Star Citizen – Exp Ops – Ish

This is a first, I’ve never felt the urge to add to the Exp Ops tag but with Star Citizen it’s finally forced my hand. The game is still technically in early access (with all the caveats that come with that) but it’s now had a free weekend which for the time being is the closest it’s going to get to an open beta for a while. With that being said, I’ve documented my first steps into this adventure so lets blast off into space!

The first obvious hurdle is a tiny download client to a stupidly large game download, this isn’t surprising to anyone who’s ever played a big PC game in their life but it does thankfully have the option to mute the music while it downloads. Plus points already.

My rig is obviously not the perfect test for this game. That’s obvious and yet I feel like I should prefix this early on. It can run Witcher 2 at high, Overwatch at medium and the Quake Champions beta at low. That being said it should be able to handle this. This was exactly what I was thinking until I loaded into a memory error. Strangely though the memory error appears to be nonsense as I had more memory at random times (a clean boot with no other programs running resulted in less sometimes and more others?). I’ve always doubted once that this would even run on my PC but that’s only because of the ridiculous “Crysis killer”-like mentality the games built up over its development.

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Now we’re talking! SPACE!

The bouncing loading bar is a joke, absolutely the worst and it blips back and forth across like pong on speed with zero indication of process or finish. Why not make it into pong? Loading games aren’t limited to just Ridge Racer now. It’s a trivial thing but given how long I was waiting between screens I feel it needs to be mentioned (the nice CGI stills can only keep you occupied for so long)

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Not all loading screens are created equally

Always love a character customiser! The hours wasted on a new face to mold, tweak all the slight imperfections until they look absolutely perfect and then hide it all under a helmet. The default faces in Star Citizen are frankly, a bit of a mess. Strangely though the customisation menu and colour system does reminds me of those shareware beauty software tools from Vogue and the like. Hey don’t judge! Some of those were fun when you had loaded every single bit of shareware that came with PCZone back in the day. Essentially a precursor for The Sims in a way.

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I WAS BORN FROM SPACE

Loading takes forever but given my PC specs this isn’t surprising. It’s handy to have a 3DS with Pokemon Sun unfinished near to hand. Still this is a long load. No Mans Sky couldn’t run very smoothly at launch and even that loaded significantly quicker than this. Damn who else forgot there’s Pokemon that need to be traded to evolve? Crums even Civ5 doesn’t take this long to load, has it crashed out? Nope, the loading pong is slowly chugging back and forth…

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FOR THE CRUSADE!

Ah there we go, it’s finally crashed out. Crusader mode is going to have to wait, hang on. I’ve gained memory again? Okay best as I said before to take that error with a pinch of salt. Let’s see if any other mode can handle this default resolution before tinkering. FPS multiplayer here we… oh, you can’t solo with bots. Ah but there is training! Fantastic! Here we …. nope. 3 frames per minute isn’t playable. Time to shift the resolution down a few thousand pixels.

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Magic Memory!

Quake Champions managed around 60fps at this resolution (occasionally dipped to 50). It looked like old Quake but damn it played fine and if you want an excuse to check it out, there you have one. Go frag! Shame it won’t be coming to consoles anytime soon, something it shares with Star Citizen.

Tinkering over with, let’s see if that’s enough for this to even run…

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Now we’re cooking with…. disappointment

A resounding ‘kinda’. The game runs but it’s still pretty unplayable and that’s with everything turned down and enough bandwidth to out perform most other players. What is here seems to be generic FPS slop. Space Call Of Duty (aka Destiny 2) looks and runs better (and that’s not the low resolution talking) it’s slow-paced and chuggy because it looks to be terribly optimized. Everything even surroundings are highly detailed polygon models with reflections and various effects regardless of resolution and settings. Early access I know but it’s a shame there doesn’t seem to be much optimizing going in and this is literally earning it’s “only for high spec PCs” title.

I realize they really are pushing for an Ultra High spec that can be used like Crysis to test PCs but I’ve watched some beast PC footage of this mode and it really isn’t that fantastic. As for Crysis I remember my mid-range PC at the time still managing to run Crysis and be playable without the bells and whistles that top tiers enjoyed. Just a thought.

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I bet the original design was SPACE FORCE

Back to the meat and veg of the game then, Space. Now that I know the game “works”.

Starting with swelling classical musics and generic space sounds don’t help set it apart. I suppose we’re in a time and place where every game must have sweeping tracks of classic opulence just to show how ‘grand’ space is?

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Strangley sort of angled screen for this one but the game has already loaded by this point

This is a much better start. Nice panel work and this mode starting you off in a clustered asteroid filled space is perfect.

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Getting some serious Wing Commander vibes here

All that good feeling melts away as it still chugs when a few things happen at once and I’m sure I can see the pop-up when closer models appear and the lag even from single player is showing.

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DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS!

How does this slightly jarring space sim feel then? Horrible floaty controls with keyboard and mouse that somehow produce dizzyingly high motion sickness but solid responsive controls for a controller so that’s the way to go.

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Targeting back on and BOOM, just remember to avoid the debris!

I really can’t stress this part enough though, the setting is spot on. If your going to dogfight in space zipping around a shattered moon and giant lasers while zapping at space ships is great and pretty much what every good space game tries to replicate in some way.

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The cockpit does sway quite drastically with the ship as well, built for VR perhaps?

There we go. I’ve had a go at every mode that I could, watched more footage of the difference a powerful PC can make and at this time, having a cup of tea and thinking:

Is Star Citizen better than Elite Dangerous at the moment?

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Or as I like to call it “Twitter”

Nope not by a long shot.

Could it be?

Star Citizen is always a game I can’t help but feel is in danger of becoming a Molyneux title, one that is never released but adds new features instead forever plagued by feature creep. If you look at its history how can you not laugh? If you were investing large sums into this by now your likely already convinced it was worth it and if you didn’t you’ll be waiting for its launch to see if it’s worth the higher asking price. It’s a little like investing in an Xbox before it was launched. Sure you could have the latest and greatest games machine, or you could end up with a machine that collects dust next to its rivals. Only time will tell if it results in a 360 or 1.

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