'Space Crew' will launch you into the spaceship management frontier Oct. 15

"Space Crew," a spaceship management game that pits players against aliens, is counting down to an Oct. 15 launch and you can try a demo version for free right now on Steam.

The Steam Games Festival demo by Runner Duck and Curve Digital is identical to one that was briefly made available to players in June, but there is a lot more content to look forward to when the game goes live next week, the team told Space.com. 

"It's a crew management strategy game that's played in real time," Dave Miller, Runner Duck co-founder and "Space Crew" art director, told Space.com about the game. "You recruit a crew for your light cruiser spaceship, and you send your ship and your crew out on missions to defeat an invasion from a group of aliens known as the Phasmids."

The demo is available through Oct. 13 for PC players, with the full game launching on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for $19.99. Pre-orders of the game can save up to 20%.

Space Crew for PC via CDKeys

Space Crew for PC via CDKeys
Join the United Defense Force to defend Earth against the alien Phasmids. Do you have the right stuff to manage your crew?

It'll be a tough first mission and you will need to be prepared to lose some crew, Miller said, so he urged gamers not to "rage quit" and to stick on with the coming missions. 

The game is built for single-player campaigns only. You'll spend some time learning how to control the ship and how to work crucial systems such as the oxygen generator and the gravity generator. (This means you'll also be learning how to repair these systems — just like real-life space crews on the International Space Station.) As you pick up skills and complete missions, you'll get to upgrade the ship with new weapons and better systems to do better on future rounds against the Phasmids.

While the game is set in a sci-fi situation, you will see some familiar solar system tropes as you move around to different worlds, technical director Jon Wingrove and programmer Joseph Le Grice explained. There will be black holes (immense points of gravity that suck in anything that goes past the event horizon), fields of asteroids or space rocks, nebulas and at least one binary star system. 

Nods to various science fiction franchises are embedded in the game, with influences including "Star Trek," "Alien," "Interstellar" and "Star Wars" (to name a few). Some of the trophy names will include famous quotes from space movies or television shows, while the crew uniforms look vaguely like what you could see in "Star Trek", the team said. Along with the look and feel of the game, the soundtrack also draws inspiration from space franchises that came before.

Fans of "Kerbal Space Program" are used to working in a space environment with very realistic physics, which is where "Space Crew" tries to stand apart, Miller said. Both games share a similar approach to mission management, but "Space Crew" removes a little real-life fidelity to focus on the story.

The game follows on from the successful "Bomber Crew" that developer Runner Duck and publisher Curve Digital co-released in 2017, while of course bringing the action from Earth to space. Miller said "Bomber Crew" provided some valuable lessons learned for working in the new environment. The layout of the ship and the positions of the crew were some things the team thought about when creating new plotlines.

"A lot of it is pushing the player into a position where they have to make a choice," he said. "Are you going to save that guy? … Is it time to maybe give up on the mission, and bail out on a lot of the gameplay? It is making sure that the player has to actively decide. And maybe the outcome for them isn't always the best. And they [the player] might be thinking, what could I have done differently? And that's kind of what we love."

"Space Crew" launches on Oct. 15 for PC on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace