I Am the Carl Sagan Now – Universe Sandbox 2 Preview

Developer: Giant Army
Publisher: Giant Army
Review Platform: PC (Steam)
Review Copy Provided By: Giant Army
Release Date: In Early Access Now (Final Release TBD)

Looking out at the stars I cannot help but wonder: Wait, did Earth always have three moons? Were they always gaining speed and heading right towards it?! Oh god the humanity! Such is the fate of the solar system when someone with no background in physics/astronomy is given full control of everything in it. Universe Sandbox2 is a complete rewrite of the original Universe Sandbox, and improves upon its predecessor in many way. With an easy-to-use interface, plenty of tutorials, and access to all manner of celestial bodies, launching asteroids at every planet in our universe has never been easier.

Who knew the moon packed such a punch? Well scientists, but shut up!

The first thing I noticed about Universe Sandbox2  was its overwhelming scale (it is the entire universe after all). Each time the game is opened, it begins with a zoomed-out simulation of our own solar system, and gives the player full control of everything in it. Players can effortlessly zoom in on planets to get a closer look, or wreak havoc by messing with the physical attributes of our solar system. It’s a fun way to get into the game, and is actually one of the smaller simulations, which helps, as initially some of the larger ones (colliding galaxies for example) can be a bit unwieldy at first.

No, that’s not a Jerico Missile, it’s an accurate physics simulation of planetary fragments.

Helping ease players into the role of an interstellar god is something Universe Sandbox2 does incredibly well. There’s the option for players to just hop into existing simulations and destroy planets (there’s even a destroy button), but there are also a series of tutorials that range from the basics to the incredibly complex. It helps, that unlike most games, playing through the various tutorials and scenarios Universe Sandbox2 provides is both fun and interesting. As someone who has never thought much about what’s beyond our own solar system (unless it was in a galaxy far, far away…), it was fascinating to just watch the interactions of other galaxies and planetary systems that the game set up as teaching moments. Sure, I blew them up immediately after marveling at their majesty, but that’s sort of the point, right?

Africa always had an ice cap right? That’s why there’s penguins…

The team at Giant Army is also constantly developing new content, which means new scenarios to run, as well as new celestial bodies occasionally. The most recent update added the Trappist system that NASA recently discovered (theorized to have 3 potentially habitable planets). There are already more simulations than I’ve had time to get through, and each one is as fun to watch and tweak as the last. The game’s graphics are also beautiful, making each scenario feel like an interstellar spectacle. The only time I ever experienced frame rate drops was when I started increasing time to be more than 1 year per second (ill-advised when you’ve put 19 new planets in low earth orbit). For a game that simulates all of space, Universe Sandbox2 is surprisingly hiccup free (and it’s only in early access!).

Universe Sandbox2 is in early access right now, and is absolutely worth picking up for fans of the simulation genre, or anyone who just wants to crash a few planets together. The graphics are gorgeous, it’s got a soothing soundtrack, and the universe is easy and fluid to control. The game improves upon its predecessor in just about every way, making for a fun, complicated, and rich simulation of the known universe. I’m excited to see what other content Giant Army adds before release, but the game already feels complete.

Ashton Macaulay

Ashton lives in the fairy tale village of Redmond Washington, has written a novel about a drunken monster hunter, and takes no responsibility for the sense of awe his articles might inspire.

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