Star Citizen – Gamescom 2016 Live Demo Impressions

While most people in 2016 were waiting with baited breath for space-exploration simulator, No Man’s Sky, I – among many, many others who were also looking forward to it had something else that was even more exciting looking, and even more ambitious looking than No Man’s Sky and it’s hundred billion zillion planets. We were more interested in Star Citizen.

A game also of space exploration and countless planets to land on and explore (with actual sized planets that would take you months to walk across) but with something much more important that seems to be lacking from No Man’s Sky – a plot. A story. A decent narrative with A-List actors including Gary Oldman and Gillian Anderson. For a glimpse into the background and some of the story, check out the video below showing a rousing speech from Gary Oldman as Admiral Bishop.

That’s given you a taster to begin with, and it looks and sounds great! A galaxy at war, the Vanduul threatening the human race, and goosebumps-a-plenty. And at Gamescom 2016, a full 50+ minute live demo was shown and is now on YouTube and I’ve watched through it to give you some impressions.

The demo kicks off with the player being given a mission from a character, Miles Eckhart, for a “possible security job” to travel to Levski to meet him. The game shows off it’s co-operative skills right from the start, by playing the mission as a “mini multi-crew mission” where one player is the lead pilot, with the other as the “all performing action-hero”.

The graphics are just stunning from the very beginning and showing the docking area with the planet showing in the background is just ridiculously beautiful for a computer game. What was very clear as well, when the 2 players were interacting, was the amount of visible interaction that could be had, it reminded me a little of the interactions you can have with the 2 robots in Portal 2.

star citizen demo 1

The amount of detail within the game looks absolutely ridiculous, the galaxy map at first looking like a pale imitation of a game like Mass Effect, but then as you zoom in, the details start bursting out.

The demo progresses to your little ship, the Freelancer, travelling to Levski, and passing a couple of stations towards the planet Delmar [sic] itself – the gameplay itself looks phenomenal, with Star Citizen creator, Chris Roberts, stating:

“Every planet, every moon will be fully done, rendered, physicalized – you can land on any part of them, walk all the way around it if you want, if you’ve got months to do that, ’cause they’re quite large! Delmar here is about 2,000km in diameter, and you can actually see if you look at the curvature. So we don’t have any clip range or draw range, so when you see something in the distance on the planet, the horizon line is actually the real horizon line.”

Basically, the game is ridiculously enormous. The planets that you see, and the planet you see in the video is actually that size – you can land anywhere on it, and distances are real, not relative.

star citizen demo 2

The video shows a lot of the physics and the overall look and feel of the game which is something I cannot wait to get my teeth into. The way the Freelancer flies after it’s entered Delmar’s atmosphere it quite different, even just from looking at it, you can see the effects gravity and drag are having on the overall way the ship flies – it’s brilliant. It’s less of a game, and more a work of art.

The way the game will be massively-multiplayer and the way it will be a “persistence universe” could create some issues as far as the amount of people coming and going from the various stations, docks and ports – but you will be assigned landing pads in order, much like an airport I would assume, and given a window of time to land. Once landed you’ll leave the Freelancer which will be taken to a hangar, allowing for the landing pad to be available for others.

Chris Roberts also mentioned the multiplayer aspect of Star Citizen with a not-so-subtle dig at No Man’s Sky:

“The other big thing that I think is really important with Star Citizen is, we are absolutely a multiplayer game. So you and your friends can adventure around in a huge universe and for me I think that’s really important especially when you try to have a big detailed world, otherwise it gets a bit lonely.”

Subtle Chris, real subtle.

Something that strikes me as a sign of how far gaming has come in this demo though, is loading screens. It wan’t a million years ago, that games would have a loading screen between the varying sections. The Grand Theft Auto games stick out for me mainly, the loading screens between islands for example in Vice City – a very small map in real terms, but with long load times. But here, you’ve gone from space, flying a huge distance to the planet, through the atmosphere, landed, had a little walk, taken off again, docked and left the Freelancer on the landing pad and not a load screen to be seen.

“Aah but then he get’s in an elevator – famously used in Mass Effect on the Citadel as an alternative to traditional loading screens.” I hear you smugly say. And yes while this is true, with the player on the Star Citizen demo using an elevator, in the game it’s an actual working elevator with inner workings to it. It is not another load screen, but a “living” piece of the overall station where you’ve docked.

To show the persistent universe in its absolute glory, at around the 17.30 mark in the demo, you see the first of the 2 players inside the Levski base, about to look out of a window, with the second player still in the Freelancer hovering outside the same window after having taken off. I can’t think of a better actual example of how the universe in this game truly will be persistent and could potentially be the best working example of a living universe within a game ever made.

star citizen demo 3

The trailer shows a small part of the story, as mentioned earlier, a mission from Miles Eckhart who was within the Levski base to retrieve a ships black box following an incident with some outlaws. On accepting the mission and finally getting back into the Freelancer, the first player climbs into a rear turret due to the dangerous area they were due to travel to.

The demo then showed off some of the space combat in the game, and again, like with every part up to now, it did not disappoint. Graphically spot on, the gameplay looked smooth, the music and sound effects absolutely on point – all in all, exactly the kind of game sci-fi nuts like me love.

After fighting their way to the derelict ship on which to find the black box, there was no docking procedure, they just opened the back door and the first player jumped out to space-walk to the derelict and find a way in – and this is where the FPS portion of the game kicked in, with bandits seemingly already on-board the ship to fight through to reach their target. Again, no real transition, it was all smoother than silk from being in the Freelancer flying and in a space based dog-fight to being in a solid looking FPS.

star citizen demo 4

After completing the mission and retrieving the black-box data, the first player comes across the much anticipated Drake Dragonfly within the derelict’s cargo hold – like a spaceship had a baby with a speeder bike from Star Wars – completely and utterly fantastic.

The demo for Star Citizen ends with a little skirmish with more bandits on the moon of Delmar, showing off the capability of the Freelancer as a support vehicle whilst in FPS combat, showing another land vehicle which again (sorry for the regular comparisons) reminded me of Mass Effect, in particular the Mako.

There is a twist in the story at the end of the demo, and again it shows the importance of a narrative in games even like this – showing that a game that’s style and no substance will not last.

You can watch the demo in its entirety below and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you are anywhere near interested in getting Star Citizen, or hell, if you’re on the fence about No Man’s Sky – watch it from start to finish. I know which game of the 2 I’ll be investing in.

If you’ve made it through this article, you’re a trooper! And if you’ve watched through the Star Citizen demo, you’re even more of a trooper. Now, let us know what you think? Does it look like the game you wanted No Man’s Sky to be? Does it look too much? Whatever you think, you can let us know in the comments below or in the RGM Forums.