No matter what progress Cloud Imperium Games makes and shows off to the world, there’s still a healthy contingent of naysayers ready to shoot it down. Most come along with half-baked perceptions on how game development works and cite things like “200 million dollars” and “release dates” that ignore readily available information. While it’s not hard to refute nearly all of these issues, it’s practically impossible to convince some of these individuals Star Citizen is a real thing. Those people probably didn’t make it past the first sentence or two, and this article isn’t really for them. What I will discuss here is where Star Citizen is right now and where it’s going to be in the foreseeable future.
The most recent update to this alpha was 3.7. With it came some new ships: two variants of an existing ship (Aegis Vanguard), the first of an alien race’s ship (Banu Defender), and a ship that will bring in an interdiction mechanic (RSI Mantis). While the variants are a nice addition and the fancy design of a new alien ship is always a pleasure to see, the star of the show is the Mantis. With it, players can now pull ships out of quantum travel and keep them out for some time. Quantum travel is the “warp” of the Star Citizen universe and a state within which you couldn’t have anyone intervene. This new ship gives players the ability to get at those quantum travelers and thus adds another layer to the gameplay.
Previously, it wasn’t too difficult for someone to avoid combat simply by charging their quantum drive and heading out. Being outmatched just meant you had to turn and run to survive. With the Mantis, you can lock down your opponents and force either a fight or surrender. However, the Mantis itself isn’t much for combat. The stock equipment onboard prevents you from doing much outside of minor damage to most ships you ensnare. This means that the player will most likely need to have allies around to enforce their ship’s ability. That creates great potential for quality team play mechanics and even hiring other players – a system already in the game.
The patch also included several other good updates and additions. These include things like an updated character creation system, improvements to the NPC ship and character combat AI, and underground caves with mining using a special utility tool. However, the most important addition for the future of the game is the addition of a rental system that allows players to use in-game currency to rent ships. The 3.6 patch introduced the purchasing of ships, but the price was significant for a game that still reset progress on the quarterly patches. Renting allows for a great deal more player flexibility.
Before 3.6, the only way to get other ships in the game was to buy them for real money (something that turned many people away) or rent the limited ships that could only be used in the Arena Commander module. This relegated you to only a selection comprised mostly of combat fighters and you could only use them in the limited multiplayer modes of Arena Commander. Now, with only a moderate amount of time invested in missions or cargo trading, you can make enough UEC to rent even the fanciest ships in-game.
This addition is another significant milestone in what it is going to take to give Star Citizen the appeal it needs to shake off the whole “buying ships” anchor that has weighed it down for so many people. There has always been the promise of “you only need to buy a starter package,” which has historically been as low as $25 (currently $45), and now that situation is truer than ever. You can start with the relatively limited ship of a starter package and accomplish tasks that will let you do a great deal more in the existing game without investing another dollar. That’s the game that people wanted from the start and what every player deserves.
The road to release is still a long one though. Star Citizen won’t see 4.0 until July of next year and even that doesn’t bring with it any promise of graduation from “alpha” status. It is well within the expectation that all of 2020 will still be fleshing out content, AI, back end functionality, and tweaking gameplay with the continued label of “alpha.” However, it is becoming clearer with every patch that more playable content and tangible improvements are making the game feel like something you want to keep playing rather than just try out.
Has anything you’ve seen about Star Citizen lately made it more appealing if you haven’t checked it out before? Are you waiting for an actual release before you give it a shot? If not, what about it turns you away? Also, here’s a silly video covering many of the new additions for 3.7.
Also if you want a more detailed look at recent progress from a third party, check out this video from Digital Foundry.