Drifter (Celsius Game Studios)
While I never got into Elite, I spent countless hours playing Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters. As much as I enjoyed the open world aspect of those games, the combat was really a pain, not to mention the bugs. There have been other titles, such as Privateer and Freelancer, but Drifter reminds me the most of those Frontier titles.
Perhaps it is because in the Early Access version I played you are dropped in a huge universe with a ship and some credits, and then left to your own devices. It is a bit daunting at first, but also very exhilarating. As the game is still in active development there aren’t really any story elements at this stage, but the foundations for a great space trading game is already in place.
The procedurally generated galaxy in Drifter is apparently 100,000 light years across and has 20,000 star systems. What these mind boggling numbers mean is that you are not going to run out of places to explore in Drifter anytime soon. Making your living amongst the stars consists of undertaking procedural missions such as couriering, bounty hunting or mining asteroids. You can travel between systems, buying low and selling high if the life of a trader sounds appealing to you. Alternatively, throw caution to the wind and embrace the life of a pirate, preying on the traders.
What I really like about Drifter is that the visuals are 2.5D, instead of the usual 3D. This means you still get the spectacular 3D backdrops, but while maneuvering your ship you don’t have to worry about vertical movement. This might sound restrictive, but believe me it makes combat way more enjoyable. You can switch between a first and third person view of the action, and while some features like the procedurally generated planet textures still have to be implemented, the game already looks great.
It took me a while to fully find my way around the interface, but a UI overhaul is in the works. Other elements such as additional procedural missions, crafting and more exploration elements are also still coming. You can check out thedevelopment roadmap for an overview of what is already in the game and what there is to look forward to.
As a fan of open world, space trading games, Drifter immediately sucked me in. The procedural missions that are currently available are a little limited and there are only eight ships, but I have already sunk hours into the game. The game is actually very relaxing to play, with some nice tunes by Danny Baranowsky. The game also works great with a controller and I spent a lot of time sprawled on the couch, mining some asteroids and listening to the tunes.
Drifter is already a blast to play in Early Access, but if the developers manage to implement everything on their development roadmap this game is going to be spectacular. As addictive as it is now I can’t wait for space to become a bit livelier with the addition of factions, reputation and NPC interaction. The focus is very much on creating a fun single-player experience, which might turn away those expecting another Eve Online, but it has the potential to be every bit as engrossing. Drifter is one of those games where I will be eagerly awaiting each update.