It’s the 22nd Century and the world is wrecked beyond repair. The summers are boiling, the winters are freezing, and what’s left of the human race is desperately looking for a way off this bastard rock. In Space Haven, out now in Early Access, you’ll build a starship and blast off into space, creating a new life for yourself in the void. You might get lucky and enjoy a peaceful, prosperous life away from the troubles of Earth. Or you might get eaten by a giant space bug. There’s no telling what’s waiting for you out there in the abyss.
Your adventure begins on an old mining platform surrounded by asteroids. This basic starting base has enough to keep your small crew alive and comfortable, but there’s one fairly major limitation: it can’t move. To explore other planets and solar systems, you’re going to need to build a ship. And you have to do it from scratch, laying out the shape of the hull, building all the machinery and computers required to run it, and, most important of all, making sure your crew don’t die when you leave the relative safety of your base.
Your crew aren’t just disposable drones; they’re little people with traits, personalities, and skills. One might be a skilled botanist, but gets lonely if they don’t mingle with their crewmates enough. Another might be an ace pilot, but an absolutely terrible shot with a pistol. You also have to manage your crew’s mood, Sims-style, making sure their food, energy, comfort, safety, social, and health levels don’t dip too low. They’re a sensitive, needy bunch, and you’ll feel bad if something terrible happens to them.
Luckily there are ways to keep your crew comfortable. They get stressed out around machinery, so if you build their quarters away from it, they’ll get a mood boost when they retire there after work. And objects like jukeboxes, kitchens, beds, arcade machines will lift their mood. A good ship or base in Space Haven will have a balanced mix of comfort and function, which lends the game a nice touch of humanity. The stats are ridiculously deep, even down to how much protein, carbs, fat, and vitamins they’re getting in their diet.
As for gathering the materials required to start building your ship, there are a few ways to go about it. You can mine the asteroids floating around your base, sending out little pods to drill them. Or you can scavenge scrap from derelict ships, one of which will always be floating near your starting base. But if you’ve seen Alien or played Duskers, you’ll know that derelict starships are rarely good news. Before you send your crew in, you’ll want to equip them with weapons and make sure they can handle themselves in a scrap.
Boarding a derelict ship is a nerve-racking moment. If there’s an airlock you can access it there or, if it’s broken, leave your shuttle and float through a shattered hull breach. Either way, you can’t see what’s ahead. The corridors are obscured by a fog of war, which is a clever way of building tension. There’s every chance the derelict will be empty, but most of the time you’ll encounter enemies, whether it’s pirates or giant alien bugs. Clear them out and you can begin stripping the wreck of materials to help build your own ship.
When it comes to building your ship, you have an impressive amount of control over the process. You can lay the hull out block by block, and sit back and watch as your little constructor drones potter back and forth laying the pieces down. It’s a slow process, though. You’ll often run out of resources and have to wait for your crew to gather more. And they have to go to sleep at night as well, because they’re only human after all. They’ll also need time to socialise, hang out, and play arcade games. Mental health is important.
Eventually, the frame of your ship will be finished, and you can begin the process of making it spaceworthy. This is a lengthy job, but a satisfying one. You have to install grow beds so your botanist can maintain a food supply, gas scrubbers to keep the air clean, vents to circulate oxygen, a shield generator, a hull stabiliser, and a dozen other things. And, finally, the hyperdrive. Plugging this giant, powerful-looking engine to the back of your ship is a thrilling moment, because it’s when your blocky little creation suddenly looks like a ship, ready for an adventure.
When everything’s ready, you can pull up a star map and begin your journey. At first you can only hop between planets in your local system, but build hypersleep chambers and you can embark on long interstellar journeys. Out in space you’ll find more derelicts, encounter other ships, battle aliens and pirates, and discover other mysteries. If Space Haven was just a game about building a ship I’d be into it, but the fact that all this is waiting for you once you’ve spun up your hyperdrive is pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see what’s out there.