I feel that I need to issue a follow-up to my initial impression of Astrox Imperium.

I have since jumped in a few times to continue my playthrough, although I have to admit that it was increasing difficult to want to do so. I figured that my first order of business would be to secure a decent nest egg; no goal, just start accumulating money. Starting from my initial home base, I was able to quickly exit the station, fly to a nearby massive asteroid, mine some ore, return and refine, and repeat the process. I emptied my hold of excess equipment and bought a cargo bay extender to slightly increase the capacity, and made several runs. While I was out and about, I had the previous load refining down to constituent parts so I could sell the carbon before I determined that the raw ore would sell for much more.

That’s about as far as I got. I tried taking a mission to mine some remote rock and bring the proceeds to another station, but that was uneventful. I looked at the other missions available to me — some combat, some escort, some scanning, some remote mining — but I couldn’t envision how any of them would lead to a wider world…a world without multiplayer.

I joked that Astrox Imperium is “EVE Offline”, which is an assessment I stand by completely, but in removing other people from the game, what’s left is a collection of mechanics without a greater purpose.

Please note that although my impression of the game as been severely tempered, the execution of what is there is stellar. That this is a one-man show that dared to tackle the complexities of a bulwark of online gaming like EVE Online is an act of 100% pure hubris, and I believe, masterfully done. I cannot stress this enough: my revised impression is all about the feeling, and not the execution.

When playing EVE, I tended to play solo. I loved mining because it was calming yet lucrative (even in high-sec). I have managed to secure a decent fleet of ships that ranged from mining vessels to haulers to scanners to combat roles. Even though the bulk of my EVE career was spent alone, I knew that everything that went on was a result of other player interactions. The ore I sold was bought by other players. The ships I bought were made by other players. Even when I was harassed, it was by other players. What they did and what I did formed that web of interdependence that makes EVE the gold standard for player run economies even to this day.

Removing that web effectively leaves me with a complete lack of purpose. I can mine, but I know that my output is just falling into a simulated void. The items I buy are generated by a back-end process that’s going to generate them whether there’s a demand for them or not. Even with a sophisticated simulation that might respond to world events in creating, destroying, or shipping goods around the universe, it’s still just a process that’s bound by the limits of what the developer can code.

Turns out the human factor in EVE — not the mechanics, or even when the humans aren’t visible, present, or directly interacted with — is the draw that makes EVE unique. On the surface this seems like a no-brainer, as the smug among us have been asking “why play a multiplayer game if you’re only playing alone?” for years. EVE‘s feature set is unique, though, and that one can effectively solo and still help out the multiplayer community is a formula that draws people in who have no interest in playing directly with the more rabid fans. The mechanics bring players in, but it’s that sense that we’re contributing to a larger world that I think keeps people around. It’s a bit weird to think of this, mainly because when it comes to high fantasy games, we have MMOs and we have single player RPGs, and we have very little standing in the way of moving between the two scopes, but in this case, we have few online space sims like EVE (Perpetuum was the last one I can name that wasn’t an EVE-branded title) that an offline version ultimately feels like all motion and no mood.

2 Comments

  • Tipa

    May 22, 2020 - 8:40 AM

    Usually, in single player games, there’s a plot that pulls you through the game in the absence of other players. Is there no plot here in Astrox?

    • Scopique

      May 22, 2020 - 11:42 AM

      I’m not really sure. There’s a section on the main menu called Campaign and one called Sandbox, but I saw no evidence of any info that would indicate there was any story in the campaign.

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