Empyrion Galactic Survival is an open world survival game created by Eleon Games Studios. It is currently in Early Access on Steam and recently received a major update to version Alpha 6.0, on which this review is based. The game was initially released in August 2015 and has been regularly updated and advanced by the developers over the last two years.
At its core, this is a survival sandbox game. You play an astronaut exploring a galaxy and landing on hostile alien planets. You need to find resources, craft items, build, and engage in combat to survive. If that scope sounds ambitious, well, it is and the game certainly does not lack options: you can play in survival or creative mode; you can play single or multiplayer; you can work with your fellow players or fight against them; you can play in an open world scenario or you can follow a series of missions in the ‘Dawn of Galaxy’ scenario.
There are several different planets to choose from depending on the game set up, each offering a different level of challenge based on the resources on offer and the enemies and dangers present. There is also the option to generate a world from a seed to randomise resources and locations.
As if that wasn’t enough, the game comes with Steam Workshop access and a vibrant community of players. This is an invaluable source of help when learning the game and can be used to download weapon, vehicle, and base blueprints as well as seeds for player-made scenarios.
So how does it play? Update 6.0 added a tutorial, which offers an overview of the basics of the game from navigating the planet to crafting items, and finding sources of oxygen to hunting for food. Beyond that, the wealth of options allows for you to create a game experience of your own liking. Creative mode offers the chance to experiment with building, crafting and designs to your imagination’s content. Survival mode throws you in at the deep end of needing to start from scratch, building up your base and finding resources while also defending yourself from hostile aliens.
If you like single player action with more direction, you can follow the missions of Dawn of Galaxy. If you prefer multiplayer combat or co-op, you can join a server or the ‘Invader vs. Defender’ scenario, which explores the backstory of humans escaping the dying planet Earth in search of a new home.
The whole planet is yours to play with. You can drill into the earth and mine ores to use for crafting armour, weapons, and components for your vehicles and base. You can use bodies of water to extract oxygen and explore the lakes as well. You can hunt and forage for food or farm it before taking back to your kitchen and storing it in your fridge.
You can also go off planet and explore space. Here you can land on moons and asteroids to find more resources, and encounter new enemies. You can also travel to other planets and engage in space combat.
This really is a vast game and one I have only begun to scratch the surface of. My time so far has been spent exploring the worlds of Akua, Elia, and Omicron and building up my resources. Mining can be a bit of a grind, especially as ores are not collected automatically (in contrast to other survival games I have played like The Long Dark and Minecraft) but hunting is fun and good early target practice for combat.
There is really a different feel from planet to planet and starting a new game means starting a whole new gameplaying experience. The locations and lighting effects are at times stunning (I am always a sucker for in-game sunsets!) Overall, the graphics are what you would expect for an indie game and it runs well on my four-year old laptop. The music adds an ambient atmosphere and the sound effects are basic but effective.
I had a couple of issues with the controls. It took a lot of adjusting to get the mouse sensitivity right, which isn’t usually an issue for me. The motorbike, while useful for getting around the planets quickly, also had very twitchy controls and it was all too easy to overturn or overshoot the point I was aiming for (resulting in me losing the bike at the bottom of a couple of lakes). The bike also struggles to get up hills and I found it was easier to use my jet pack to run and jump up inclines.
My only other minor gripe with the game is that items dropped disappear within a couple of minutes. This applies to mined and harvested resources and other items too. On another occasion, I lost my bike while mining as I left it unattended for too long. It is a bit cumbersome to have to pick up the bike (or any other items) and add them to your inventory every time but it soon becomes routine.
This is, however, a comprehensive game, which is only going to get better as more additions and improvements come in the final stages of Early Access. Fans of survival, construction, and space exploration games will love it, and those who prefer combat, PvP battles, and co-op play experiences will find something to enjoy as well. With the number of scenarios, diversity of planets and multitude of game types already available, it has a lot to offer and with the promise of additional galaxies to explore in the future, it is only going to get bigger and better. Just one word of warning –if you get hooked, be prepared to invest hundreds of hours of gameplay time into your quest for Galactic Survival.