I’m going to be switching things up going forward here on the ol’ Internet shingle, starting with a new-to-me game called Interstellar Rift. I had received some appreciative feedback on my series of posts focusing on the mechanics of Stellar Tactics, so I thought I’d approach this game in the same way: first time through and explaining what I’m learning about the game, in the hopes that readers can share the wonder of discovery and get a feel for the product along with me.
What is Interstellar Rift?
Because we like to identify things in terms of other things, I’m going to say that IR is Space Engineers meets Star Citizen, which if you know me is basically my Holy Grail of space sims in the absence of a completed Star Citizen.
Players take on the role of a starship captain in a sandbox universe. Pilots can do some free-trading of commodities between stations and star systems, take some pretty simple missions, and duke it out with alien life-forms and other players. As a sandbox, what a player wants to do is completely in their hands, as there’s no overarching story and no official thread to follow. For people of a certain vintage, consider this to be a worthy spiritual successor to Freelancer.
Getting Started With Interstellar Rift
IR follows the lead of other online sandbox games like Conan: Exiles in that players can either run solo, join another hosted or self-hosted server across the Internet, or professionally or self-host their own. Server settings can be tweaked via the UI or via the JSON settings file (if hosting on a different box somewhere), and when ready can be opened up to the public (or password protect it and only allow trusted friends on board). Developers Split Polygon operate 4 “official” servers, 2 in the EU and 2 in the US, one being PvP and one being PvE, so IR can be treated like an MMO, except the population is a little sparse even on the official servers.
The loading screen isn’t all sexed up, but it’s erring on the side of information. On the left there are gameplay options, and on the right is the latest news, patch notes, and links to the developer’s various social media outlets.
It’s highly recommended that new players begin with the tutorials, which cover a wide variety of must-understand features of the game.
This isn’t just a recommendation; IR is a complex game that requires hand-held introductions. Once a player understands each section’s approach, the systems become pretty old-hat, but going in blind is going to result in a whole lot of WTF. As shown by the screenshot above, there’s a lot to do in IR including ship construction.
With the tutorials in place, this post series seems rather redundant given the fact that a new player can just run through these exercises and learn about the game from those who created it, but if you’re at all interested in space sims but aren’t sure that the [checks notes] $13 USD price tag (at the time of this writing, $19USD normally) is what you want to spend right now, read on!
After the tutorials have been completed, players can jump into a hosted, solo, or self-hosted game.
There are a few options in joining another’s game. First is Game Mode, which is either Survival or Creative (no curveballs there). A selection of No Preference shows both. Second, there’s Ship Mode. Here, selection can be made for games featuring indestructible ships, or destructible ships. I’m not entirely sure why this distinction exists, but there you go. Third, there’s the selection between PvP, PvE, or a mix.
Servers are listed in the browser without any major differences from other server-browser offerings on the market. Name, number of players, server version, password protection indicator, and ping are all present and allow for sorting. Players can connect directly to an IP if known, or can select a server in the list to connect. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there’s any way to favorite a server which would make things difficult if a favorite server is somewhere in the middle of the alphabet and the IP address isn’t handy.
A solo game allows for the setting of certain parameters like whether the game is creative (have unlimited resources, which mainly supports building ships and stations), has indestructible ships, or is PvE only. Once the galaxy has a name, it is generated and saved so future sessions can choose between these game worlds as needed, apparently even in multiplayer (if you are the host).
The rest of the tabbed options at the top are pretty self-explanatory, with the exception of Steam Inventory. I assume that this tab lists articles downloaded from the Steam Workshop, which is filled with hundreds of mind-blowing ship designs that you can download and use in your own game.
Ship Editor & Tutorial
I’m not going to cover this here, as this is a massive section and one of the game’s selling points. We’ll get to it eventually…once I understand it. I have also displayed the tutorial options above, and those are exactly as advertised.
As with any multiplayer game worth it’s salt, players can customize their avatar. This is where the aesthetic of IR starts to show: it’s certainly not “next gen” visuals here, and all avatars look like they are either in a constant state of surprise, or are all competing in a breath-holding contest that no one wants to lose. There are only 2 armor sets to choose from, 3 face styles for both male and female, and 6 hairstyles which look to be shared between both. Considering players spend the bulk of game time wearing a helmet, it should not be a game-breaker.
Options, Credits, and Quit
Options leads directly to the Options tab as seen via the Play menu, and Credits and Quit work as advertised.
So that’s the initial “Welcome to Interstellar Rift” post. Next up we’ll be looking at starting a new game and the choices we’re offered.