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Does the type of space sim I'm looking for exist?

Jeeves

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So forgive me if my description's a little all over the place, but I'd like to look at some space sim games on PC that are mostly about flying a space ship in a 3D space, but you also get to walk around the ship while it's following a course or something, preferably in first-person. Think of Subnautica, in which you can walk around your submarine while stuff is going on in real time in the surrounding world -- that's the kind of experience I'm hoping for.

Other stuff I'd like to see:
Open world (or large sectors at least)
Multiple ships that can be bought or built
Trading or otherwise doing space merchant or smuggling stuff
Dogfights
Piloting ships in first or third person
Big ships, little ships, maybe ships that can dock into other ships?
Wouldn't say no to some planetary exploration either, as long as it doesn't steal the focus from open space stuff

I think I'm willing to look at games from the past 15 years or so. I've looked at Steam a bit but every space sim game I see so far just has screenshots of the outside of ships, sometimes a cockpit view, but never stuff where you're playing a character independent of the ship. Regarding this genre though, I've kind of been living under a rock. Any recommendations?
 

Jeeves

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GHG

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As others have mentioned, Elite Dangerous is pretty much your only option, especially if you want to play with a HOTAS.
 

ToadMan

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Objects In Space is an indie retro style. It’s a smaller game though - like with a lot of these they didn’t really finish.

Elite Dangerous is the full game that does what you want. It’s really great.

The X games do a similar job but with those you can end up managing a fleet rather than piloting. Personally I never enjoyed them as much because the space part doesn’t feel empty and dark enough.

I’d love to see such a game in the Star Wars universe so I could buy my own correlian corvette and do some smuggling. But no one seems to have made that game 🙄

No man’s sky is partly there too although I don’t think you can walk around the ships.
 
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Jeeves

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Stealth star citizen thread? They're getting smarter...
Ehh, I've never actually seen that game but everything I've heard about it makes it sound like some kind of weird money sink.
Elite Dangerous is the full game that does what you want. It’s really great.
By that do you mean you can walk about on the ships and stuff? Couldn't find anything like that in the trailers/screens I looked at.
I’d love to see such a game in the Star Wars universe so I could buy my own correlian corvette and do some smuggling. But no one seems to have made that game 🙄
Hell yeah, that would be a dream come true.
 
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PuppetMaster

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Let me tell you about a little game called KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM!
  • space ship in a 3D space - YES
  • but you also get to walk around the ship while it's following a course -YES. You can even space walk outside it.
  • Open world - YES
  • Multiple ships that can be bought or built - YES
  • Trading - YES. You trade Research for cash
  • Piloting ships in first or third person - YES
  • Big ships - YES
  • little ships -YES
  • maybe ships that can dock into other ships? -YEESSS!!!
 
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ToadMan

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Ehh, I've never actually seen that game but everything I've heard about it makes it sound like some kind of weird money sink.

By that do you mean you can walk about on the ships and stuff? Couldn't find anything like that in the trailers/screens I looked at.

Hell yeah, that would be a dream come true.


“Coming soon” ...
 
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Jeeves

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Let me tell you about a little game called KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM!
  • space ship in a 3D space - YES
  • but you also get to walk around the ship while it's following a course -YES. You can even space walk outside it.
  • Open world - YES
  • Multiple ships that can be bought or built - YES
  • Trading - YES. You trade Research for cash
  • Piloting ships in first or third person - YES
  • Big ships - YES
  • little ships -YES
  • maybe ships that can dock into other ships? -YEESSS!!!
Interesting! I was under the impression this game was mostly about engineering ships and testing their spaceworthiness. Are there NPCs flying other ships around that I can interact with too?
 

Sean Mirrsen

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There was a really old game called Parkan, where you did most of those things. You were limited to just your ship though, the titular Parkan cruiser, but you could walk around it, do the usual fly/fight/trade things, capture planetary bases and make them your own, etc. Fun game, but limited by the tech of its time.

Parkan II was a thing, but it was plagued with technical issues and didn't really succeed. Did let you purchase different ships though.

