The space flight genre has experienced something of a renaissance in the past couple of years. At PAX South, one of the exciting new games on exhibit was Lightspeed Frontier from Riveted Games.
Part spaceship builder, part sandbox, Lightspeed Frontier uses a spaceship building system that will be recognizable to fans of Kerbal Space Program or the gummy ships from Kingdom Hearts, and puts it an open, sandbox-type world where chance encounters can mean instant upgrades to your ship, or force you to literally pick up the pieces from defeat.
Along with the open-world surprises, the game features a variety of scripted and repeatable missions, hinting at an ongoing story. In my hands-on of the tutorial, I found ship control to be familiar to anyone who’s played a recent space sim.
Where Lightspeed Frontier really differentiates itself from other current space sims in in the real-time building mechanics. At any moment, players can switch from the flying to building interface, and reconfigure their ships as desired. Kill a group of pirates and want to add their weapons to your ship? You can. Want to streamline your gun-heavy behemoth and give it a broadside armament instead? Go ahead. Want to drop down to something smaller to take on a mission that requires speed? Do that too. The possibilities are unlimited. For players who crave some structure in their designs, or don’t want to fiddle with the ship designer, Lightspeed Frontier will also ship with over fifty pre-built designs.
Because players build their ships in real-time, difficulty can be tailored to each player’s personal style. The game divides its ships into eight different classes, all dependent on how many pieces are added to the build. Smaller fighter-class ships will face down similarly sized enemies. Massive Behemoth class craft, with weapons bristling for massive broadside attacks, will match against other juggernauts in clashes reminiscent of 18th Century naval battles.
During my playtime, I got to experience a mid-level ship, mounting both forward and side weapons. Starting with some basic target practice, we moved through engaging pirates, dodging a planet, then engaging a massively superior enemy that resulted in my ship being blown back into components and me reassembling a smaller, faster, heavy fighter instead.
Lightspeed Frontier is expected to hit Steam Early Access around mid-March, 2017 as a feature complete single player sandbox experience. Once there, Riveted Games expects it to remain in Early Access for six to nine months for polish and the addition of multiplayer.