2011 Space Game Holiday Buying Guide

Santa's Spaceship

Instead of "ho ho ho" he says "pew pew pew". ;)

So it’s the time of year where presents must be bought, whether for friends or loved ones, and if you have that person in your life that loves space games, or is new to space games and wants to play more, it can be confusing to know what to get ‘em. There are a goodly amount of choices out there when it comes to computer-based space games, but they all cater to different desires. Does the person for whom you plan to buy a space game prefer piloting a spaceship? Or maybe they want to be more of a tactician, commanding their forces like an admiral, or maybe they want to even control an entire space empire?

I’ve thought of the games that are still for sale these days, whether newish or not, and have come up with a list that I feel could cater to any space game fan, new or old. Click below to check out the list, complete with links to the various places you can buy the games listed.

Spaceship Pilot

  • Arvoch Alliance/Evochron Mercenary -StarWraith 3D games has been making indie space sims for many years, and these two latest ones cover linear combat and trading respectfully. Both are fun to play and quite accessible. Pick these up directly from the developer, or from either GamersGate or Impulse (Arvoch Alliance, Evochron Mercenary).
  • Freespace 2Freespace 2 is still the best combat-focused space simulator ever to hit the market, even 12 years after its release. With an amazing story, fantastic graphics even today — thanks to the folks behind the Open Source Project — and some of the best combat around, you can’t go wrong with this one. You can currently buy Freespace 2 on Good Old Games.
  • Independence War Series -The Independence War games are a bit more detailed and serious than the previously mentioned, because instead of flying a nimble fighter, you’re flying larger capital ship-style craft, and also have Newtonian physics to deal with on top of that. They’re wonderful games though, and you can get them on Good Old Games or you can get Independence War 2: The Edge of Chaos on its own at Impulse.
  • X3: Terran Conflict – The X games are very detailed space games and economic simulators, focusing on helping you build a vast economic empire. While I personally find the games a bit abstruse, many people like them for their economic aspects, so I felt it was worth including in this list. You can find this game on Steam, GamersGate or Impulse.

Space Tactician

  • Nexus: The Jupiter IncidentNexus is a wonderfully detailed tactical combat sim in which you control small fleets of ships battling it out for control of the Sol system. The graphics are still phenomenal even years later, and the gameplay is solid and deep. You can buy this game on Steam.
  • Space Pirates and Zombies -I’ve gushed aplenty about how awesome Space Pirates and Zombies is. If you’re unaware, SPAZ is a top-down action/arcade/rpg space tactical game wherein you control a small fleet trying to make its way through a randomly generated galaxy. It’s a damned fun game, and very accessible to new and old players alike. You can buy SPAZ directly from the developer, or from Impulse, GamersGate, Steam, Amazon, Greenman Gaming, Direct2Drive or Desura.
  • Space Rangers 2Space Rangers 2 is one of the best space games ever made, and I don’t say that lightly. With randomly generated universes, turn-based gameplay, a wealth of playstyles to choose from — from mercenary to trader to pirate — and an amazing array of options and detail, this is a must-have game for anyone interested in space games. You can currently get the complete game on Impulse, which is the best place to get it, currently.
  • Star Wolves Series – These pausable real-time space-based combat RPGs (that’s a mouthful) are a ton of fun to play, with varied options for your pilots and their ships, tense battles and great graphics. I reviewed the third one a while back and enjoyed it, but they’re all worth having. You can get these games on GamersGate, Steam, or through their publisher, 1C.
  • Starpoint Gemini – This relative newcomer to the field has a lot to offer, with real-time, tactical space combat that feels more naval than fighter-based — as it should with games of this type — as well as a detailed universe and fun gameplay. You can find this game on GamersGate.

Space Emperor

  • AI War – These games are a mix of RTS, 4X and tower defense gameplay, and are a lot of fun. They’re quite detailed and not the easiest things to get into, but they’re laden with deep gameplay and tons of longevity. You can get AI War Fleet Command and all of its expansions directly from the developer, or from SteamGamersGate or Matrix Games.
  • Distant Worlds with Expansions -The latest expansion for this game, Legends, was just released, and I’ll be covering it shortly, but just so you know, Distant Worlds is unlike many other 4X games. This game lets you put much of your empire on automation, allowing you to focus on the thing(s) you want to focus on without getting overwhelmed, which is good because the living universes in Distant Worlds are rich with treasures and horrors. This is one game you can play for years, and you’ll always have a different story to tell afterwards. You can get Distant Worlds, its first expansion, The Return of the Shakturi and the latest expansion, Legends, at Matrix Games.
  • Master of Orion 1/2 – Released more than fifteen years ago, Master of Orion and its sequel, Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares are still two examples of how to make a near-perfect space empire 4X game, and many games since have aspired to the lofty heights set by these two amazing games. Sure, their graphics are dates, but you’ll be hard pressed to find such an excellent mix of accessibility, playability, depth and replayability anywhere. You can get these on Good Old Games or GamersGate.

This list should give you plenty to choose from for the space game fan in your life. You can also ask me questions if you need specific suggestions. Thanks for reading, good luck in your shopping, and happy holidays! 

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12 Responses

  1. axevid says:

    Nice write-up, I totally agree with your choices. Unfortunately I had them all already :)

  2. Nikolaj says:

    I've been considering getting Space Rangers 2. I'm not very keen to get it on Impulse, though (why is that the best place to get it, anyway?), but I notice that there seems to be 3 different versions: Space Rangers 2, Space Rangers 2: Reboot, and Space Rangers 2: Dominators.

    What's the difference between these versions, and which one should I get? Btw, SR2: Dominators is half price on GOG, as part of their christmas sale.

    • Brian Rubin Brian Rubin says:

      See, I recommend Impulse because they call it SR2: Complete, which includes the original game, SR2: Dominators, and the expansion, SR2: Reboot.

      On Steam, they just call it SR2: Reboot, so I’m not clear as to whether that’s just the expansion or the entire game, and was hesitant to list it. On GoG, they just have the base game, Dominators, without the expansion, and the expansion adds a lot of cool stuff, so it’s worth getting.

      You can also get them on GamersGate, but it’s a bit more expensive than Impulse:

      http://www.gamersgate.com/DD-SR2/space-rangers-2 http://www.gamersgate.com/DD-SR2R/space-rangers-2http://www.gamersgate.com/DDB-SR12/space-ranger-c

      Which is why I stuck with Impulse, since it’s cheaper. The version I own is through Impulse and I’m quite happy with it. It’s an AMAZING game that you need to check out.

  3. Nikolaj says:

    Alright, thanks. I'll check it out.

  4. Clawbacker says:

    Aaargh! Where's Homeworld??!! And Freelancer? You've listed some good games but my Christmas list wouldn't be complete without these genre classics!

    • Brian Rubin Brian Rubin says:

      While those are classics, I tried to focus on more recent games, and also games you could still buy through legitimate sources, rather than second hand on amazon or ebay, you know? I tried to keep it simple.

  5. SolCommand says:

    From your list I'd have to say the best of the best …. of the best, are:
    Nexus The Jupiter Incident and Freespace 2
    I can't really chose between these two because they both shaped my past and had a big impact on me as a gamer.
    I highly recommend playing these games.

  1. 12/19/2011

    […] is having its massive Holiday Sale, and mane of the games I mentioned in my buying guide are on sale, […]

  2. 11/23/2012

    […] be honest, ourselves) for whatever reason or holiday you follow. :) If you recall, I did a holiday buying guide for 2011 last year that people seemed to find helpful, and a lot of the games on that list still apply. :) […]

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