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STARDROP Early Access Review

Giving players an immersive story, STARDROP is a first-person experience focused on exploration and plot building. Developed and published by Joure Visser, you begin by taking on the role of Aryn, one of a pair of space salvage specialists. She has been working with her partner John, and between them the pair respond to reports of dead spacecraft and head on over to see what can be recovered. Right from the start, you're encouraged to interact with your surroundings, and it's these skills that will help you uncover the mystery of their latest assignment, a derelict old ship left abandoned in the heart of space.

No Detail Too Small

First and foremost, it’s easy to see that STARDROP has been made with a lot of love, care and attention to detail. Right from the start, the environments are stunning, space has an endless feel and the ships you walk around feel like they have actually housed real people. Mementos, books, coffee cups, and photographs litter the environment. Where sometimes spaceships feel cold and uninviting, a lot of time has gone into making them feel like home in this adventure. No detail has been spared and you get a great feeling for not only the environment but also the characters that live there. The character models leave a little to be desired, but it’s a small price to pay and a very minor complaint.
Aryn herself, who shares a ship with John as they hop about the universe on recovery missions, has plenty in her room to give you a good sense of who she is. There is even a kitten who follows you around and wants to be fed. It’s little details like these that really bring the story element of STARDROP to life. Interestingly this title uses save points littered throughout the ship, but they are frequent so even if you run into problems you rarely have to cover too much old ground to catch up.

Let’s Go On a Journey

From the moment you launch the game, STARDROP presents you with interesting characters and a story that you want to see unfold. Initially you are introduced to Aryn and her partner John; the pair share some great banter over the comms as they prepare for their next assignment. There’s little information given, just that a derelict ship has been located and the company needs them to use their expertise to recover what they can.

All sounds straightforward so far, and there is something of a false sense of security built up. The soundtrack that accompanies things does a really good job of building up a sense of wonder at your surroundings and environment. The voice actors for Aryn and John also feel authentic which only adds to the immersion that is being built. As expected, things are not as straightforward as they first appear and the ship found is old, far older than it should be. No signs of life are detected and Aryn is thrust aboard to uncover what she can.

Taking it One Step at a Time

One of the great things about STARDROP is how new mechanics are introduced. John remains aboard the ship shared with Aryn while she explores through the decks. He offers objectives and tasks that help Aryn unlock more of the ship to explore. The ship opens up in sections, and while there is some backtracking, the environments don’t take too long to get through and it’s interesting to see new areas that have been blocked off by doors previously finally opening up.

There are some light puzzle mechanics, with John helping guide you through the challenges without dictating every step. The tension is also built slowly, the derelict ship is quite creepy but the addition of security alarms, cameras to avoid, and realizing you’re not entirely alone also builds an atmosphere of anticipation. You’re never quite sure what sort of area you’re going to unlock next, and what dangers there might be.

Quality of Life Improvements

While there is a lot to love about STARDROP, there are a few things that make it a little frustrating at times. There is little to no UI until you finally don your spacesuit, and even then there isn’t much to go on. Until this, there is no way to tell if you can interact with an object and initially, you find yourself uselessly trying to interact with things only to find you can’t pick them up. The reticle and scanner the spacesuit provides are very helpful, but it feels a little awkward at the start.

One through that, there are also some of the problems typically experienced in Early Access – bugs. STARDROP’s main story involves getting into every nook and cranny of the ship, but this is hindered by some problems with clipping through cupboard doors. At times, some of the panels and objects you can interact with do not activate, and it’s even possible to get stuck in cupboard doors, unable to move or open them when crouching to look at objects. It is a shame as moments like these break the otherwise great immersion the story is trying to build. With luck and some patches though, these should be taken care of.

6

The Verdict: Good

STARDROP makes for an enjoyable exploration experience. With a rich atmosphere, great level of underlying tension, and its ability to build a sense of mystery and awe this is definitely a title to check out. There are some bugs that currently break the immersion, but hopefully these will be ironed out. It’s clear the developers are putting a lot of time and effort into this experience, and it’s already off to a great start. With a little more polish, this can be a really rewarding title. Despite its small development team, STARDROP makes a great addition to the space exploration genre and is extremely promising.

Melanie Hawthorne
Written by
November 16, 2018
Published in Adventure

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Mel is a London-based copywriter that has been writing about video games for a few years now. After growing up in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs (which included working as a web developer, shopkeeper and translator) before she settled on what she really wanted to do – periodically anger video game fans by expressing her opinions on games through various online publications. When she’s not writing about video games, she’s probably playing them... or walking her dog in a park. Since that depends largely on the English weather, Mel has plenty of time to indulge in her favourite games. These include but are not limited to Ark: Survival Evolved, Skyrim, GTA V, and oddly enough, Amnesia: Memories. She loves Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. She thinks Star Trek is way better than Star Wars and isn’t afraid to admit it – Live long and prosper!

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