RymdResa Review (or Lonely Stars in Open Skies)
(Disclosure: The reviewer was given a copy of the game by the developer for purposes of review. You can now buy RymdResa on Steam here.)
RymdResa is developed by Morgondag; a Nordic games developer based out of Sweden. The music is by Tom Croke and Pat Jacobs.
RymdResa is an incredibly lonely rogue-like space sim with RPG elements. It has a rather excellently done soundtrack, retro inspired graphics, and is a technical masterpiece from a coding perspective. The main story can take roughly 3-6 hours to complete, with other elements such as collecting research pods in space (Which seems more of a matter of luck than anything) and resource collecting for survival purposes and base building in the later chapters. It is difficult to pin down just where RymdResa belongs on the genre scale, but rogue-like fulfills the purpose for the sake of Steam categorization.
Star-Swept Stories in Sullen Space
You play the lonely cloned pilot of a spacecraft that you choose before each chapter; with three chapters contained in this rogue-like. In the first chapter — Hope — you learn that the pilot’s home planet has been destroyed by an asteroid, and are tasked with finding a replacement home-world while drifting through the void. In the second chapter — A New Home — once you find a new planet, you are then tasked with procuring materials to create new upgrades for the planet. You then make the ultimate upgrade in chapter two, which leads to the third chapter — Nether Space — a far more dangerous realm than the real space.
This is merely the overarching story, as RymdResa has one listening to the pilot’s musings as he drifts through space and becomes detached from the world of his birth, the love of his life, and even the ground beneath his feet. These little snippets play in the background, and mark the pilot’s diary as your ship lazily drifts through space. The melancholy nature of the game suggests at first that the pilot is willing to accept death, or at least eternal loneliness. Before becoming somewhat hopeful in the second and third chapters, the musings reveal the pilot has lost everything. This evolves in the second chapter as they get hope and a purpose, and into the third chapter as that grows into a desire.
Other stories, hidden in the descriptions for planets and other space objects, describe a galaxy that has died. Or at the least one that is anathema to life. Curious locales can be spotted where it seems the spirits of the galaxies themselves wrote on the tapestry of the void itself, leaving messages both hopeful and dire for both the previous inhabitants and the present pilot.
Overall, it feels as if the stories within are an allegory for something more than what is presented — showing hope against everlasting despair. Of someone desperate for another chance, somewhere out there in space.
The controls are fairly simple. Using the mouse (or heaven forbid a controller for this), you engage thrust with the left mouse button. You use Q to interact with things in the wild expanses of the void and this drives along the story. Maintaining the ship’s cohesion by collecting resources, either from stars (with the right level upgrades) or planetary objects floating by is core to surviving. One must drift from mission objective to mission objective without colliding with various red-lined objects that desperately wish to see your ship destroyed. A boost system allows the ship to speed up at the cost of resources. And throughout this, one must also collect stars to have starpoints to afford the various ships one can choose between chapters or after death.
There are eight ships to choose from, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and even soundtracks to mark their travel through the void. Each ship does manages to avoid sameness, and although half are locked before the second chapter, those available offer a different experience to each other as one drifts through the void.
The player is able to level-up after collecting enough starpoints; which act as currency for the ships. Experience points allow the player to take milestone upgrades that can make your ship tougher, and gather resources and gain more starpoints to advance. Each level-up also gives the player points to put into skills that allow them to explore strange anomalies in space, use teleportation technologies, and gather even more resources to ensure the ship’s survival.
Equipment can be put onto the ship to improve the various stats, improving greatly each key ability or hedging up weaknesses. The equipment can be gained from the bosses, stars, planetary anomalies, or just randomly out in space.
Once your ship is destroyed by the uncaring void (and it will happen eventually), the player keeps all experience, starpoints, equipment and milestone choices that have been found.
The pixelated nature of the game reminds one of an Amiga computer, with the art super retro but thankfully not overdone. With the hundreds of random objects to find throughout the galaxy, ranging from planets, abandoned space shuttles — and I swear I saw a barbecue at one point — it is easy on the eye. It gets the point across quite well, and lends to the overall melancholy atmosphere that the game is going for.
Music & Audio
As mentioned in the gameplay section, each ship has their own soundtrack, roughly five to six minutes long. Each track available has their own instruments comprised of a variety of electronic instruments. Synth strings, drums, keys, and even a theremin for the UFO ship create an interesting soundtrack with songs that feel utterly independent of each other. Overall, it is excellently done.
The sounds within RymdResa are well crafted, but the voice over narration for the story bits can get a bit repetitive. This reviewer found the filters used on the actor’s voice grating over time, rather than atmospheric. His performance, however, was extremely appropriate; showing just how detached the pilot has become over his time spent in space. Loneliness leaks through, as does stress, and the occasional happy moment as appropriate.
Technical & Settings
The settings within RymdResa are extremely thorough, with a focus on gameplay elements; audio and sound each having their own portions of the settings menu. Of the hours played throughout start to finish, there has only been one bug as a result of an update and it was fixed within a week.
RymdResa reminds me of a freeware game by the name of Transcendence. Both are roguelikes set in space, where everything is out to kill you outside of the safe areas. But where Transcendence was about going on the offensive, it feels as if RymdResa was attempting to go the other way. The player’s craft is vulnerable, and until the third chapter doesn’t even get the possibility of a shield. Equipment is kept between deaths, lessening the traditional costs of death in a rogue-like.
But with such an abstract story told in bits and pieces within a decent space game, this works to its advantage. For those looking for something different in the space adventure genre, I suggest giving RymdResa a try.
Purchase RymdResa at full price if: You like quirky, abstract stories told in an unexpected medium. If you like the occasional rogue-like, and are easily frustrated by death.
Purchase at a discount if: You are more of a traditionalist with roguelikes, or are more interested in a combat focused space sim.
Do not purchase at all if: You are a hardliner with roguelikes, don’t much care for space sims or can get annoyed with being interrupted by voice-overs every five minutes or so.
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