Someone who goes by the name of “kerzain” on my favorite forum, Quarter to Three, hit me up with this idea, so I’ve gotta give credit and all that. :)
What if you were new to space games, and had no idea where to begin? What if you saw all of the available space games that have come before and had no idea which ones were good, bad, accessible, fun or anything else? Well, I’m here to help. I’ve tried to think and do research on which games I would give to someone just starting out in space gaming, depending on what kind of game they were looking for, and I’ve come up with six different categories and games to go with them.
So if you’re new to space gaming, and would like to know which games are great starting points for their respective types of gameplay, read on my friend. Hopefully you’ll be enlightened by what you find.
Overall Spacey Experience – Space Pirates and Zombies
I know I’ve pumped up this game in the past, but hear me out. Space Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ from now on) is an insanely accessible game that has bits of what make all space games great. First off, it has a great tutorial to get you started, and — at least to me — fairly gentle learning curve.
Furthermore, It’s got excellent space combat with lots of pew pew and boom boom. It has lots of spaceships of various designs to play around with, as well as lots of equipment to outfit those ships, so it has light spaceship building elements. It has light resource gathering elements through mining asteroids for rez, tractoring in escape pods for goons, and destroying ships to tractor in data.
It’s this data that adds to the light role playing elements, as data equates to experience points. You collect these to level up, in which you have access to research better hardware, so there’s a research element as well. All of these come together to make a detailed, deep and still accessible space gaming experience, one that I could easily recommend to anyone looking to see what the big deal is with space gaming. You can purchase SPAZ through the official site or through carious digital distribution retailers.
Space Fighter Combat – Freespace 2 (with Freespace Open Additions)
If, however, one is looking for a more…simmy experience and wants to fly a fighter from a first-person perspective, the easy choice is Freespace 2. Now, if you’ve played Freespace 2, you might be wondering “What the heck, Brian? Freespace 2 has a lot to keep track of and deal with at once, and might be overwhelming to new players.” In the case of many other space fighter sims, that might be correct.
However, Freespace 2 has a multitude of step-by-step, interactive tutorials that can help even the most green of space fighter pilots get a handle on the intricacies of space fighter combat. Everything from fighter control to weapons usage to situational awareness is covered in the tutorials, which can really help make a new pilot more comfortable with the game. Couple that with various difficulty settings, and the player can craft their game as they see fit, starting on Easy and moving up as they get more comfortable with the game.
Overall, if someone came up to me and asked which space fighter sim to start with, Freespace 2 would be the first, best choice I would give them. You can get the game on Good Old Games for a mere $6, and then download the FSOInstaller to download install the Freespace Open enhancements, which will give you up-to-date graphics that look INCREDIBLE. You can take a look at this video to see what I mean. Also, knowledge of the first game isn’t required, but you can get that on Good Old Games too, if you want.
Space Tactical Combat – Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon
If you’re looking for something a bit more tactical and slower paced, such as naval combat in space, there are a good deal of games to choose from. While I feel the Starfleet Command games do the best in this regard, if I were to suggest which game to start with in this arena, I’d have to go with a relatively little known, yet great game, Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon.
I’ll admit I’ve not played a heck of a lot of this game yet, but what little I have played makes it a simple choice. Combat is fairly slow paced, making it easy to get a handle on what’s going on around you, and the game also has a great tutorial to ease you into things. I know, it’s based on a Disney movie, but seriously, this game rises above that forgettable title to be something great entirely on its own. Sadly no digital distributors sell this game, but you can get it on Amazon or Ebay for relatively little money.
Space Trading – Space Rangers II
This was honestly the toughest category to choose. There are LOTS of space trading games out there, from simplistic games top-down games like the Flatspace and Escape Velocity games to full out sims such as the X and Evochron series. These games also require one to do math, which adds a level of complexity that many other space games don’t have. ;)
After thinking which of these might be the easiest to jump into, I figured that Space Rangers II would be the best choice. First off, it’s turn-based, meaning you can take your time in making your decisions. The game also has an excellent tutorial to introduce you to the game. The game’s dynamic economy works well and is easy to understand, and the game has a TON of variety that will keep you playing over and over again.
You can get Space Rangers II Complete at Impulse, which is the best place to get it with its expansion.
Space Real Time Strategy – Conquest: Frontier Wars
There are a lot of space-based RTS games to choose from, such as the amazing Homeworld series and other games like Sins of a Solar Empire. From an accessibility standpoint, I thought that the excellent Conquest: Frontier Wars would make a fantastic first stop on one’s journey into real time strategic space gaming.
First off, Conquest: Frontier Wars has a great tutorial that really helps get players eased into the game. The interface is simple to use and makes managing even multiple systems and supply lines easy, and the game has a wide variety of excellent missions as well as fantastic space combat. While again, there are lots to choose from, if I had to give a game to a space RTS n00b, Conquest: Frontier Wars would be my first choice. Sadly, you can’t get this through digital distributors, but is fairly inexpensive on Ebay or Amazon.
Space Turn Based Grand Strategy – Master of Orion I and II
This is, by far, the biggest and usually most complex subgenre of space gaming. Managing the power distribution of a space fighter is FAR different than managing an entire space opera. There are many, MANY games that cover this, usually known as 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) games, and the best of these, both from a gameplay and an accessibility standpoint, in my opinion, are the first two Master of Orion games (we don’t talk about the third one).
Both games are easy to get into, have simple, colorful interfaces and multiple difficulty levels to help ease in new players into the game. The game has a wide array of depth, from managing planets and research to ship building and fleet management. Thankfully none of this is difficult to grasp, thanks again to the simple interface, and before long, future galactic commanders will be managing their empires with ease and grace.
You can get Master of Orion I and II on Good Old Games for a pittance, and these include the manuals as well, which I highly suggest reading. If you can get over the early-to-mid-90’s graphics, you will find hours and hours, if not years of play time in these games.
So there you have it, the list of games I would give to a newbie looking to get into space gaming, based on the type of game they wanted to play. If you’re new to space gaming, I hope this article will enlighten and guide you toward finding the right game that works for you. If you have any questions about space gaming, also don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments or on through the contact page. Thanks for reading, and good luck!