August 26, 2009 at 11:47 am #57126
It is my enormous pleasure to introduce you to Ad Astra, one of the entrants into 2008’s Independent Games Festival.
While Ad Astra didn’t take any of the prizes on offer that year, Steve Chapman’s solo effort was perhaps the most ambitious in scale and thoroughly deserved more recognition than it summarily received.
Taking heavy cues from the Elite sequels, Frontier and First Encounters, Ad Astra attempted to expand beyond that initial template, implementing features such as planetary flora and a diverse range of fauna, planetary rings composed of actual debris, tractor beams, storms, cities with working monorails, and many more, all developed from scratch in a home-brewed engine over a period of three years.
An Albatross freighter flies against a stunning backdrop of ringed gas giant and parent star
A lonely space station hangs in the night above the wide, beautiful rings of another gas giant
Ad Astra’s lovely planetary engine in full swing.
Sadly, while I can give endless praise for Steve’s imagination and desire to craft a complete space adventure-playground, the implementation of it is…difficult, at best. The user interface is a beast of a thing, designed with a certain amount of customisation in mind but is often hideous to look at and fiddly to interact with. Controls, too, need to be slicker, with a seemingly eclectic combination of key commands and mouse talents working against each other in many circumstances.
Graphically there are some nice touches – stellar objects are rendered with considerable applomb – but the ships, while highly individual, can appear crude in many aspects. Ship-to-ship combat is also something of a hit-and-miss affair, lacking the visceral immediacy of some commercial titles. I will say, though, that the zonal damage model is perhaps a first for the genre; there’s an enormous amount of glee to be had blowing the engines off an unwitting opponent and watching as his ship tumbles down toward a planetary surface under a well-modelled gravitional pull!
But please don’t let these grumbles put you off downloading the game and giving it a whirl. Ad Astra represents a labour of love by a talented, ambitious individual and should be highly respected for what it achieves, despite the rough edges. I’ve had some great times with it and any member of these boards should also find things to enjoy.
Download the game here:
And have a good look around Steve’s pretty, informative website here:
Beginner’s Tip: Try tractoring damaged ships into Space Stations for large amounts of [relatively] easy cash. Just watch out for those pirates!August 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm #64524
Been whatching Ad Astra take shape over the last few years and its a huge achievement by Steve
Only whish the commercial devs could show show much imagination,instead of the usual 25 year old Elite
gameplay with some nice graphics and a couple of over hyped features (x3 being a good example). 😆
Couple of ever point about the game I would make,is that it does require a powerful system to run it
on.So I wont be playing on my netbook. 😥
And I always felt that being attack by pirates as soon as you start of game is a mistake
(inless this has now changed) IMO the first system should be neutral to let the player get a feel for
As Stardreamer said the game is definitely worth downloading.August 27, 2009 at 3:32 am #64525
You nailed X3, Pinback. As much as I do enjoy the game, and dribble over how pretty everything looks, I still look around what’s on offer and see nothing but shortcomings. Planets that are so much eye-candy rather than something you can land on. The horribly artificial ‘town-square’ navigation set up. Alien races that don’t act alien in any sense (the Xenon and Khaak are just gun-fodder). The fact stations now look identical no matter what race they belong to…
But worst of all is the amount of genuine work you have to do to get anywhere. At it’s heart X3 is a business sim and that just turns me cold. I don’t want to be a space-industrialist. I want to EXPLORE, and more than just a grid full of identical stations.
For these reasons Ad Astra represents a step UP from X3 for me. As I said, Steve should be very proud.August 27, 2009 at 9:49 am #64526
That pretty much how I feel about the X games.
you never get to be Han Solo in the X games only a company director.
One of the things I like about Ad Astra is that it has animals on the planets.
You dont often see that in a game.August 27, 2009 at 10:28 am #64527
Funny you should say that about the animals, but I just noticed in Universal Combat (freeware) today that they’ve managed to cram a few horses and even bears in there (oh my). They just wander about like badly animated robots (which could be said about his human figures, too, although I think this may have been improved upon in later iterations of the game) but still, the gesture is appreciated.
