Contested Space – Sandbox Warfare Gone Blocky on Kickstarter

Contested Space offers a fully customizable, player run sandbox MMO. No narratives or NPCs exist, merely players, their stations, and space junk.
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A long time ago, there was a young boy who loved Star Wars. He was obsessed with it, talking about it almost constantly. He loved the games that spawned from it, especially X-Wing Alliance. He played far too many hours of it than he should have, before finally putting it away, quietly waiting for the next great space flight simulator.

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It’s been over a decade since I was that young boy, and yet I feel like I’m eight year-old me again as I sit down and play Contested Space‘s prototype. It doesn’t matter that my PC lags a small to fair amount when the battles get intense, or that the battle is limited mainly to one area for the time being. I’m finally playing a flight sim that reminds me why I played them in the first place.

In Contested Space, you choose one of three factions, Red, Blue, and Green (A fourth, pirate faction is hinted at in the ship designer menus but was not playable) and battle for the universe across the stars. Players create their own stations and ships, so everything from the political movements in the sectors down to the placement of torpedo bays and engines on your ship can be shifted by your choosing. Friendly fire is even enabled for crazy double crosses and tragic mishaps in battle.

You also are given an array of different classes to choose from. Players are given limits for length, volume, and turrets per-class, but otherwise it’s up to you. Do you make a frigate armed solely with auto-locking torpedos and a pack of engines so you can run through, firing off left and right before you’re hit. Do you make a bank of laser turrets across a battlecruiser shaped like a Cylon Battlestar? I personally favored a small and maneuverable frigate packing just enough firepower to take out enemies from afar as I zipped across the battle before going in for the kill. Other players stuck to larger ships, holding the line as squadrons came to support them.

Ships control great thanks to a flexible middle of the road design for movement. You can adjust pitch, rotation, and yaw but also focus primarily on keyboard directions and mouse movement. The level of detail you put into your manuevers is just as flexible as the ships you pilot. The only thing the prototype really lacks at this point is a more in-depth HUD, which presently mimics the game’s minimal cubist graphics. While the art direction lends a feeling of playing with your LEGOs in mock battles in fantastic ways, it’d be nice to have a bit more information, such as whether a missile is targeting you or not.

The more grand scale focus on player driven factions and the universe isn’t as clearly on display in the prototype though, since it all is happening in one central zone. When I played, chat seemed to either not be included or had at least been disabled, so we all had to work silently together like as if we were playing Killzone 3 public servers.

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Elijah Beahm
Grumpily ranting at this computer screen since before you were playing Minecraft. For more of my work: