I recently sat down with Into the Stars, a game mixing space sim and rogue-like elements that has entered Early Access on Steam. The outcome had me spending several more hours than I anticipated, even though I consistently failed at some point in my runs. That’s the first thing I figured out, that I was wholly unprepared for the game’s difficulty. And also that the game looks amazing. No doubt helped by the fact that it’s powered by Unreal.
Into The Stars was originally funded on Kickstarter and has now transitioned into Early Access.
The game from a mechanics standpoint has a lot of similarities to FTL: Faster Than Light. Another space sim rogue-like that has the player navigating space and avoiding an explosive and cold death. In FTL, you’re the captain of a small scout ship fighting a losing war against unnamed Rebels. Into the Stars raises the stakes. You play the captain of your civilizations 13th Ark ship. You are quite literally the steward of your planets fate; So no pressure.
The humongous Ark ships carries the last of the civilian population, some 10,000 in number, as well as a variety of resources and tools. All of which have to be managed by the player. All the while navigating the ship through a solar system fraught with danger, especially from the destructive alien race known as the Skorn. A race of menacing cyber organisms who have been trying to kill humanity for a decade.
The player starts by picking the various resources, crew loadouts, and equipment and launching their voyage. No fanfare here, you’re immediately thrown into the action in an expansive and immersive game world. The developers have been working constantly to ensure that the player meets many challenges. The densely packed solar system has lots to do, it’s packed to the point that you’ll be managing some crisis every couple minutes on average. The potential for emergent gameplay with Into The Stars is huge, and that’s exactly what Fugitive wants.
The various missions of planet exploration, resource gathering, and civilian and crew management all tie together into a well done series of distractions. But they all fall away in importance once the Skorn show up. The micromanagement that takes place during combat though familiar, is surprisingly difficult and brutal. Every time you take damage you’ll learn exactly how many people died; and the more immersed you are, the more it makes you cringe every time.
But it’s not all combat, there’s definitely backstory too. As players explore lost wrecks of previous Ark ships and uncover new information, you’ll learn more about not only the history of your people, but the Skorn and their motivations. These elements serve to turn Into the Stars from a standard rogue-like with a space paint job into an immersive and deep game that throws the player around like a chew toy.