I love that the animals in Ad Astra blow up the same as spaceships when you shoot them. 😀August 28, 2009 at 9:39 am #64528
Iam hopeing to see some strange alien animals in Precursors.August 28, 2009 at 10:17 am #64529sscadminKeymasterPINBACK wrote:Iam hopeing to see some strange alien animals in Precursors.
We all just want to see Precursors get released, that game has way to much promise to slip into the vaporware blackhole.
I need to give Ad Astra another try. I know I played around with it one evening and thought the flying was quite difficult but I think I setup my controls wrong or something. So many games so little time 🙂 I do my best to try them all…August 28, 2009 at 3:10 pm #64530Darkone wrote:
I need to give Ad Astra another try. I know I played around with it one evening and thought the flying was quite difficult but I think I setup my controls wrong or something. So many games so little time 🙂 I do my best to try them all…
IIRC the controls are very sensitive and any sudden movement will send you into a spin.
Darkone have you sent an email to Steve Chapman’s as I recall he was looking for feed back about the game.September 6, 2009 at 6:19 pm #64531GlazedParticipant
Cool looking game. For some reason, the screenshots of flying in beautiful planets and flying over cities and seeing other planets in the sky reminds me of Spore’s space stage.
I’m gonna look at it some more. I miss Spore. Some people don’t like it, but I think it’s a very impressive and fun game. I’m just not playing it right now, because I got to upgrade my computer before I can. It’s got a crappy graphics card and a new PSU is needed to support a high graphics card that some people suggested to me.
But, I’m not planning on saying good-bye to spore just yet. If I can play it again some day, I’m gonna get Galactic Adventures.September 7, 2009 at 5:47 am #64532
If you like Ad Astra check out the Russian remake of FFE in the Space Sim Community Projects
section and the indie game Evochron Legends in the Starwraith Games section.January 13, 2010 at 3:26 am #64533cultistParticipant
What would you say are the differences between Ad Astra in comparison to FFE?
What does it set it apart from it?January 13, 2010 at 5:32 am #64534
I havent played the game for while as the netbook not capable of running it,things i like
about Ad Astra are the planets,life on planets which is not in Frontier,combat and flying
the ship about the same as Frontier(hard).Not to keen on the menus system used in astra.January 13, 2010 at 7:26 am #64535cultistParticipant
Thought so myself.The life on planets is the only feature that FFE does not have.
What a shame 🙂
The space sims haven’t progressed much since FFE and the year it was made.January 13, 2010 at 11:08 pm #64536sscadminKeymaster
I emailed Steve Chapman the developer behind Ad Astra and he graciously gave me some info on the next update.Quote:
There will be a new version of Ad Astra which I should be able to release around March. I hope to have addressed
some of the main gripes concerning the game and Release 1.3a should contain the following extra features :
1. New GUI a bit flashier, but basically the same with new skins
2. Configurable Keyboard mappings – lots of complaints about not having this feature.
3. Sound effect volume controls – quite a few complaints about the lack of this feature too.
4. Improved Solar System Map – should be easier to navigate round a star system.
5. Improved Galactic Map – planet details appear in separate window using a double click
6. Speed Multiplier – lots of people complained that the spacecraft were to slow. Hence a global setting has been added to the user preferences allowing the velocity of all ships to be proportionately increased / decreased.
7. Improved suns corona effect added – I anticipated complaints about not having this feature.
8. Slightly larger planets – a lot of people complained that they were too small. However the size is only increased by 1.4 so this isn’t a massive change.
9. Modified Galactic Solar Systems. Systems are now a bit more varied.
10. Improved alignment of detail textures on fractal planets.
Oh and Stardreamer, Steve wanted to address your issues on the user interface but you need to give some specifics?
And Steve if your reading this thanks for the feedback 🙂January 14, 2010 at 4:43 am #64537
Good to see he still working on the game. 😀
In less it changed What I like see done is making the start system the player starts in safe ie only the player should initiate any combat.As it stands at the moment you are attacked as soon as you start the game,this would give the player a chance to become familiar with the control and features of the game.
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