Roberts Space Industries let loose a new vertical slice from the upcoming first episode of Star Citizen’s Squadron 42 single-player campaign. The only thing that’s really vertical about the slice are the scripted cinematics. Almost everything present when it comes to the gameplay loops in the demonstration are already available in alpha 3.0.0, but there are a lot of scripted sequences in between to give the game a more “cinematic” feel, and there are definitely some visual effects that are not implemented in alpha 3.0.0… yet.
Additionally, we see how NPCs react and work when interacting with the player, along with how the dialogue system will work. All of this is showcased in a two hour video featuring the extremely lengthy gameplay demo. You can check it out below.
You can walk around the ship, talk to the crew members, and choose a few dialogue options. The dialogue is kind of limited to mostly just two options, but we do see how the different options have different responses from the NPCs.
There’s a funny sequence when you go to get your equipment, where you can ask the gunsmith for some gear, and one of the options is a phased rifle in the 40 watt range, a nice little inside joke from the original Terminator.
In space we get a look at how the short-range quantum drive travel works, moving through a gaseous set of interstellar clouds as the player-character and Mark Hamill’s Colton moves in close to the wrecked Starfarer just beyond the mining complex.
The scale alone is just so, so, so impressive. You really get a sense of this being a large, dynamic, dangerous, and beautiful aspect of barely-explored space.
To help encompass this sense of wonder and size, the music swells into crescendos as you near almost visually incomprehensibly large structures and anomalies in space. The music mellows out and provides ambiance to the surrounding atmosphere.
My only major two criticisms during the single-player is that the ship doesn’t handle like a ship in space at all. It seems to move around as if it has no mass, which is kind of bothersome.
Also, the other problem is that during the mission, the player had the option of meeting up with another character or investigation another location, but the option to do either wasn’t made entirely clear. Nothing on the map seemed to standout where the player was supposed to go. I know some people might say “Git gud, scrub!” but if you start a mission and then forget what you were supposed to be doing, there isn’t really any clear indicators as to what you’re supposed to be doing or where you’re supposed to be going.
However, the game is still in development and the MobiGlas is supposed to handle that sort of stuff when it comes to mission tracking and monitoring your objectives.
Anyway, the missions in Squadron 42 are extremely lengthy, and see players moving from one location to the next throughout the seamlessly large persistent universe.
After meeting with the salvagers, rendezvousing at a checkpoint and finding out that the pilot was taken hostage, the player-character and Mark Hamill’s character head to the Odin la: Gainey mining facility. After flying through some maintenance tunnels the player then lands on a pad, giving off a nice few of some of the volumetrically simulated smoke effects. Those effects, by the way, aren’t in alpha 3.0.0… yet.
Once inside the facility, the player has to restore the power to the elevator.
This bit showcases the more exploration and non-combat oriented gameplay elements of Squadron 42.
Realtime dynamic lighting effects and SSAO play a big role in setting the mood and the atmosphere. The physically based rendering from the light modules give the installation an orangish-tint while the player moves from the inside to the yellow-glow of the sun shining down from the outside.
The demo obviously wanted to focus on the more immersive elements of terrain and planetary traversal while on foot.
For Squadron 42 the hand-crafted levels have a very distinct and story-oriented design to them, as they should. It’s a lot more contained and focused than the more open areas featured in the standard Star Citizen.
The pick-up and move mechanic was put on display, along with the stealth mechanics. However, stealth doesn’t last long because players are then thrust into a firefight where we get an idea of what the gunplay is like in both first and third-person.
The combat is the standard fare stuff from the Star Marine update. However, what’s new here is the AI mechanics, which utilize patrol patterns, rolling, cover mechanics, and attempted flanking maneuvers.
The demo ends after players find Trejo, a damsel in distress who becomes a dame that’s dangerous.
Once Trejo is rescued and she gets her stuff, she wants to kill some pirates before escaping off the landing pad. From there the video moves over to looking at the Aegis, the ship that players start on in the demo above.
So far, Squadron 42 is looking quite impressive. There’s a lot of moving parts even in places that seem like they should be rather static. I wasn’t originally all that excited about Squadron 42, but it could end up being one of my more anticipated games if development continues along in the way that it does with the sort high-quality cinematic gameplay present in the demo.