This might shock you, but I really love EVE Online. If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at how often I’ve written about the game. It’s more than anyone ever should, to be totally honest, but I take it all in stride. But the problem with EVE has always been that the game is incredibly polarizing. Some people love it to death and will play it until the day CCP finally shuts it down, others try the game out for a bit and are immediately turned off by the obtuse game mechanics, steep learning curve, and intimidating culture surrounding it. But both parties can usually agree on one thing: EVE Online is unlike anything else on the market.
But let’s pretend for a minute here that you’re one of the many people that don’t find your itch being scratched by EVE. You love space, you love exploration, and you love blowing stuff up, but you want something that gives you those options without the aspects that make EVE so, well, EVE. Does such a thing exist? Yes. Yes it does.
This week on Games Like, we’re taking a look at some viable alternatives to games set in space!
Elite: Dangerous is the brand new reimagining of the game that started it all, Elite. David Braben, CEO of Frontier Developments, is the guy behind both games and if you’re looking for a great space sim to slowly turn your evenings into sleepy mornings, this one will do admirably. Set in a 1:1 scale version of our own Milky Way galaxy, Elite: Dangerous puts you behind the cockpit of a variety of ships that will carry you to the roughly 400 billion star systems spread throughout its expansive world. You can trade, smuggle, become a pirate, hunt other pirates for bounties, and more.
Though EVE Online and Elite: Dangerous share the obvious theme of being set in space, both games are also nonlinear and made for players who enjoy setting their own goals and striving towards them without having their hand held. But at this stage, EVE Online remains a behemoth when it comes to content, whereas Elite: Dangerous can easily begin to feel thin if you’re the sort who is looking for a game constantly seeking to please you with new and exciting events.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that Elite: Dangerous allows you to fly your ship directly, making the game much more immediate and immersive on many levels. Dogfighting is a big aspect of Elite, which is a departure from the more tactical, plodding pace of EVE Online‘s more tactical engagements.
If you’re hard pressed for a space sim, Elite will certainly fill the role. Just don’t be surprised that the game is lacking much of the heft that EVE has accrued over its decade of dominance in the genre.
If you’re wanting a game that plays and feels almost identical to EVE Online but for some crazy reason hate space then Perpetuum is for you. Borrowing much of the sandbox nature and gameplay elements of EVE Online, Perpetuum bundles it all up and repackages itself as an open world robot MMORPG.
Like EVE, you can switch between various robots that each serve distinctive purposes such as gathering resources or combat. The game itself seems to have been directly inspired by EVE, to the point where experienced players will likely find it almost creepy how similar the games are, not just in vision but in general aesthetics also. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and EVE Online is certainly lacking in direct competition.
Perhaps one of the strongest arguments in Perpetuum‘s favor is the lack of subscription fee. The game requires a one-time upfront cost but other than that you are free to enjoy it at your leisure without feeling the pressure of getting your money’s worth.
If you enjoy the strategy and sandbox nature of EVE Online, Perpetuum emulates almost all of those with a decent degree of honesty and skill. The game isn’t nearly as popular, and suffers from lacking the same budget and experience that CCP has, but that doesn’t the game isn’t enjoyable.
If you want the dog fighting of Elite: Dangerous, the ship customization and group tactics of EVE Online, and a game that is free to play and a boatload of fun, Star Conflict will probably do the job. Published by Gaijin Entertainment, this dogfighting space sim forgoes the big open stretches of an open world for intense arena combat not dissimilar to most multiplayer first person shooters. Only in Star Conflict, there are a variety of ships that each fill particular roles that help enforce a more strategic, team oriented experience.
Game types typically play off of the standards we’ve come to know and love, like capture the flag and king of the hill, but having the extra Z axis in space helps make all the difference. You’re free to weave over and under the asteroids and structures that litter the arena, creating tense multi-ship dogfights that always end in thrilling explosions.
There are a variety of ships that you can fly, but be warned, those looking for an entirely free to play experience will be required to invest a significant chunk of time to steadily unlock the best ships, and taking the jack-of-all-trades approach will only slow your progress further.
But for the price of free, Star Conflict is easily worth your time. Don’t be fooled by its arena mentality towards combat, the game is deep and you will have a massive variety of options for customizing your ship and employing strategies on the field of battle.
Though it’s not out yet, Star Citizen has released a few modules of its various gameplay sections that will allow early investors in this staggering online game a sneak peek into the game. Simply put, Star Citizen sounds too good to be true, and it very well might be. It has the funding that would make most Silicon Valley companies swoon with jealousy, and, if that funding is put to good use, Star Citizen promises to be a game that redefines the whole genre.
If you’re one of the many who find yourself sold on its premise, you can cough up a bit of cash now as an investment in the game’s development and earn your spot in some of the alpha and beta programs that will be making their way to you in the coming months.
For the rest of us, we’ll just have to sit back and admire the sheer tenacity of Roberts Space Industry’s vision and keep our fingers crossed that Star Citizen actually delivers. Hey, I’d actually be pretty happy if even half of what they promised actually works. It’d still be a bigger game than anything released in the past few years.
The thing is, games set in space are a dime a dozen. Even better, many of them play into the inherent freedom that spaceflight provides by baking that theme into the game itself, creating a genre of games that, like EVE Online, value player choice, open worlds, and dynamic gameplay. We named just a few of the most notable choices, but that isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of games out there just as capable of scratching that itch.
If you’re craving an MMORPG, you might try Star Trek Online. If you want something that you can take on the go, give FTL: Faster Than Light or Galaxy on Fire 2 a shot, both of which are different takes on space exploration with the former emphasizing replayability and incredible space battles, and the latter pushing a big open world and a less focused, more player-driven experience.
Those willing to unplug your ethernet cables for a completely offline experience should check out Sins of Solar Empire, a real-time strategy game that will see you slowly conquer entire empires with your massive fleets and clever diplomacy. Both Freelancer games are certainly worn thin by time, but, even today, remain classics of the genre and worthy of your time. If you like your space with a little Jedi in it, give Tie Fighter, X Wing vs. Tie Fighter, or any of the other Star Wars themed dog fighting games a go. Have you ever thought of building your own spaceship? Kerbal Space Program let’s you do just that, and trust me, few things are as satisfying as actually landing on the moon (just make sure you planned how to get back).
EVE Online is certainly unique, but that isn’t to say it is entirely original. Space is a theme that has been well-tread by games for decades. CCP’s MMORPG provides players a rich and vibrant culture to engross themselves in, but those looking for an opportunity to scour the stars will find dozens of games each with their own unique angle and all of them just as worthy as the last. Of course, if we missed any on this list, be sure to pipe up in the comments!Related: Column, Elite: Dangerous, EVE Online, Games Like, Perpetuum, Star Citizen, Star Conflict, Star Trek Online