2015, as it seems, is bringing a once-forgotten genre back into the videogame industry : Space Simulators. While there hasn't been much movement in the genre in the last few years, suddenly we have as many as three ambitious looking space sims – "No Man's Sky", "Star Citizen" and "Elite Dangerous" – gearing up to take the industry by storm.
While "Elite Dangerous", developed and published by Frontier Developments, was released in December 2014, "No Man's Sky" is set for a 2015 release.
However, "Star Citizen" is nowhere in the horizon, at least in the near future, though its probable 2016 release is being associated with the title that's being worked upon by Cloud Imperium Games.
A casual glance tells us that all the three games would appear similar. After all, space and spaceships won't be that different from one game to another. However, it's the finer details that have attracted us, also helping in deducing the basic difference between each of the titles.
Let's take a close look:
No Man's Sky vs Star Citizen vs Elite Dangerous: Gameplay
Again, how different can the gameplay elements be, considering all of them are broadly about travelling light-years into the universe? Well, there are differences, even though they aren't that evident. You will see that almost everything is similar across all the three titles, especially the concept of exploring space. In fact, all the three offer the kind of gameworlds that will alter and retort, depending on the player's action. However, "Star Citizen" is a bit different from the other two in this respect as it also has FPS shooting elements inside it. "No Man's Sky", on the other hand, is all about letting you discover stuff (finding new planets and classifying the creatures on it). Also, "No Man's Sky" is probably the only title among three to let you walk around anywhere in the galaxy (planets).
No Man's Sky vs Star Citizen vs Elite Dangerous: Practicality
As far as creating a realistic space sim out of scratch is concerned, all the three development studios have put in ample amount of work into their respective titles. "Elite Dangerous", for instance, is more scientific than one can imagine. For example, even the space stations rotate at the correct rate to justify the appropriate rate of gravity involved. "Star Citizen", on the other hand, offers realistic spaceship control and makes better use of physics to work its tiny thrusters. Apart from that, "Star Citizen" also lets you walk around the ship, while combining anti-gravity movement with space fights and more.
No Man's Sky vs Star Citizen vs Elite Dangerous: The Galaxy
As you may have heard from the numerous reports related to all the three titles, "No Man's Sky", "Star Citizen" and "Elite Dangerous", all offer procedurally generated galaxies that are different from one another in their respective games. For instance, the entire "No Man's Sky" is procedurally generated, offering players an enormous and infinite universe to deal with, and billions of unique star systems on offer. The concept of procedural generation itself isn't some random approach. Rather, the idea is based on calculating what you see and encounter based on complicated algorithms. All three games make use of these calculations, but in different ways. "Elite Dangerous", on the other hand, is equally vast and is said to be a lifesize copy of our own Milky Way galaxy with 400 different explorable star systems. The game boasts of both procedural generation as well as hand-crafted in-game areas. Comparatively, "Star Citizen" has a smaller galaxy with just 100 explorable systems, although all of them are hand-crafted with the developers showing more faith on the "quality over quantity" approach.
No Man's Sky vs Star Citizen vs Elite Dangerous: Multiplayer Elements
With space exploration games with so much potential on offer, it would be almost a sin to miss out on multiplayer aspects of each game. If there's anything that's better than exploring the space (with all the hyper-jump modules at your fingertips), is exploring it with your friends, or be-friending a stranger in what's rightly been called as "man's final frontier." As far as the multiplayer elements of the games are concerned, "Elite Dangerous" and "Star Citizen" show similar characteristics. For "Elite Dangerous", all the players play within the same universe. However, when you approach an area (a space station, for example), the game generates multiple instances of the situation. This means if there are 100 players all deciding to flood into the same area, your game will show only 30 players. "No Man's Sky" however, takes a slightly different approach from the other two in the list with a rare encounter with fellow gamers and a sort of journey-type approach to the multiplayer.
No Man's Sky vs Star Citizen vs Elite Dangerous: Platforms
All the three games, players will be happy to know, are and will be available on PC. However, "No Man's Sky" is also set for a PlayStation 4 release. All the three are expected to support the VR (virtual reality) technology going forward, with "Elite Dangerous" and "Star Citizen" already being compatible with the technology. "No Man's Sky" is also likely to support Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift.