I really wanted to be able to write this piece on Rodina singing its praises. Telling you how incredible it was to have such a huge universe to explore at my fingertips, how there was endless possibilities on each little planet, marked by the circular symbols on the screen. Instead I was left feeling disappointed, but with a small glimmer of hope that with some work, Rodina could well become a game that many gamers will lose countless hours lost in its universe. I should start off by pointing out that I was previewing this game in version 1.1.2, and with the game only having been released on Steam by Elliptic Games on 28th July, it’s still very early days. However the game as a whole just lacks polish, so much in some cases that the whole thing becomes extremely frustrating.
Rodina is a huge space exploration game which seamlessly allows you to explore a solar system in its entirety. This isn’t something which has been hugely scaled down either, put simply, this game is huge. One of the most impressive feats of Rodina is Elliptic Games has managed to make this whole solar system exploration game completely load screen free, from the moment you load your game to the click of the ‘Exit Game’ button, I was not sat around waiting for the blocky world to load. It really makes the game a lot more immersive as you find yourself losing track of time as you hop from one planet to another, defeating enemies, searching planets and exploring its secrets.
The game has 3 different modes: Normal, Freeform and Peaceful. The first is as you’d expect, playing the game through with all the bells and whistles; story missions, enemies and exploration of the solar system. Freeform takes the story missions out of the mix and leaves players with the opportunity to forget about any objective points or beacons and to just enjoy the world, explore and battle with enemies in aerial dogfights. Finally, Peaceful is the Freeform mode without the enemies, allowing you to be at ease during your time exploring the solar system and enjoy the sights. For the purpose of this preview, most of my time was spent in the Normal mode as this gave me a taste of all aspects of the game, though I did dabble into the other two just to experience all the game had to offer at this early stage.
In terms of design and presentation Rodina is a bit hit and miss. Graphically, Rodina isn’t going to be winning any awards any time soon, the game looks basic, untextured for the most part and plain. However it did grab my attention at some points with some beautiful looking galaxies or nebulas and some of the larger planets have fantastic views. However these moments are few and far between the otherwise dull look of the game. Not only this but the lighting effects and the brightness of the game in general needs some work. Some of the tiny asteroids I stumbled across were so dark I couldn’t even see where the ground was to land the ship. This made the game have its frustrating moments, more so than you’d like from a game that is focused purely on exploring a huge universe, rather than spaceship simulation.
Though the game has a basic look, you’ll be more than willing to forgive the one developer, considering the seamless exploration of a whole solar system, all the while having your ears treated. Elliptic Games have struck gold with a beautiful atmospheric musical score. A cross between calm classical music with the occasional hint of futuristic sci-fi fits the feel of the game and makes the whole experience, particularly during those long journeys to one of the over 45,000 planets available to land on.
I can only applaud Elliptic Games for the incredible achievement he has showcased in Rodina through the lack of load screens and I will continue to harp on about it as it becomes a huge redeeming feature for the game. However, during this early stage I tended to find a lot of bare and empty planets, and an almost complete lack of direction on where I should be heading and how to find out where I should be moving onto. A mini map or a compass to the rough area of the next point for the story missions would have been useful and I’m sure could easily be implemented. Instead I tended to hop from asteroid to asteroid, searching for the upgrade I needed to advance my ship and my progression in the story mode.
My only other aspect of the game to mention was the controls. On foot the game handles like a dream and I enjoyed wandering around planets, space jumping huge distances across the surface of many planets. However I found that the flight controls could do with some more refinement, the docking gear in particular. Your ship has three different gears, docking/landing, combat and, cruise. Each gear is rather self explanatory; docking is used for landing your ship on a planet surface, combat for when you approach enemies and cruise is the gear you want to use to travel from planet to planet (otherwise it could take you a long time to get anywhere).
I found that the cruise and combat controls felt reasonably easy to get used to, though firing the weapons of the ship seemed hit and miss as your ship spurts out a mess of fire which, doesn’t seem much in line with the cross-hairs on the screen. The docking gear as mentioned before however became very frustrating to use when attempting to land on those planets, particularly the minor asteroids, of which there are thousands (literally), with vast, uneven surfaces. I tended to find that the game would inform me of a successful landing only to watch my ship lean to one side and progress to roll around on the surface of the planet. Though the docking controls are very slight and precise, they still didn’t seem enough to get a proper handle on the ship on these tricky planets and so it did get rather frustrating at points.
I hope Elliptic Games continue to work on Rodina and bring it to the standard that the game deserves. A few tweaks here and there on the controls and more direction on the story based missions would make this game the perfect way to whittle away those hours late in the evening or on a rainy day. With a seamless exploration game running as stable as it does in such an early stage, Rodina shows huge amounts of promise. But for now, Rodina just lacks those refinements and tweaks, which I’m sure will come in a later update to make this game a must buy. If it still sounds like your cup of tea and you’re happy to roll with the punches, for £10.99 it’s definitely worth a shot, however for others, keep an eye out for the more polished product further down the line.