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When it was first announced in 2012, Star Citizen excited the gaming community–especially lovers of space simulation games.
That wasn’t without good reason: considered to be inspired by Freelancer, the space trading game published by Microsoft Game Studies in 2003, Star Citizen has a Cinderella story of sorts. The game began with a once fledgling Kickstarter project that went on to attract support exceeding two million dollars, a year after production was said to have begun.
If you’re like me, you may love to see smaller studies and indie games add variety and innovation to a gaming market often inundated with games produced by AAA titles and gaming giants like Electronic Arts.
The problem? As of now, nearly nine years later, Star Citizen is still being said to be in development, with no announced release date. That hasn’t stopped the funds from rolling in: in fact, now cited as one of the most successful crowdfunding efforts, by the summer of 2020, Star Citizen has raised a whopping $300 million.
Occasionally, potential players get updates. In a recent article by Screenrant, the developer of Star Citizen gave a sneak peek to what they call dynamic events, which will impact the storyline as you play.
But with silence regarding an official release date, many are left disappointed and concerned– and wonder if there are games like Star Citizen that they can play now.
In this article, I’ll cover what drew so many gamers to Star Citizen in the first place, and my picks for the best games like Star Citizen that you can either play now, or in the near future.
What is Star Citizen?
To understand the hype – and general upset – that Star Citizen has inspired, you have to think about all that game has promised, and shown during its lengthy development process.
Star Citizen includes elements of space simulation and multiplayer shooter games and will offer four unique play modes– essentially expanding the genre of space simulators. One mode would allow players to tweak and decorate spaceships, appealing to those more into creative gameplay.
In the Arena mode, players can engage in space combat or freely fly and explore. Star Marine mod adds more typical combat, with elimination-style gameplay, while the Persistent Universe mode promises to add in character customization with intriguing space environments, including unique climates.
In all, Star Citizen continues to add dimension to a popular but niche genre, space flight simulation games.
What are space flight simulation games?
Space simulation games can include battle, exploration, and what is termed as space trading. Games known as space flight simulators range from a more practical look to especially fantastical, and also range from slow to fast-paced.
Drawing from science fiction, and huge names like Star Trek and Star Wars, space flight simulation games have something for most lovers or space and science fiction in general.
Space flight simulation games like the promised Star Citizen are popular on a variety of platforms, from PC games to console games and now even mobile.
One thing I like about space simulation games is that, while they have a niche focus, there’s enough variety that each game can feel unique. From combat to space trading and even a focus on realism, there are several subgenres players can enjoy.
Combat games are as they sound: space travel or simulation games that include battle and combat. These fast-paced, action-adventure games can be both single player and online multiplayer, and often situate players in starships or battleships. With an emphasis on weapons, fast reflexes, and missions, combat games have a distinct feel to them and combine a bit of strategy with action.
Space trading combines combat with other elements for a unique take on the space flight simulation genre. It’s a fairly old rendition and is focused on helping the players increase different skill sets or prestige.
Trading combines with world exploration and may or may not include a narrative plot as a backdrop. While fairly old, space trading games continue to be played as a smaller genre, and give a more strategic feel to space flight simulation games.
Other games focus on a more realistic approach, so to speak, as opposed to the narrower focus of combat and space trading games. The focus here is on developing space and the vessel itself. These games tend to be more detailed in their settings and focus on issues such as the physical construction of spacecraft.
Often these combine some form of strategy and are focused on the space travel experience. Many of these games have realistic ideas about how spacecraft function and may even take a nod from space travel history.
While these games can include imaginary places as well, the actual way the spacecraft moves and interacts with space is supposed to resemble real life space exploration.
Games Like Star Citizen: My Picks
Star Citizen may hold a lot of promise from players, but I can understand both feeling impatient or even tuning out. No matter if you plan to still support– and hopefully play Star Citizen in the future– or not as invested, the good news is that there are a number of space simulators and exploitation games like it.
Below, I’ll share my top picks for the best alternatives to Star Citizen. I’ve included games featuring multiplayer; games focused on battle; and games more centered on exploration and dynamics of spacecraft construction.
I’ve included games you can buy now, as well as a few games that have a release date set for sometime in 2021. Here are my topic picks, and why these games are great options for alternatives to Star Citizen.
Star Wars: Squadrons
Star Wars: Squadrons, produced by Electronic Arts, is among the newest games in the space combat genre and considered relatively affordable in comparison to its popularity, and has been lauded for its engaging gameplay and multiplayer combat mode.
The storyline picks up following the Dark Vador issues orders to execute any refugees fleeing in wake of the now-decimated planet of Alderaan. The story centers around locating and protecting refugees and jumps up to four years ahead in time at a given moment.
Full of explosive action, battle and some strategy, Squadrons combines story, lore, and space combat in this crowd-pleaser.
Set in first person, you’ll be able to command the New Republic navy or the Galactic Empire to defeat opponents and try to rescue refugees. Shields, weapons, specialized engines and powers will be at your disposal, as well as a way to upgrade your weapons and the overall look of your spacecraft.
Squadrons follows an increasingly popular model of offering both a single-player and multiplayer mode, with two options for playing online. One works like a deathmatch, a term even used in games like Age of Empires; the other allows you to team up in five to complete a mission.
Though imperfect– the game has a reported number of bugs– overall reception is positive, and it’s one of the most updated space combat games available now. It’s sold for Windows, XBox One, PlayStations 4. PlayStation 5, and XBox Series X. Buy Here.
