Usually, when a game does almost everything right, it’ll still be an enjoyable experience even if that one glaring mistake nags at you from time to time. Into the Stars does almost everything right – it’s a fantastic concept, it looks great, it sounds great. However, the area where it does not excel is perhaps the most important – gameplay.
Before the game even loaded, it had a strike against it – Into the Stars triggered both my antivirus software and Windows Defender, and although false positives happen, this was a sign of more rough edges to come. My system wasn’t even top of the line when I bought it, but it more than meets the recommended system requirements, and it still took several minutes to get the point where I could start the game. Once inside, I attempted to access the options menu to review the controls scheme, and the game just hung there – after several minutes of trying and failing to view the controls, I finally tabbed out and opened a screen shot I took of the control scheme. Lastly, once I decided I’d played enough and attempted to save and close the game, it locked my entire computer, forcing me to hard reboot – I wasn’t even able to close it using the control panel.
I still might have been able to forgive all of that if the game was extraordinary, but it’s not. Although I love the idea of being the last bastion of the human race, and exploring planets for resources while trying to survive against hostile alien races, actually playing Into the Stars wasn’t fun. Nothing was well explained, and I probably wasted two weeks of in game time (and the associated necessary resources) trying to make my spaceship move. Even when I managed to figure out the proper keybind (it’s SHIFT, but even after playing for an hour, I’m not sure if you have to press it multiple times or just press and hold to get to max speed), the movement was initially so slow that I wasn’t 100% sure that I was moving at all.
You’re going to have to go back and forth from the gorgeous outside view to the captain’s chair pretty frequently, because it seems like there is forever some small problem you need to personally assign one of your bridge crew to deal with. I just wanted to gawk at the star system, but the game demanded I send someone to deal with people relieving themselves in the streets instead of in the designated facilities. Call me crazy, but I feel like on a ship this size with so much to worry about, there should be an infrastructure in place to deal with things like public defecation.
Sending out mining probes to gather critical resources requires playing a minigame that looks so completely out of place, it might have been an afterthought. You use the arrow keys to guide the probe to hit the resources you’re hoping to obtain while avoiding the blocks that will damage your probe. It’s probably the only fast paced thing in the game, and it looks and feels so bad, you’ll find yourself wondering if it’s worth playing to get the life support systems back online.
All in all, Into the Stars was a giant disappointment. I feel like the developers were so caught up in making it look and sound fantastic that they forgot that the most important part is to make the game actually fun to play. Resource harvesting isn’t fun, managing your crew and onboard colony isn’t fun, and combat? Also not fun. I finished my play session very frustrated, and feeling bad about every time I grumbled about terrible graphics in an otherwise impressive game. I can’t recommend this at any price, and certainly not for $20.