The summary of Destination Sol on Steam is brief and accurate so allow me to introduce the game by sharing the Steam blurb: “Destination Sol is a free-to-play hardcore arcade/RPG. You start as a pilot of a small fighter ship on the edge of a star system, and you’re free to explore the game world, land on planets, fight with enemies, upgrade your ship and equipment, hire mercenaries, mine asteroids, and more.”
All quite accurate. To add to the list of attractive features, I also like that Destination Sol uses randomized maps (giving variety to different games) and the game is seamless. When we travel from a space station to an asteroid field to the surface of a planet we are traveling through one large environment. There are no loading screens and no changes in view or controls. As a bonus, the game features a brief tutorial where we learn to use a map of our 2-D space, buy and sell items, navigate and use our ship’s weapons.
Destination Sol uses fairly simple graphics, akin to the 2-D space exploration games of the 1990s such as https://blowingupbits.com/2014/02/the-ur-quan-masters/ The Ur-Quan Masters. The controls are very straight forward. We use the mouse to turn the ship, the W key to apply thrusters and the mouse button shoots and navigates menus.
The game has a lot of features I like. The buying and selling, the gathering resources by blowing up asteroids and the open navigation are all welcome. The fact that the developers have managed to make random, seamless environments is also pretty cool. The downside, at least in my opinion, is the game doesn’t appear to give us external motivation. That is, we do not appear to have any particular mission or quest. We do not appear to be gathering resources for any cause other than making our ship more powerful, presumably so that we can gather more resources. There are a few enemies, but the rare ones I encountered did not put up a significant fight.
What I’m getting at is Destination Sol feels a lot like “Minecraft — in space”, at least to me. We can explore and we can build up our resources and visit planets and that is all great. However, I felt like the game, in being so very open and free, did not give me a sense of purpose. Most of the time I find I, personally, need that sense of purpose in a game. I want to be fighting for survival or rescuing someone or finishing the race first. In Destination Sol it is fun to fly around and blow up space rocks and visit worlds for a time, but I did not feel pressure to do anything.
As a space flight simulator and exploration game, Destination Sol rocks. But, for people like me, players who want to feel like we are accomplishing something or winning or who want a story to unfold, I am afraid Destination Sol does not provide these aspects of game play. I would love to see this game expanded to include a story mode.
Game: Destination Sol
Developers: Milosh Petrov, Nika Burimenko, Kent C. Jensen, Julia Nikolaeva (Publisher: Milosh Petrov )
Platforms: Linux, Windows
Genre: Arcade, Exploration, Flight, Trade, Sandbox, Space