The perfect videogame for people into stargazing

I like to dream about space—the flowering alien plant life light years away from Earth, the planets circling a big burning star rivaling our sun. It’s water on Mars and planets made up of swirling gas that I think about, too. I’ll conjure up in my mind the planets lurking just beyond our solar system’s reach, though some day I won’t have to: in January, planetary scientists Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown discovered evidence of what they believe is a Neptune-sized planet that orbits our sun every 15,000 years: Planet X. Unlike me, Batygin and Brown are actually searching for new planets—perhaps to make…


Starbound rockets you back to childhood

Socrates asserted that “man must rise above Earth to the top of the atmosphere and beyond, for only then will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” This sentiment is at least in part why NASA was established, and why investments are made in “NASA’s grand dream.” It’s why Elon Musk’s SpaceX was able to raise over $1 billion for spaceship manufacturing from companies like Google, with rocket rides for the public booked out for years. And maybe it’s why many of us, as kids, couldn’t help but stare up at the vast, velvet expanse of the night…


Venineth promises nothing but ancient alien landscapes

Venineth’s internet presence is currently composed of three narrative-less videos, a handful of screenshots, and a loose description of an exploration-based puzzle game. Besides that, what you’ll be doing in its world is unknown. Their website mentions “ancient alien technology,” but the worlds that have been shown so far are barren but for a few beams of blue light. There are no characters, at least that have been shown so far, and no words, just a pinball-esque reference point for the player—you literally play as a ball—that rolls gently around the desert. It pushes one of the blue lights to…


Every creature in No Man’s Sky is a dog

You drift slowly into the unnamed planet’s atmosphere, eager to set your spacecraft down and explore the endless possibilities put forward by the procedurally generated landscape. The ship begins to shake gently as you make your descent, the view outside reduced to a motion blur of saturated colors as the stars and sky blend seamlessly together. After breaking through the clouds and surveying the area, you pick a safe patch of ground to steer your ship toward. Perhaps this planet is full of water or giant rock formations. Is the fauna abundant here, or nonexistent? The ship has landed safely—it’s…

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky is a theater of processes

I remember making a mental note when I read that Sean Murray’s “favorite thing” in No Man’s Sky were the space station windows. On two separate occasions, he even went so far as to take people directly to the same window, as if it was one of the prime features of the game. “I’m going to show you the stupidest thing,” explained Murray to IGN, “A videogame window,” quickly adding “but it’s super-cool.” It seemed like a particularly odd thing for him to say. Here was Murray, the face of a game with 18 quintillion planets, a game whose selling…


Spaceplan gives you a delicate view of the universe

Jake Hollands’s Spaceplan starts with a blank screen, the controls of your space ship are damaged, and the only way to start it up is to click on the Kinetigen on the top left of your screen. I click, and every click gives me a single watt of power. Solar panels, I’m then informed, will cost 10 watts. Uh oh. It appears I’ve found myself a clicker. This is a disaster. Clicker games have been my kryptonite since I left my computer powered up for six weeks in university to corner the cookie market in Cookie Clicker (2013), and when I did the same…

A Light in Chorus

A Light in Chorus gets a proper story to go along with its magical visuals

We’ve had our eyes on Broken Fence Games’s A Light in Chorus for a while now. It’s hard not to look at this game, because it’s absolutely stunning. Its world is composed of glowing dots, like a starfield held in tremulous pointillism. So far that visual allure has made for gorgeous screenshots and GIFs, but the meat of A Light in Chorus—that is, how do you interact with this world?—has remained pleasantly elusive. I’m not asking “how you play it;” I’m not hoping to, like, max out my light-viewing skill tree or anything (please, no!). Our own Jess Joho did impressive work last year…


In Stellaris, every star looks the same

There’s a moment in Dreamer of Dune—Brian Herbert’s 2003 biography of his father, science fiction author Frank Herbert—that is worth noting for the way it skirts the idea of reference in sci-fi. It describes the Herberts’ reaction to the release of Star Wars in 1977: “The film was shocking to me, for all the similarities between it and my father’s book, Dune. Both featured an evil galactic empire, a desolate desert planet, hooded natives, strong religious elements, and a messianic hero with an aged mentor. Star Wars’ Princess Leia had a name with a haunting similarity to Dune’s Lady Alia…

echo ultra-ultra

ECHO’s huge, ancient palace among the stars is full of intrigue

Humanity has been looking up at the stars since we can remember, fascinated with the mystery and wonder promised by the vast expanse of space. For a very long time it was untouchable, destined to be spun into myth by societies with the desire but without the resources to understand why the sun and moon switched places every day. Now, of course, we can quantify phenomenons that would have been unbelievable a century ago, and the stars are a little less mysterious for it. Edgar Allen Poe sent a man in a balloon to the moon in 1835 and scientists…