Review: RymdResa Is An Interesting Meditation In Space
Minimalist space exploration roguelike RymdResa confronts you with the vastness of an empty universe with poetic touches, but its star may start to cool too quickly.
- Worth The Time?It is an interesting concept, but it might loose its draw over time
- Things LovedThe idea to make steering and health the same resource is different and interesting, and the game's mechanics, visuals, and themes combine to make a powerful sense of isolation and loss.
- Things HatedThe game, ostensibly a relaxing experience, can become very frustrating because of how easy it is to die and lose progress.
- RecommendationRymdResa is a game for special interest, feeling more like a meditative time-passer than an engaging game to sink hours into intensively. It is an interesting concept, blending poetry and slow space travel together, but it may not appeal to a broad market of gamers.
- Name: RymdResa
- Genre: Roguelike
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Morgondag
- Publisher: Morgondag
- Price: $11.99
- Reviewed On: PC
Space has been on our minds a lot recently, from Martian water to superbloodmooneclipse photos everywhere. Both of these have given us spacey thoughts about the excitement of discovery, the wonder of exploring the greatest unknown. RymdResa is also a space-thoughts game wrapped up in a sort-of-roguelike shell, but before you think we’re going to dive into the opening of an episode of Star Trek, this game goes in a very different direction.
RymdResa (Swedish for Space Travel) is a game about exploring the universe, finding things, gathering spaceship parts and materials, and trying not to get crushed by asteroids. It has clear roguelike elements: you journey around a randomly generated galaxy, and dying is a partial reset of your progress. What makes RymdResa interesting is the use of resources both as fuel and as your ship’s health. This encourages you to break from the gravity wells and then drift through space, watching the time pass and the space sectors change, deviating as little as possible and journeying further and further away from your home planet or mothership in order to gather your resources. Another interesting feature is the entire lack of combat mechanics in the game – you can’t shoot lasers at obstacles, although there are some defensive consumables that will remove dangers from your immediate area.
As a result of this, the game has you drifting alone through space, passing barren planets, cold asteroids, and the ruined hulks of other ships floating out in the silent vastness. A meditative and peaceful soundtrack turns these long drifts into moments of Zen-like reflection, a state the game conspires to achieve through unifying the mechanics to the game’s artsy flourishes. The art is pared down, especially the player’s ship. This isn’t a game about building a cool-looking spaceship, but even with the minimalist visuals there are some moments where the backdrop can be visually stunning. Also, each year that passes and other major events in the game can trigger the pilot’s musings in the form of some free verse poetry. Whether or not the poetry does it for you, it certainly sets the tone of melancholy introspection, turning the space journey into something oddly personal.
Each barren asteroid acts as a springboard for the pilot’s thoughts, which engage with themes of isolation and loss. This loss is both the personal loss necessitated by being the sole pilot of a space ship on what is often a one-way ticket to a death in the icy emptiness, and a broader loss. The poetry and the signs of devastation and waste in the regions you explore point to a future that is quite grim. Humanity is looking to start anew, and the sense of leaving someone behind is blended with this search for new places in the universe. Its a game that wants the player to reflect, drawing you in through moments of quiet reflection.
However, this is where the game’s roguelike nature often shatters the illusion. On the long, quiet journeys interspersed with some exploration, these Zen-like meditative moments can last for quite some time. However, especially in some of the earlier sessions where your ship has neither shields nor a map of the area, a sudden asteroid or other random event can kill you in an instant, or worse turn into a heated moment of infuriating dodging. On one hand, this does contribute a further sense of the precariousness of your position and the fragility of these moments of introspection. However, it also pulls you out of the game as frustrations can mount due to the game’s resource gathering and spending mechanics.
The game has a number of ships, and you get ship parts keyed to specific ships. Bad luck can leave you with awesome parts for ships you haven’t unlocked yet, and the cost in exploration to afford the more interesting and powerful ships is quite prohibitive, especially if an ill-timed asteroid whipping in from off screen can wipe you out in an instant. This does go some way to obstructing the game’s attempts to make the experience one of meditative patience.
Ultimately, though, the game also suffers from a lack of diversity and replayability. There are secrets to explore after, although with the ease of death and the lack of guidance finding them may be more a matter of luck than anything else. The poetry you hear is randomised, and sometimes hearing the same snatch a few times makes it lose its impact. While the experience can be relaxing and enjoyable, RymdResa may lose its draw and become more of a casual time-passer quickly.