Edge of Space Early Access Review

Jumping the laser shark?

by

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

Edge of Space is a Kickstarter success built with the blessing of the team behind its inspiration, Terraria. The concept: build, create, and explore the nooks and crannies of a mysterious alien world. The game is rife with possibilities, but it's still got a long way to go before it comes close to realising them.

Much like in Terraria and Starbound, which are the two games that Edge of Space will inevitably find itself being compared to, you create an avatar and set it loose into a destructible, harvestable 2D world. You're like a magpie with a laser pickaxe, scooping up anything and everything that looks shiny and turning your supplies into bigger, better items to help further explore the game's bizarre alien world. You also have a sweet jetpack.

Go where you please, and blast anything that looks nasty. Stumble upon a pocket of uranium? I'll have that. A few hunks of biomass? Cheers! Edge of Space isn't so much about digging out ore and rocks--although that's part of it--but establishing an outpost, securing new weapons and armour for your character, and then seeing how far down you can push without getting thoroughly distracted by whatever you discover along the way. Is it worth trying to craft a better gun, or is that the entrance to a new dungeon over there?

One giant leap for a man with a sweet jetpack.

One of the nicest things in Edge of Space is its death system, which gives you the freedom to occasionally perish alongside a deterrent to discourage you from doing so. The way it works is that upon death, you respawn back at the nearest cryopod, a machine limited by the number of craftable rods you can keep it topped up with. It's a neat system.

The whole game is very much early days. My current character's hair colour is Test3, for instance, and it's those little things that stick out the most. There's usually a message on screen that says "Welcome!" in Matrix-inspired green, meant to serve as a status window for multiplayer games, but the word lingers there, awkwardly, when you're on your own. Welcome! Plenty of in-game text has yet to be written, and what's there is littered with silly mistakes. Edge of Space is stable and mostly playable, but it's Steam Early Access in the truest sense. The game is regularly being updated, though, with a recent patch overhauling much of the game at the cost of wiping previous saves.

The UI is another big challenge, coming across as a mix between a piece of Windows 95 clipart and a vintage Winamp skin. Items are shuffled between an inventory, a character screen, a crafting menu, and an easy-access bar that sits at the top of the screen, but all of these windows are fiddly, unpleasant to use, and poorly displayed. Managing your gargantuan collection of tchotchkes is also a challenge, which is a big problem in a game of this ilk.

The whole game is a bit bizarre, then, because on the one hand, Edge of Space is offering up this wonderful sci-fi conceit--go out there and explore an alien planet--but on the other hand, you find yourself forced deeper into the ground as opposed to upwards and outwards. One of the main features is that you can soar with a jetpack, yet the game is very much about going down and not up.

The new tutorial, recently added, helps you get your bearings.

In trying to do so much, Edge of Space suffers from somewhat of an identity crisis, and often comes across as messy and incoherent. In the new tutorial sequence, bolted on in the latest patch, there's a lot of dialog written in that canny mix of violence-meets-bureaucracy that we saw in Portal's Aperture Science. Because that game was amazing, right? And one of the main selling points of Edge of Space is also that it features cyborg laser sharks strapped to rocket launchers, because, hey, that's really cool and totally wacky, right? Edge of Space has the potential to claim that whimsical story sci-fi aesthetic for its own, but right now it strikes me as a game built with bits and bobs from other, better influences, and when playing I'm consistently struck by the echoes of those sources.

Functionally, the game works. The crafting system is extensive and the world is huge. The mechanics are sound, and it's impossible to fault the amount of content available at this early stage. Yet it's not quite enough. The environments don't yet dazzle, so I'm left with no impetus to actually explore, build, and survive in this world. There's a lot going on, but it's a jumble that doesn't mesh together nicely, and I'm left feeling cold and disconnected because of it, awkwardly chipping away at a bunch of minerals because the game requires me to, not because I actually want to. What Edge of Space reminds me of the most is my old mathematics notepad from school, which I filled to the brim with a mishmash of random doodles with no logic or pattern.

The UI is another big challenge, coming across as a mix between a piece of Windows 95 clipart and a vintage Winamp skin.

Multiplayer has recently been added to the game, and roaming around this world is certainly more palatable when you're with a partner. If you play your cards right, you can take on Omegatron, Edge of Space's first major boss and a robotic reimagining of Terraria's Skeletron. I didn't have too much trouble setting up a multiplayer game, but the process is fiddly, and since it requires a bit of technical know-how, it's definitely not for the fainthearted. The game is also a victim of its low-key status, and finding an active multiplayer server without organising it yourself with friends is a tricky task right now.

The spirit of Edge of Space is one of adventure, discovery, and creativity, but in its current state, the game feels like it's stuck in the shadows of other, better sandbox games. Much has been made about the game's similarities to Terraria, but the biggest problem Edge of Space faces is that it's yet to work out an identity of its own.

What's There?

A huge planet, loads of monsters, and plenty of things to mine. There's a crafting system and a basic tutorial, and you can also begin to build your own station. The multiplayer mode is also starting to be implemented.

What's to Come?

Numerous bug fixes, tweaks, and mechanics. Developer Handyman Games has also said that, when Edge of Space is finished, it would like to make a top-down shooter component that lets you travel through space.

What Does it Cost?

$12.99 on Steam.

When Will it Be Finished?

Edge of Space has no confirmed release date, and Handyman Studios has pledged that it will continue creating content even after the 1.0 release.

What's the Verdict?

Edge of Space is a game full of ambition, but it's rough around the edges in its current state. Only the keenest sandbox adventurers should consider applying right now.

Discussion

3 comments
Tiwill44
Tiwill44

Eh, I'd rather wait for the finished version of Starbound.

hystavito
hystavito

@Tiwill44  Starbound is fun and better than Terraria, but it's also extremely similar to Terraria.  Like Edge of Space it doesn't do much with the "space" setting, still making mining down into the ground the key driver.  It feels a lot like Terraria just with multiple worlds to visit.


I have enjoyed Starbound though and I'm looking forward to more content.