Living in space sounds like a claustrophobic nightmare, and Ostranauts isn’t doing much to change my opinion on the matter. Billed as a “noir spaceship-life sim”, it’s the next from Neo Scavenger studio Blue Bottle Games, and set in the same universe. Earth is completely screwed by forces both man-made and cosmic, so players get to manage a small ship, trying to make ends meet in a solar system in the throes of (very) late capitalism. The game’s full nature is still a mystery, but it’s reminding me of The Sims, Duskers and Space Station 13. Take a peek at the teaser trailer below.
Ostranauts appears to be a game of equal parts mechanical, financial and social management. You’ve got realistic control panels to get your ship from A to B, dock safely or manage its systems, but what goes on inside the ship seems just as important. The few screenshots on its store and official pages are still full of debug text, but interesting reams of character flavour, too. One screen even shows a drop-down menu featuring social interactions as varied as ‘Dark Joke’ ‘Offer Smoke’ ‘Flirt’ and ‘Commiserate’. Ostranauts is to small-talk as Neo Scavenger was to inventory management.
As with Neo Scavenger, there will be a fragmented story to reassemble, but only if you want to. There’s weird things going on in the solar system – the kind of stuff you waded through in Neo Scavenger – but beyond that the game is governed by ‘hard-ish’ science. No FTL travel or force fields, but it’s set far enough in the future for the remnants of mankind to live in scattered colonies on other worlds, even if it’s a meagre existence. Ships are apparently fully modular, letting you tweak and customise their hulls, while you’ve just got to live with the personality quirks and needs of your AI-driven human crew.
It all sounds horribly intense, but apparently the game offers a variable time-scale with pause. You can fast-forward through the long quiet times, or pause to issue precise commands in the middle of a crisis. Whether it’ll be as low-stress as the developers intend (mostly just ex-Bioware guy Daniel Fedor) is yet to be seen. Honestly, I’m expecting a lot of failure, death and bankruptcy before I figure out what’s going on, but maybe I’m just a little scarred by my many Neo Scavenger deaths. The game is due out late this year, although nobody’s putting any kind of firm date on it. Still, this one’s intriguing – I’ll be keeping close eye on it.