Don't Overlook Avorion If You're Looking for a Space Sandbox
Since Minecraft became successful, many games have tried to create crafting experiences that replicate the same success. In these games, outer space tends to be the preferred setting.
We all know the formula by now. Crafting systems + procedural art + space.
Recently many games have managed to thrive using this concept, including Astroneer and Starbound, but another strong contestant has arrived in the market -- Avorion.
Developed by Boxelware, it was released on Steam on January 23, where it currently remains on Early Access, but has already stacked good impressions, with more than 600 reviews marked as "very positive" by the platform.
The questions that begs for an answer, however, is...
When so many games use the same formula, how does Avorion differentiates itself from its competitors?
We will analyze the game and find out through the next topics.
Sense of scale:
In most games, the camera remains close to the playable character, in order to give to players more precision in their movements, but in experiences that are all about exploration, this may counter the premise of the game.
In a close-up shot, the camera will successfully frame the main character, but while doing this, it may also make it difficult to communicate the size of the universe to the user.
In Avorion, however, the camera can go as far as even framing an entire planet, which helps to show to players the size of the universe they are playing in.
Another element that communicates well the scope of the game is the magnitude of the constructions players can create therein.
This game relies on scalable blocks to create ships and space stations (above).
This is a key difference between this game and the others on Steam. Through its visuals, it communicates with mastery how vast the room for exploration is and allows players to tackle much larger projects.
Which leads us to the next topic...
As the developer states in its page on Steam:
"There are no limits to ship size or complexity besides your resources"
While other games in the space exploration genre feature choices, in regards to how to explore and what to do with the resources players gather, in Avorion, choices are presented a bit differently to the audience.
As the quote above says, players can build ships that are as large as they wish, as long as they have the resources to build it, but they need to think carefully about the size of their vessels.
Maneuverability and energy consumption are two characteristics players must keep in mind when building their ships, but there are many others, as the developer explains:
"Adjust your ships perfectly to their operational purpose by building light and agile or heavily armored ships. Build specialized transport ships with lots of cargo space or heavily armored battleships with strong shields."
This is the type of choice that will make players think before building their ships, thus adding more depth to the gameplay, as users will perceive the impact their choices have in the outcomes of how the game plays.
In this game, players will not only build a ship to cruise through space. Combat is a vital part of the gameplay of this title.
Adding to the choices players need to make, in regards to the stats of their ships as they craft them, they can also craft guns and choose which one works best for their style of play.
The weapons can vary from chainguns to lasers and each behave differently, leaving to players the mission of figuring it out which one works best for their style and/or for the objective they have in mind.
Through the previous slides, we have introduced the sense of scale of the game, its system to build ships and guns for it, but now it is time to share this experience with others.
The game features two online modes -- cooperative and player versus players.
The multiplayer experience in this game is also grounded on choice.
As the developer describes it:
"Team up with your friends to build stations together and destroy pirates and enemy factions! Work together to extend your influence in the galaxy and build your own empire. Or, you know, blow them apart in large PvP battles. It's a sandbox, you can do whatever you want."
While this game does rely on the old formula, it offers many interesting twists. Its sense of scale presents to players a grander view of the universe and communicates better the size of the exploration that can be done.
This works together with the choices players need to make when crafting items and building their ships, as they must have a clear goal and build a ship that serves this purpose, keeping its specs in mind.
On top of that, players can either travel through space or engage in combats, alone or with the help of their peers.
Through the qualities above and many more, Avorion is game that will continue to gain momentum on Steam as it prepares for its full release on Q3 2017.
If you are a fan of this genre, this is a title that you should strongly consider to invest your time and money on.