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Shortest Trip To Earth is in Early Access and can be found on Steam here it costs £13.16/14.27/$16.99.

From the website "Shortest Trip to Earth is a roguelike spaceship simulator focused on exploration, ship management and tactical battles. Embark on a perilous journey across the universe, while an intergalactic war is raging."

Developer Interactive Fate listed key features:

 

This game has a sort of 'build a spaceship' quality because there are numerous modules you can obtain and several positions they can be deployed. Placing them in the best positions on the ship is something you have to learn by trial and error - even the Tutorial, which is the only way to learn how to play, doesn't direct you exactly to where to place them. 

Graphically this ranges between Okay and Not Bad. It isn't dynamic or pretty but it is functional and well thought through. A game for the intellectual who likes a little action and adventure on the side rather than for players who think science fiction starts and ends with Star Trek and Star Wars.

 

I previously mentioned the Modules. These can be weapons, engines, shields etc and many of them either need starting or manning which means you have to command your 6-man crew to the best of your ability, again finding out where is best by trial and error. You do have a 7th crew member, a cat, who takes no notice of your commands and does entirely what it wants to. The cat provides some of the comedic relief in a game that is serious, considerably complex, complicated and yet light-hearted and light-headed at the same time. The weapon modules often need replenishing with ammo when a fight occurs and using the crew on hand makes for a crazy supply and demand (actually more demand for supply) game.

In the ship view is seen in birds-eye view but the ship can be enlarged or diminished by rolling the mouse wheel and moved around the screen by holding the RMB and moving the mouse around, Up, Down, and all over the screen.

To call it a 'simulator' is pushing it a bit. The view from space sees the craft as a small triangle, reminiscant of the old Asteroids game but nowhere near as intense or exciting. 'Shortest Trip to Earth' is a game of management, managing combat, men, weapons, space flight, space ship etc but it cannot really be classed in the man management or building game genres, it is possibly in a genre of its own by itself. I have heard it called a 'Roguelike' game but I don't see that. Roguelike-games are like fun role-playing games and MMOs and from experience most of those are sharp and snappy and this may be sharp but it's certainly not snappy.

 

I find this a bit weird, saying this, but I think that with a little effort this would make a superb, intelligent, board game. I have played 'Shortest Trip to Earth' for hours and don't seem to be getting anywhere. Maybe this is because things happen at a slower rate than I expect or hope for - yes I am a player who would prefer Star Wars style action to the Traveller style of thinking before acting, and there is an awful amount of thoughtful decisions to make in 'Shortest Trip to Earth'.

 

It isn't the type of game I would normally choose to play, not because there is anything wrong with it, there isn't (at least as far as mechanically, digitally or electronically) but because it takes so long to get into. It may still be in 'early access' but as I said, I gave it the benefit of any doubt and played for hours (several sessions not all in one hit), and I have barely scraped the surface. Everything is meticulously designed and geometrically balanced, but the action isn't the edge of seat excitement one gets from the type of sci-fi combat game I prefer. I am saying all this as if it were a negative because anyone who reads this and disagrees with my thoughts on what I think the best type of sci-fi game are will find 'Shortest Trip to Earth' totally right for them.

This is one for the Traveller fans (and similar) even though in actuality it isn't very much like Traveller at all. It is a thoughtful, practical journey through a space that is now dangerously filled with all sorts of enemies and adversaries and outer-space specific problems. 

 

To recap:
'SHORTEST TRIP TO EARTH is a long game where you will spend a lot of time manipulating many kinds of objects around the screen, hoping to locate the mst exact position for them. You will spend time running crew around, commanding them all the while hoping the ship's cat will be doing its job - hoping because it will not listen to a word you say.
It is a management game, a simulation (though I personally dispute this) and apparently it is also a role-play game (again hotly disputed). It is definitely a game with a long hit and miss, trial and error, learning curve, but it is also a serious game that isn't afraid to occasionally stick its tongue firmly in its own cheek.
It isn't for arcade action and adventure fans. It is for players who are prepared to put in the time to reap the rewards.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015