No Man’s Sky
Though No Man’s Sky was initially released back in 2016, it still enjoys great popularity today, and can even be played on PlayStation 5 (alongside PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X).
With over a 90 percent approval rating on Steam and over 10 million players, No Man’s Sky is a space-themed, survival game that blends a few genres for a unique experience.
Exploration and survival are combined with trading and even battle as you explore an incredible open world– one that is enhanced as you actively explore. Each planet has signature biomes and vegetation, and you’ll need to take advantage of natural resources to mine, sell, buy, and more.
Unlike many survival games, No Man’s Sky is also set against the backdrop of a storyline , while what is termed as a procedural world immediately takes world exploration to a new level.
While at times the gameplay itself can be a tad redundant, the world exploration is superb, and this game still gets regular updates and upgrades. New features include a multiplayer mode, new modes of transportation, and even some virtual reality. Buy Here.
Everspace/ Everspace 2
Looking for a space shooter game, with a sequel on the way? Everspace, with a promised sequel to release in 2021, is one of your best options, especially if you’re looking for an alternative after waiting on Star Citizen.
Everspace, launched in 2017 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, was published by Rockfish Games using the popular Unreal Engine 4. It’s enjoying a fairly positive score of 78 percent on Metacritic and is known for exciting combat and space battle.
If you aren’t as into storylines or world exploration, Everspace may be a good option for you. The fairly simple but engaging gameplay focuses all on space combat, with different levels of difficulty and a points system.
You can enhance your battles by collecting weapons, upgrading your ship and interacting with others. While there is a plot, most of the gameplay of Everspace stays true to the space shooting genre. Buy Here.
An action-adventure game set in space, with a 10 out of 10 rating on Steam, plus over 95 percent by players on Google? That would describe Outer Wilds, a 2019 game available on Nintendo Switch (later in 2021), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.
Make no mistake: while inspired by space, Outer Worlds has a dramatically different feel from Star Wars games, from the bright, more stylized aesthetics, to the gameplay itself. This nearly 30 time-nominated game (including wins for Excellence in Design, Best Indie Game, and Best Game and Design) offers exploration in a unique space environment.
Players navigate a solar system in a 20 some minute loop, which always ends in a dramatic supernova sunset. You’ll investigate what happened to extinguish Naomi, aliens who used to reside on the planet.
You’ll need to collect clues to use certain things, unlock codes, and more– interacting with a bit of mystery, strategy, and action– all with the backdrop of unfolding events and backstory,
Survival will also be key, as you’ll need to monitor both your oxygen and overall health. To make it even more challenging, each day’s end will either leave you dead or back to your home.
I love the stylized graphics, which feel unique; the ability to blend a few genres into one; and the mystery that underlies what still makes for fairly fast-paced space exploration. Buy Here.
Stellaris, published by Paradox Interactive and released for Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and XBox One, is unique in that it combines space combat with strategy. In fact, some elements of that strategy include building up a space civilization, and my appeal to fans of the Civilization series.
One of my favorite space-themed games, Stellaris takes place in the future and allows you to control your own space society. You’ll have the power to impact the population, government, technological advancements, and even be forced to manage ethical choices for your citizens.
You can select a focus, which will greatly impact your gameplay: conquest, hoarding, destruction of all, or technological advancements. Alliances, diplomacy, and strategy couple with space combat and even space trading.
The system is advanced, with choices for ethics, your own backstory, and many ways to play. You’ll need to manage priorities, resources, and determine who to partner with– or go against.
I love that this game has a high degree of replayability. While enjoyable on its own, you can expand your game through 13 dlc to further customize your game. It’s been met with mostly positive reviews. Buy Here.
Looking for a game like Star Citizen – that taps into multiplayer mode, an immersive space environment– but has creative freedom? Dual Citizen may be a great option for you, though it has not yet been released. Look for a 2021 release.
Due to be released by Novaquark, a French gaming studio, Dual Universe is described as a first-person simulation game set in space, but with a prominent online multiplayer model. Said to be inspired by games like Star Citizen, No Man’s Sky, and even games like Minecraft, Dual Universe is one of the few games of its kind.
Collecting, crafting, mining and creating are at the heart of this game, so it’ll appeal more to fans of Minecraft then it will those who prefer heavy battle or action sequences. You’ll scavenge for resources, build, and construct– alongside other players. There are also systems for trading and war as well.
Dual Universe is both social and competitive, so it’s not the best choice if you’re not into multiplayer mode. But part of what makes this game fun is just that- the ability to connect, compete, and construct in a space environment. Since it’s sandbox-style, there is no right or wrong way to play, nor is there a definitive end.
Dual Universe will be available on Windows only and was developed using the Unreal 2 Engine. Learn More Here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: It’s unknown what will ultimately happen to Star Citizen, which began as a Kickstarter campaign and promised to bring new life into the space game genre. All we know is that Star Citizen is said to currently be alpha testing, but the process is closed off to the public, and no release date or even an estimated date for the next phase of development has been announced.
Answer: Despite the fact, the Star Citizen is not yet playable, and Star Citizen does not have a release date in sight, it’s managed to make over $300 million dollars and counting, through its initial Kickstarter campaign and continual crowdfunding. It’s unclear what will come of these profits, and when or if we will see the game come to fruition.
Answer: According to developers, ships in Star Citizen, as well as weapons, can be bought ahead of time, but they did a backtrack in saying this feature will not remain upon the official launch of Star Citizen.
Whether you’ve been waiting for a while or are simply intrigued by the premise of Star Citizen, there are some great alternatives you can buy now, whether you have an advanced gaming video card for your PC, or prefer to game on console.
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