Some genres of games have a higher barrier of entry than others. Due to the complexity of strategy and simulation games, many players stay away from these types of titles. That doesn't have to be the case, though, as developer Chasing Carrots have shown with their latest release, Cosmonautica. The Germany-based indie studio has crafted an accessible space simulation game that can make new fans of a genre that many find daunting.
Players in Cosmonautica take the role as an upstart space captain. It is their role to manage a ship full of crew members, and run a financially successful operation. Despite throwing a lot of responsibility at players, it manages to introduce concepts in a simple way at a slow pace. Thanks to an excellent humor filled tutorial, players will be flying their ship between planets, and hiring employees in no time.
While there is a story to be found in Cosmonautica's campaign, most of the game will find the player accepting self-contained missions. These missions will come from people in peril, planets in need of resources, and even hopeless romantics who just want to meet a special someone in a distant land. Completing these tasks will gain the player money, that can then be used to reinvest in the player's spaceship.
There is a lot to purchase for your ship, but you won't be able to install the most complex areas first. Players will have to hire a scientist to research how to add more functionality, such as larger cargo bays, to their ships. Science can be your best friend in Cosmonautica, as some of these ship upgrades can change how the game plays considerably.
Each individual planet in Cosmonautica's vast solar system has its own economy. Players will want to pay attention to which planets are low on certain resources, so they can then sell these materials to them for a higher cost. Buying low and selling high is key to making a profit in Cosmonautica, not unlike the stock market itself.
Finances are not the only important thing the player will have to keep an eye on. Each crew member has individual stats that can affect their personality, how they interact with other ship staff, and how happy they are at work. Keeping your employees happy is key to running a swift business, so players will need to watch their happiness ratings closely. Sometimes people just don't mesh, however, and you'll have to give one of the crew members their walking papers.
When your crew isn't fighting itself, you'll also occasionally (or frequently, depending on how you choose to play) run into space battles. Like the rest of the game, there are several ways players can tackle combat scenarios. Pacifist players, or those at a disadvantage, can bribe rival space captains to let them go, but it is also possible to flee or battle. There are also space bounties to be collected on different planets, so combat can be frequent if you wish to go down that route to earn money.
Besides the campaign mode, Cosmonautica also allows you to play in a sandbox mode. Thanks to the random nature of the game's missions and scenarios, no two adventures through space will ever be the same. This means that Cosmonautica has plenty of replayability, but some missions start to feel repetitive over time. There are only so many ways to say that a planet is short on resources, so it may feel monotonous after completing the mission for the umpteenth time.
One of the main differences between Cosmonautica and its genre contemporaries is its usage of humor. Strategy games are often serious affairs, but Cosmonautica keeps the universe feeling light. The game's mission briefings are often joke-filled and referential in nature. Plenty of pop culture callbacks can be found throughout Cosmonautica, but the humor never gets grating.
Graphically, Cosmonautica features a very clean presentation with a solid 3D art style. There are several different races of crew members, and seeing all the alien species that the developer came up with is enjoyable. Chasing Carrots has crafted a very polished game, and it shows in every aspect.
The music found in Cosmonautica is fun and up-beat. It is nice to find yourself tapping your feet to the beat of a song while entrenched in graphs. The game's soundtrack is included with the game on Steam, so you'll be able to enjoy the music outside of the game if you want.
Cosmonautica is a light-hearted, fun space simulation that is perfect for anyone who wants to get into the genre. While it is beginner friendly, there is still enough depth that strategy veterans will still find a healthy challenge waiting for them. Chasing Carrots have created a game that manages to cater to all audiences, in a genre that is notoriously complex.