As 4robertanderson pointed out on Twitter, there’s a whole lot of co-op games in almost every genre except space-faring sci-fi. We’re drowning in high fantasy MMOs and running to stay ahead of the battle royale avalanche, so you’re well within luck if your posse is hell-bent on playing together in those genres. If you’re looking to form up with a team of friends to make a name for yourselves in the Final Frontier, you’re pretty limited: EVE Online, Elite Dangerous, or Star Citizen.
Don’t despair, intrepid explorers! Here are a few other space-borne games you can play with friends. I have not personally evaluated all of these, although I pulled 99% of this list from my Steam library, so this isn’t as much a review as it is a heads-up from which you can yours can pick and choose. I’m also not making any distinction between “not yet done”, “brand spankin’ new!”, “kinda old”, or “the dev has fled with all of your money”. I’ll leave the due-diligence up to you.
Man, this is an ambitious one. It’s a full “theater of war” game meant to be played with 63 other people and allows you to act as a ground soldier, a fighter pilot, or a capital ship captain. If you remember CCP’s DUST 514, you’ll recognize everything you didn’t get in that game, here in Angels Fall First.
While most games focus on individual pilots participating as a squad, Artemis tests the limits of your friendships by allowing you to act as a bridge crew of a larger ship. Each player takes a station and is responsible for carrying out the orders of the captain. You’ll quickly realize that everyone thinks they understand how to get the mission done and will immediately take it upon themselves to so…regardless of what the captain wants.
When just participating as a space trucker’ ain’t enough, you can fire up Aviorn and build your own ships and stations from primitive parts. Unlock different blueprints as you move through the galaxy and refit your fighters, corvettes, and cap ships with bigger weapons, stronger shields, and general badassery.
Dual Universe, or as I like to call it, “DU”, is currently in development. It’s a buy-to-wait-until-they-have-a-testing-weekend affair, and when they launch there’ll be a monthly subscription price. The game looks ambitious and promising, with players working together to make ships and bases planetside, but it sports an extra fee to make your planetary base “PvP-free”, which is a massive turnoff for me.
Playing second fiddle to EVE Online is nothing to be ashamed of, which is why Elite Dangerous is the best option for those who like the ideas of EVE, but not the drama of EVE. Being able to play in private groups is a bonus, and speaking personally, Elite Dangerous in VR is a mind-blowing experience.
Remember when survivalbox games were all the rage? Remember “voxels”? Well, those one-time-hotnesses are still alive and well along the Outer Rim in Empyrion: Galactic Survival. You can create buildings and fight creatures planetside, and create custom starships for some interstellar whup-ass.
Reigning champion of the “Most Improved Video Game Ever” Award, the…Expanse…of NMS is mind-blowing. Most action takes place on the ground, but it’s entirely possible for you and your friends to leave the firmament to seek your fortunes among the stars.
I’m sensing a theme here…Space Engineers [checks notes] allows you to build space stations and ships in a survivalbox environment. Better yet, you need to build and maintain an infrastructure in order to keep these bases and ships running, which will probably result in a lot of arguments over priorities, thereby reminding you of your last “this could have been an email” work meeting.
I have to mention it, because it’s Star Trek! But also…it’s Star Trek! What more do I need to say.
OK, maybe there is more to say. Bridge Commander allows you to take over a station on the bridge of a Federation starship and undertake significantly less than five year missions to seek out new…etc. The big selling point here is that it was originally a VR only game, but they have since patched in a RR (real reality) version so you can play with your less fortunate fiends.
There are no doubt many, many others both ancient, old, new, and not-yet-minted games out there, so don’t @ me for “ignoring” or “forgetting” your Pet Game…I’ve forgotten more than a lot of people remember, and this list is no exception. If you know of any games that are worth checking out, please leave them in the comments.