Do you dream of going to space? Could you lead the next Apollo mission? Are you convinced that you can do a better job than North Korea? Then I have the game for you! Kerbal Space Program by Squad, is a sandbox game where you’re the head of the space program for a hopeful race of aliens called Kerbals. The game is still under heavy development, but it can be pre-purchased at kerbalspaceprogram.com for $23.
The price tag might seem a little high for an indie game that’s only on version 0.18.4, but a quick glance into some of the videos on YouTube will show that the core gameplay is solid. For $23 you get access to the game at your time of purchase and you get all future updates. This is the same as Minecraft’s original payment system. KSP (common shorthand for the game) also has a large modding community which offers nearly limitless content and possibilities for the game.
KSP was just ported to Unity 4 which greatly improved performance. The game is quite hardware intensive because it’s basically one huge physics simulation. I’m currently running it on low settings on a three year old Sony laptop with no major problems. The Unity 4 system has improved framerate significantly, but it crashes fairly often as it was just ported over recently.
The objective of KSP is whatever you make it. You’re given a set of parts to build your vehicles with and then you can launch them and do as you please. There are two ways to build and launch vehicles. The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is optimized for building vertically and uses the Launchpad. This is where you go to build rockets and other space-faring vehicles. The Space Plane Hangar allows the player to build horizontally. It’s connected to a runway which opens up a ton of options.
KSP is a game that becomes what you make it. You can easily lose hours setting up orbits and burns to get your Kerbals to some far off planet. You could also spend hours perfecting a design for some aircraft. If you ever find yourself stuck for ideas, all of the communities for the game have weekly challenges to test your skills and creativity. One of my favorite is reddit/r/KerbalSpaceProgram.
Currently KSP features part for rockets, space planes, space stations, jet planes and satellites. The modding community has something for almost all other space related construction. As development progresses, new parts and features to support them keep being added. One of the larger recent updates added all of the planets in the Kerbin system and their respective moons.
KSP is not an easy game. Landing your first ship on Mun (the moon) is a challenge for most beginners. Returning that ship to Kerbin (the Earth equivalent planet) is another challenge entirely. My first successful mission took four hours of straight gameplay. Beforehand, I spent countless days failing landings, blowing ships up mid-flight, losing control, running out of fuel and researching orbit physics.
If you ever find yourself stuck, the community has made a plethora of tutorials that can teach you everything you need to know to be a master astrophysicist (at least in the Kerbin universe). One of the best creators of tutorials is Scott Manley on YouTube. He’s very intelligent and applies astrophysics concepts to pull off amazing feats in-game. He can send a rocket built with seven pieces to other planets, while most players struggle to get their first ship into orbit around Kerbin.
Kerbal Space Program is an amazing game that delivers an experience unlike anything I’ve ever played. The thought and time put into missions leads to amazingly rewarding gaming moments. There’s currently no campaign (though the button is there) so the game leaves it up to you to challenge your skills and knowledge. I highly recommend this game. I also recommend using a flight stick if you like the idea of space-planes.
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