Kerbal Space Program 2 Early Access Review: A Catastrophic Reentry

Oh no, poor Kerbal Space Program 2. The highly anticipated sequel to everyone’s favorite rocket-building space exploration game is a hot mess. A bug list longer than a Saturn V sounds like a dire medical diagnosis: quivering periapsis, unpredictable methane leak, advanced-stage separation anxiety, loose payloads, non-stop burning, and tender nodes.

The developers, smiling grimly at circumstances presumably beyond their control, describe the release as like dropping a child off on their first day of school. Well, the boy forgot his lunchbox, uniform, books and pencil case. They showed up at the wrong school, on a Saturday during term. If you were stranded on a desert island and had to recreate Kerbal Space Program from memory using nothing but coconuts and string, it would be something like Kerbal Space Program 2. The game is nowhere near finished, it barely looks like the promotional videos and is not ready, even by Early Access standards.

If the original game passed you by, here’s how it works. You run a space center in a fully simulated and persistent solar system designed to be more or less similar to our own, with analogues of Jupiter, Mars and Venus all registering it around a central star. Using a toy chest of LEGO-style bricks, you build rockets capable of safely (or not) transporting your crew of little green kerbonauts into orbit and eventually to the surfaces of other planets and moons (and back again). home again). , if you’re feeling ambitious).

The cartoony graphics are underpinned by an extremely realistic physics system, which draws on real-world orbital mechanics to drive the simulation. His first experimental rockets either collapsed under their own weight or quickly disassembled mid-launch. Proper preparation is needed to seamlessly decouple the spent fuel tanks as you tear through the denser parts of the lower atmosphere, shedding more and more of your rocket like a big self-peeling Cheestring, until you’re heading sideways faster than the Gravity can catch you.

A screenshot from Kerbal Space Program 2 of a small rocket in front of a huge red planet

A kerbal from Kerbal Space Program 2 stands on a red sand planet next to a planted KSP flag

Eventually, you’ll start using terms like delta-V, Hohmann transfers, and the Oberth effect in polite dinner conversation. The first time you land on the Mun without any fatalities is one of the greatest feelings in gaming – you’ll look fawningly at your tin lander, sitting there peacefully on the regolith, as if it were your own newborn metal child.

Over the years, KSP1 has become more complex. It evolved from a simple sandbox to a full campaign, with science collection, contracts, resources and tech trees. You can populate your solar system with a network of solar-powered communications satellites, connecting remote orbital space stations and transmitting a constant feed of new data back to your space center. Mod support has transformed the look of the game and added a library of player-made parts to choose from. It’s a giant, weird, and not always welcoming game.

“There are no quests to complete, so you’re limited to ‘make your own fun’ from the sandbox.”

But while the original game still exists, a full-price early access version of KSP2 was always going to be a tough sell, no matter what condition it arrived in. however, the sequel is missing many of the core features found in the original game. There are no quests to complete, so you’re limited to “making your own fun” from the sandbox. There are fewer parts to build. Physical simulation aspects are not here either. There are heat shields, for example, but they are useless, as ships do not heat up on re-entry.

A rocket being launched into space at Kerbal Space Program 2 screenshot

There are improvements too. Each vessel now has a parts management window, which allows you to choose and control parts of your ship using a drop-down menu, rather than having to fumble around with your mouse cursor. There is a well-developed tutorial system designed to help new players understand how rockets and orbits work. Wings are now made by customizing their shape with a series of sliders, rather than randomly stringing them together like puzzle pieces. The game looks amazing too, featuring a fully orchestrated soundtrack and using audio recorded from real rocket engines.

The vertical assembly building and spaceplane hangar have been merged into one large workshop, which comes with some quality-of-life improvements. Loose parts don’t fade, so you can more easily work on final stage landers and other payloads in minute detail before fitting them into their shipping bay. There’s also a trip planner, which tells you how much energy you need to get where you want to go and should reduce the number of times you press Alt-Tab to Google “ksp delta-v map” by exactly 100%.

But these additions are overshadowed by everything that is clearly wrong or missing from this version of KSP2. You can’t see your ship’s thrust-to-weight ratio at a given stage, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a very useful number that determines whether the rocket goes up (good) or the rocket goes down (bad). And then there are the more egregious bugs, which were visible in the highly controlled environment of last week’s YouTuber preview event but still made their way into the paid Early Access release. Crashing to the desktop during simple orbital burns, glitching menus and spamming the screen with “game not paused” messages, Kerbals falling to the ground or hovering above it, maneuvering nodes sending you into bizarre trajectories.

A piece of a spaceship is being added to a space shuttle in a workshop at Kerbal Space Program 2

A jet-shaped rocket flies across the sky in Kerbal Space Program 2

A Kerbal Space Program 2 screenshot of a small space shuttle in outer space

Scroll through the subreddit and you’ll see the worst of it: the entire space center, turned on its side and teleported from Kerbin to the crater of some distant moon. You would be laughing if you weren’t paying £44.99 for this. We delayed our review a weekend to see if an initial patch would address some of the worst issues, but the first fixes are still weeks away, and what will be fixed is anyone’s guess. The feature roadmap, however, is unscheduled – there are no guarantees that KSP2 will reach a decently playable state in the foreseeable future, much less replace KSP1 as the preferred option.

Sadder still is that this version of KSP2 is so fundamentally unstable that it actively discourages you from trying to build something too ambitious or complex, should the game vaporize your efforts on a whim. There’s no sense of achievement when the odds you face have nothing to do with mastering the complex physics of interplanetary spaceflight, but the game’s own unfinished code. A Kerbal Space Program that throws cold water on its ambitions hardly looks like a Kerbal Space Program.

Pushed out of the early access chamber before he can change into his EVA suit, Kerbal Space Program 2 needs a rescue mission.

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