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Early access impressions: Kerbal Space Program 2 (PC)
Thu, 16th Mar 2023

Kerbal Space Program 2, the long-awaited sequel to the smash-hit original, is now available in early access.

For the uninitiated, Kerbal Space Program 2 follows its predecessor in being a physics-based space program simulation. The game’s unforgiving and very serious aerodynamics and astrophysics are offset by the rather bizarre tongue-in-cheek design style. 

Rather than this being an Earth-based game with the player helping NASA reach the stars, the game is set on the planet Kerbin. The people of this planet, the Kerbals, are strange green folk, seemingly without any fear of meeting a sticky end and the hands of the player.

Using various parts, players can build complex multi-stage rockets, aeroplanes, and assorted space vehicles capable of travelling to the far reaches of space. Getting a craft into orbit is the first step, and from there, a trip to the Mun (Kerbal’s moon) and beyond. It’s engaging and a massive time-sink.  

I was asked by the developer’s representative not to do a review, as the game is not finished, but instead, write more of a first-impressions. This is understandable, given that the game is not yet complete, hence the early access release.

I’ll be honest and say that KSP2 is pushing the term “early access” to its limits with this soft launch of the game. For the most part, the physics are there, there’s also a load of components to play with, and the training mode seems fairly robust. 

The problem is that, at the moment, it is just a sandbox with some updated graphics. Effects like heat when leaving and exiting the atmosphere are not yet implemented. Kerbal Space Program 2’s early access gives players a good idea of how the new game will likely be, but at this stage, it is no replacement for the original.

I can see dedicated fans of the first game wondering why they would be bothered paying for and playing KSP2 when the original is a lot more refined and still looks and plays very well. I’m fortunate, as I have always got the most fun out of the original Kerbal Space Program, constructing bizarre spacecraft and experimenting with the game over diving deep into astrophysics. 

My KSP save has countless hapless Kerbals in orbit or heading out into the stars, never to return. But those that are excepting to jump straight into plotting a grand tour of the Kerbals’ planetary system will find themselves confronted by annoying bugs and questionable physics.

There have been issues raised online regarding the game’s performance. I can’t say that I’ve had any bad problems with this, even with ridiculously large multi-stage spacecraft. I am playing on a PC with an Intel Core i9-13900K and an Nvidia RTX 3090, so I can see that a lower-spec machine may struggle. 

The game looks a lot better than the original. But unless the content can match the game’s polished graphics, I can see problems ahead. The original KSP is very refined after years of tweaks and expansions. Starting again with just fancier-looking visuals is going to put a lot of players off. 

The developer does have a roadmap, but without any indication of the timescale. A patch is incoming, but it only really addresses issues with the performance of the early-access build and not necessarily adding anything to the game.

I did have a lot of fun with this early build. But there’s a long way to go before it is even close to the functionality of its predecessor.

For the moment, Kerbal Space Program 2’s early access offers fans an interesting front-row seat to observe and interact with the game during development. How long you are going to be sitting there and what you are going to end up with, remains to be seen.