Preview: RymdResa

Stockholm-based developer duo Morgondag (are game development couples a thing now?) are on their final few weeks before the release of their upcoming indie game, RymdResa, which comes out on the 20th of August. They sent me some code so I could give you an idea of what to expect from this space-exploration game. Before I get into that, let’s take a look at how they describe the game, according to their store page on Steam:

A poetic, roguelike space odyssey in a procedurally generated world! RymdResa is a challenging and evolving adventure where abstract poetry and art are expressed throughout a lonely and and calm journey in space. Travel through a mysterious cosmos, deep and beyond.

That does rather sum it up, but I’ll elaborate a bit on it. RymdResa has you controlling a lone cosmonaut who’s set out to brave the final frontier, exploring it, at first, in order to find a suitable planet to colonize, as his former one is no more. I say at first because the game is split into three chapters, each using the same base of space-exploring but with a twist of their own.

From planets and derelict ships to space monsters, there's plenty to see as you explore space.
From planets and derelict ships to space monsters, there’s plenty to see as you explore a space that isn’t all too empty.

The first chapter, for instance, has you going through space in search of nine randomly generated locations. You’ll need to explore all of them in one go, and while doing so isn’t necessarily hard, you’ll find that your resources – an amalgamation of your ship’s health, food and fuel – whither away in proportion to how fast you wish to explore things and how reckless you’re willing to be, as crashing into asteroids, venturing into a star’s radiation zone and unlucky events when exploring all detract from your resources. Fortunately, any consumable items and ship parts, experience and spacepoints you get are kept from one death to the other, allowing you to improve your captain and his ship and “buy” (between quotes because a ship you buy lasts until you die) different ships for a new bout of exploration, each with their own benefits and soundtrack.

A game that’s sufficiently literal to name itself “Space Voyage” wouldn’t call itself poetry without, literally, containing poetry. Poems are read by one Eric Reed (not the Jazz artist, apparently) as you spend time in space and stumble upon certain objects, and messages are scrawled against the background and written in verse on exploration event messages. I personally found the game to be at its most poetic when you wander silently throughout space, with no threats but the environment itself, your cosmonaut voicing his solitude every now and then.

Those who cringe at the notion of games as an art form might get bothered by RymdResa.
Those who cringe at the notion of games as an art form might get bothered by RymdResa’s frequent poems.

A couple of things irked me while playing, though. Being in space, constant acceleration isn’t really a necessity – and yet it’s hard to tell when your ship has reached maximum speed, as the relative speed of the background doesn’t seem consistent and sufficiently informing. Speaking of which, certain objects – like derelict spaceships and monsters – aren’t discernible as foreground or background immediately, sometimes requiring you to go over them to find out whether you can explore them or not. Threats are easily seen, however, with their red outlines.

Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat.
Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.

RymdResa is promising. During the time I played, I couldn’t help but feel it hit that sweet spot between concerning you with too many things and boring you with a lack of said things: health points, fuel, food are all pooled into one category called “resources”, making your only concern the proper exploration and avoidance of hazards, all the while giving you a sense of progression with skills and attributes to upgrade, along with ship parts to improve your vessel with. Without the seemingly ominous combat we see in space games, RymdResa allows you to concern yourself only with exploration, and soak in the environment and its poetry without the looming threat of conflict. In less than twenty days we’ll see if it manages to keep things interesting throughout all three chapters.

RymdResa was played on retail code provided by the developers.

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