Years ago, when Eve Online for the PC was new to the MMO arena, we tried our hands at it. While the breadth of that game was impressive, its steep learning curve and lack of comprehensible tutorials made it a turn-off for those who didn’t have time to learn its vast intricacies. After playing Flatspace, itself a PC port, we can’t help but think of Eve Online. Unfortunately, while Eve has expanded into a game that is much more newbie friendly, Flatspace remains utterly mysterious to the uninitiated.
For starters, we must point out that this is not an MMO; it is intended to be a single-player odyssey through the stars. Because you’re spending hours churning through the flat blackness of space, this makes Flatspace an incredibly lonely game. Granted, this is the developer’s intention, and as a lone space pilot out to make your fortune however you see fit (trader, mercenary, or space pirate, for example), it is largely successful. What that doesn’t translate to, however, is a game that is going to be readily accessible to many people.
To further make your initiation into the game a frustrating experience is the lack of any sort of story, introduction, or tutorial to help you get started. These are promised in a coming update, so this may significantly help newcomers, but as it stands, too many people are going to be left scratching their heads and be unwilling to devote the hours (yes, hours) needed to get a firm grip on how to play the game, or have fun with it.
Now, that being said, this can be a highly rewarding game. The universe is wide, and there’s plenty to see and do so long as you are willing to make the commitment to your character. In true role-playing fashion, you take on a persona of your choosing and live that out in the game world; there is no hand-holding or epic story penned to keep you on the edge of your seat. The galaxy is what you make of it. The problem is that the best parts are simply too far out of reach for all but a diehard few.
Navigating menus requires patience to learn exactly where to go. The meaning of onscreen icons is not readily apparent. It even took us a while to understand the balance of controls, which is a combination of tilting and pressing buttons. A recent patch has added the option of using all touch controls, which greatly helps navigating in tight corridors, but the acceleration and braking are still far too sensitive.
Flatspace is a game that we wanted to love. The graphics are good, the music is catchy (if a bit too 80s synth for our tastes), and there’s enough to do to keep some players occupied for a long time. However, the fun you can have comes with a price of commitment that we feel few are going to be willing to make. Purchase Flatspace with caution. We hope you have fun, but it’s not something that we can guarantee.