Cloud Imperium’s latest update 3.10 (and its subsequent patches to 3.10.2) brings fewer features than normal, but is supposed to have more polish than previous patches. It’s probably what you’d call a “quality of life” update.
The patch brings a new and improved flight model to ships, particularly concerning thier performance in atmosphere. There already was an atmospheric flight model separate to the space model, but it’s been tweaked to make ships feel overall weightier. Now big ships actually feel like the huge metal monsters they actually are, and small ships don’t feel like twigs. Just don’t clip the ground, or you are quite rudely reminded that they are virtual ships with no weight as you bounce back into the stratosphere, only this time without a way to slow down. It’s a rather unpleasant way to finish a 10 minute trip across the solar system.
As for combat, there has been a targeting update in ships, which brings features like a new UI, a much needed update over the older system. Now you can see various things which are trying to kill you much clearer, as they surgically remove the left wing you were growing fond of after the last incident. The poor sods you persuaded to bring along in the turret gunners can now see targets you have which makes turret life a bit less painful. This is accompanied by a bunch of keybinding changes to make life easier.
The new Greycat Roc has been added, a mining vehicle which bridges the gap between hand mining and ship mining. Unfortunately it cannot be bought in game yet, unlike almost every other ship which can be purchased with in game currency now. Even though I’ve never saved up enough to buy a ship in game, I have been secretly looking forward to being able to buy every ship using UEC. It allows another avenue of progression, which makes it feel just a few steps closer to being a fully fledged game.
Players can now send each other money, which makes group cargo running a viable option. I’ve been waiting for this one, as the one person in my group of friends without a cargo ship I always end up with the short straw when it comes to cargo runs. Either we took thier big ships and they earnt a lot of money, or we squeezed into my essentially useless 350R and ran a few boxes around for peanuts. Now however, I can get paid for the 2 hours of mobile phone browsing I do whilst in the turret. Fantastic.
There are more features that I have neglected to mention as frankly it’s gets a bit nitty gritty. You can read about them here. Just don’t get lost in the issues section.
My experience playing through this version was a bit mixed. The first thing that hit me was the 15fps. It reminds me that I do need to upgrade my hardware from a now quite outdated gtx970, however last patch I played the frame rate was just fine, so perhaps they’ve done goofed something in the code, as everyone else I played with also had the same issue. The graphics are pretty.. pretty. Just set everything to highest settings, because it doesn’t seem to affect the performance much. If I’m gonna get 15 frames a second, they are gonna be the best looking frames Ive ever seen. Cities are laggy at the best of times, and in space there is basically nothing to really cause your fps to drop other than space battles in asteroid fields.
The gameplay in the current version is slow but rewarding, as you have plenty to work towards now, including ship upgrades, FPS weapons and new ships. I personally find the most pleasure out of cargo running between outposts, as cities are just too unoptimised to be enjoyable. The landing sites are nice to look at, but that 15 FPS combined with taking 10 soul sucking minutes between the landing and getting to the actual city area is just too tedious for me. Maybe in a future update when it has more NPC’s and shop stalls en-route it will be worth the walk, but for now it’s just npcs all rebelliously standing on chairs. They fixed this! And now they return! Damn it, Chris.
If you’ve already bought it, it’s definately worth the quarterly play-test I give it when I have a spare 100gb on my ssd. But I just couldn’t recomend buying it, a fresh install, to friends who want something to play today. Hell, it’s hard enough to justify redownloading it to friends that already do have it. Whilst I don’t doubt that CIG will get around to all the features they have spoken about, it’s not polished enough to be fun for more than a day of play. Yeah, it’s in alpha. I get it. It’s not meant to be polished. But if it was just playable, then people would be putting a lot more money into the game.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a spark of a good game in there, hidden amongst the bugs. It’s there if you look for it.