and atmosphere to the game.
There’s a hint of an RPG-lite system to RymdResa, too. Gathering materials and scanning planets, etc. will earn you experience points (XP), and every year spent in space will net a nice bit of bonus XP, which can be spent on upgrading various things to benefit your travels. Levelling your pilot can improve the chances of a successful scan, or will yield more resources from searching planets, that kind of thing. This is especially useful in the game’s Sandbox mode, in which there are no missions from which to gain XP, so any bonus to resource gathering and XP gains is an absolute godsend. Unfortunately, Sandbox mode highlights how little there is to do in RymdResa, and you’ll soon grow tired of just floating aimlessly in space. Unlike the open nature and trade structure of Star Nomad 2 or Elite: Dangerous, there’s nothing to really keep you going after you’ve finished RymdResa’s already limited campaign. Sandbox mode is also quite broken, as accidentally trying to access your mission log will result in a total game lock-up, forcing you to quit via the Alt+F4 method. This can be acceptable in an incomplete Early Access game, but not at all in a full release.
Despite its flaws, RymdResa offers a mostly relaxing experience and is something a little different from the norm. It’s never going to reach the top of the charts or become any kind of viral success for the Youtube/Twitch generation, but it’s an interesting title that’s at least worth a look. But maybe wait until it drops in a Steam sale.
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