Interesting! I was under the impression this game was mostly about engineering ships and testing their spaceworthiness. Are there NPCs flying other ships around that I can interact with too?
No. As much as I like KSP, it probably doesn't fit your requirements. It's literally a game about running a space program, there's nobody out there except the people you put up there yourself.

Although if construction is a thing you're not averse to, and you don't mind Minecraft style graphics, there's a game called StarMade. Granted the NPCs are usually pirates that want to kill you, but there's some stations around to trade with, and you can do plenty of exploring.

Walking around inside your ship tends to be a very... pointless kind of feature in these games, to be honest. It's usually done with games that use walking around for better means. I.e., something like No Man's Sky.

Some other games that don't really fit your criteria but you might want to check out:
Starship EVO - might be a good fit once it's more complete, but somewhat bare for now
Rodina - no trading as far as I could tell, more or less everything is enemies
Wayward Terran Frontier - top-down 2D but otherwise fits, more or less
 
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Jeeves

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Take a look at Rebel Galaxy 1-2 and Everspace.
Yup, I like what I see there...I'll need to keep an eye on Everspace 2 as well.
There was a really old game called Parkan, where you did most of those things. You were limited to just your ship though, the titular Parkan cruiser, but you could walk around it, do the usual fly/fight/trade things, capture planetary bases and make them your own, etc. Fun game, but limited by the tech of its time.

Parkan II was a thing, but it was plagued with technical issues and didn't really succeed. Did let you purchase different ships though.


No. As much as I like KSP, it probably doesn't fit your requirements. It's literally a game about running a space program, there's nobody out there except the people you put up there yourself.

Although if construction is a thing you're not averse to, and you don't mind Minecraft style graphics, there's a game called StarMade. Granted the NPCs are usually pirates that want to kill you, but there's some stations around to trade with, and you can do plenty of exploring.

Walking around inside your ship tends to be a very... pointless kind of feature in these games, to be honest. It's usually done with games that use walking around for better means. I.e., something like No Man's Sky.

Some other games that don't really fit your criteria but you might want to check out:
Starship EVO - might be a good fit once it's more complete, but somewhat bare for now
Rodina - no trading as far as I could tell, more or less everything is enemies
Wayward Terran Frontier - top-down 2D but otherwise fits, more or less
Thanks for the broad overview, this gives me a pretty good picture of where the genre is right now. Parkan actually looks pretty neat, but older/jankier than I could probably deal with. If there was a Parkan III, I'd be looking at it with interest.

Construction is something I could take or leave, but I'd rather spend most of the time playing the larger game instead of building a ship for hours. Starmade does look really cool regardless, though. Starship EVO also looks like something that could be really impressive by the time it's done.

Wayward Terran Frontier pretty much looks exactly like what I'm looking for, but in 2D.

As for the appeal of walking around the ships...for me it's about flavor. I want to feel like I'm playing as the pilot of a ship, not the ship itself. And I want to feel like the ship is home; doesn't need to be all decorated and comfy or anything, but at least a little quasi-cozy respite from the harsh cold space outside. It would just be cool to know the ship inside and out, maybe have to make repairs or operate parts of it away from the cockpit, check out a big 3D hologram map, stuff like that. And the icing on the cake would be to pair it with a universe that feels alive with allies and enemies and stuff.


Looks like no one has married 'immersive 3D starship sim' with 'open world RPG space opera' in quite the way I want yet, but it sounds like we're getting awfully close to breaking that ground maybe within the next five years or so. You guys have given me some good suggestions for what I can play in the meantime though, thanks for that.
 
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CeeJay

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Interesting! I was under the impression this game was mostly about engineering ships and testing their spaceworthiness. Are there NPCs flying other ships around that I can interact with too?
No NPCs but you can have multiple craft on the go and switch between them. Performing an orbital rendezvous with docking is one of the most satisfying things you can do in the game.

Elite Dangerous as already mentioned is probably the best fit for what you have asked for.

