Following the reveal of the harsh planet Hurston, the gritty city of Lorville and other inter-planetary treats at this year's CitizenCon, CGI are to release them to everyone as Star Citizen 3.3.5 goes live soon. Will everyone be impressed?
If all goes well, and from what we've actually experienced, the title will enjoy a renewed sense of wonder and excitement and gain even more backers. Let's not forget, Star Citizen is still a largely crowd-funded venture, to the tune of $200 million leveraged so far.
$200 million is a lot of hope, and the team will be expecting to repay some of this as release 3.3.5 goes live with the free-to-fly ships event.
AltChar has properly thrown our hat in the ring with Star Citizen, taking out a year's backer "subscription" to the game. Frankly, the whole fairly transparent development process of the promised space sim masterpiece is far too interesting not to. As a happy side effect, we have preferential access to the Public Test Universe and version 3.3.5 and that's where we've been this week.
So what's it like? Really rather impressive - in spite of the numerous bugs and glitches that come with any test environment and which shouldn't be there on live release. Up to now, Star Citizen has been little more than a demo of a game, with 3.3.5 it has started to shape up into an actual one.
The new city of Lorville on the planet Hurston is a great futuristic environment. Dirty, dusty and with the heavy hand of the planet's owner much in evidence, and not just in its breathtaking HQ building, pictured above.
The general feeling conveyed is one of a dystopian future, and while that's hardly a new thing, it's superbly imagined here, from the sinister security guards and the intimidating public service advertising, to the wonderful grubby mass transit system that saw us mimic the exact same signpost following behaviour we exhibit on the real London Underground.
Flying over the planet Hurston itself reveals a strip-mined wasteland. But here's the thing - you're flying at low altitude over a planet. It's what we were promised in the game and finally we have it. And spaceships are a thing that Star Citizen gets right, in look and general feel, even if we're awaiting a new "reactive and systemic" flight model that probably won't surface until version 3.5.
During the free event, newcomers and older hands alike will get to experience several dozen spaceships of various sizes and capabilities. And for us, they nearly all look bloody good.
You can also travel to several of Hurston's satellite moons, including our favourite, Aberdeen, with its strange atmosphere. Travel itself - quantum travel - between large bodies and outposts takes time. Our jump from Port Olisar to Hurston took around 11 minutes, down a hyperspace tunnel.
This is a design decision by Chris Roberts and his team, and certainly conveys a feeling of distance. Comms and other game features are available during this travel time, so there's stuff to kill that time with. However, some won't like it, and so Star Citizen isn't the game for them.
Overall, the aim of Star Citizen is to make the player feel like they're in a hard sci-fi film, and we'd say they're on a steady course to accomplishing just that. We also feel the title is pitched at the older and less impatient gamer market, and by that we mean people in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. We've even seen people requesting "paunchier" character models, which are apparently "on the way".
This could be a great decision by Cloud Imperium games, as it's increasingly evident that no one in their 20s actually has money anymore.
However, one major reservation we still have is that after you're done looking at how marvelous everything on the screen looks - what is there to do? Little currently.
More missions and interactivity with NPCs are certainly on the way, as well as Squadron 42 - the single player campaign - but at the moment Star Citizen remains like a wonderfully illustrated book, without too much substance beyond pretty visuals.
Yet still, CGI keep the temptations coming. Recently, we're starting to see some new glimpses of ArcCorp, another planet in the Hurston system, and one that is entirely covered in human-made structures, giving it the appearance of a vast armoured sphere.
Chris Roberts himself is looking more relaxed lately, as evidenced in his appearance on Around the Verse. It could be that with some of the game's more fundamental mechanics coming to completion, the actual content side of things is but a small concern. We all know that looks alone don't make a game though, gameplay does.
Backing Star Citizen is a bit like investing in a Portuguese exploration vessel to the Americas in the 15th century. It could come back laden with incredible treasures. Or everyone could get murdered by jungle backers.