In a lot of ways though I would say Kerbal is more sim-like in that you have to learn and understand real world orbital physics, you can't just point your craft at an celestial body or other craft and thrust towards it. You also have to consider aerodynamics and fuel to weight ratios each time you plan and fly a mission along with stuff like power draw and communications reach. It's incredibly easy to screw something up although it's usually really funny and rarely frustrating. The game does make it really fun and engaging to learn the things that you need to know though. Elite Dangerous doesn't put anywhere near as much emphasis on these things with a lot of the orbital stuff dumbed down considerably. It is however really engaging in what it does and really nails the exploration, mining, trading and combat along with a fairly complex government and politics model to consider as well. Both these games can be made to sound quite similar but are focussed on different things and as such feel completely different in gameplay.
 

Jeeves

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No NPCs but you can have multiple craft on the go and switch between them. Performing an orbital rendezvous with docking is one of the most satisfying things you can do in the game.

Elite Dangerous as already mentioned is probably the best fit for what you have asked for.

In a lot of ways though I would say Kerbal is more sim-like in that you have to learn and understand real world orbital physics, you can't just point your craft at an celestial body or other craft and thrust towards it. You also have to consider aerodynamics and fuel to weight ratios each time you plan and fly a mission along with stuff like power draw and communications reach. It's incredibly easy to screw something up although it's usually really funny and rarely frustrating. The game does make it really fun and engaging to learn the things that you need to know though. Elite Dangerous doesn't put anywhere near as much emphasis on these things with a lot of the orbital stuff dumbed down considerably. It is however really engaging in what it does and really nails the exploration, mining, trading and combat along with a fairly complex government and politics model to consider as well. Both these games can be made to sound quite similar but are focussed on different things and as such feel completely different in gameplay.
Yeah, between the two I'm definitely more interested in the Elite Dangerous approach. I welcome unrealistic ship designs and more accessible piloting. What I'm seeking is more Star Wars than NASA, basically.
 
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Yeah, between the two I'm definitely more interested in the Elite Dangerous approach. I welcome unrealistic ship designs and more accessible piloting. What I'm seeking is more Star Wars than NASA, basically.
No Man's Sky is more Star Wars than Elite Dangerous, but both are great.
 

CeeJay

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Yeah, between the two I'm definitely more interested in the Elite Dangerous approach. I welcome unrealistic ship designs and more accessible piloting. What I'm seeking is more Star Wars than NASA, basically.
You can definitely role play a Star Wars type game in Elite Dangerous. Pick a career (bounty hunter, peace keeper, trader, miner, explorer, pirate, smuggler), buy a ship, fit it out with a good build for the task, modify it by engineering it further towards your requirements and then hopefully profit!

I spent most of my time in the game mining for void opals in planetary rings but you can play the game however you want.
 
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Dec 10, 2018
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You can definitely role play a Star Wars type game in Elite Dangerous. Pick a career (bounty hunter, peace keeper, trader, miner, explorer, pirate, smuggler), buy a ship, fit it out with a good build for the task, modify it by engineering it further towards your requirements and then hopefully profit!

I spent most of my time in the game mining for void opals in planetary rings but you can play the game however you want.
I spent an entire summer as an explorer in Elite making multiple runs to the center of the galaxy and back in the Avril Lavigne


 

ReBurn

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Starflight is one of the greatest games ever made, and the best game ever on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive. There would be no Mass Effect etc without Starflight.

and that soundtrack....
It was without a doubt my most played game on Sega Genesis. Populous was #2.
 

Jeeves

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Check out the X franchise.


Ooooh yeah, that's what I'm talking about! That trailer pretty much sold me. I think I will be watching to see if X4 goes on sale this month.
You can definitely role play a Star Wars type game in Elite Dangerous. Pick a career (bounty hunter, peace keeper, trader, miner, explorer, pirate, smuggler), buy a ship, fit it out with a good build for the task, modify it by engineering it further towards your requirements and then hopefully profit!

I spent most of my time in the game mining for void opals in planetary rings but you can play the game however you want.
Awesome. Honestly I can definitely get behind chilling out and mining some asteroids or whatever while keeping away from pirates, and selling my ore to buy upgrades to better defend myself from said pirates or go on the offensive.

I played a top-down 2D game a looooong time ago where that's kind of what the gameplay loop looked like, with some story stuff going on too. Can't remember what it was called.
 
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