If you’re interested in space, real-life equations of spaceflight mechanics, a glimpse into what future space combat might actually look like and isn’t afraid to learn a bit of physics, maths and engineering, this is the game for you.
Children of a Dead Earth is a game that aims to be as realistic as possible. As such, it takes place in an unforgiving space at a time when Earth is no longer habitable and the game is equally unforgiving. There is only one difficulty level: Total realism.
Don’t be too discouraged though, the game will try to hold your hand as much as it can, giving you extensive guides on orbital mechanics, laser engineering, nuclear physics, rocket science and everything else you will need. With that said, you do need a certain willingness to learn these real-life concepts, that are all at a University degree level of difficulty.
Children of a Dead Earth simulates every known body in out solar system at all times, going beyond what most games do with what is called Nth Body Physics. What this means is that you have to worry about more than the gravity of the body you’re currently orbiting, you have to take into count every other body in the solar system that has a gravity well big enough to affect your current trajectory. As in real life, these bodies aren’t perfect spheres either, so your orbit might not be perfectly round, like in other space simulators.
Another thing that sets this game apart from other space simulators is that they also have hyperrealistic space combat elements, as two warring factions fight for control of what little habitable space is left. You will quickly learn that you cannot just aim for your enemy and blast them out of the skies. You have way more worries than the enemy guns to take into account.
The campaign of the game will give you sort of a tutorial, teaching you the most basic of things. But even the basics is hard enough. Through an in-game encyclopedia, the campaign will show you the most relevant mechanics you need to read up on and provides you with the necessary information on these mechanics. It is then up to you to put these in practice to complete your missions.
Missions will also point out different hurdles that you have to keep in mind for that current mission, such as a particularly high gravity around certain bodies, a limited fuel supply or limited budget or weight restrictions.
The latter comes into play later on in the game, as you’ll unlock the ability to design your own ships from premade modules and even later, your own modules. You can make super-efficient engines that will take you really far on very little fuel, but that will probably cost you more than you can afford, either in weight or in credits. Early on, your best bet is to make crude designs to fit each mission individually, both when it comes to modules and the overall ship design. If you want to create an armada on the tight budget you have, you have to design cheaper modules and probably not armour your ship as thick. On the other hand, you could design a single, heavily armoured and heavily armed ship that takes up your entire budget and outfit it with drones and missiles.
It is up to you what you want to do, the game won’t even suggest how to build up your fleet. It will give you the information you need to build and operate it and then let your imagination run wild.
Where the game really shines for me is in the Sandbox mode. Here, all restrictions are relieved and you can build whatever you wish. You can either build tanker ships to accompany star trekian exploration ships and explore the bodies of the Solar System, or combat ships to fight your enemy.
You can experiment freely with conceptual modules, like fission shells fired at high speed, or new types of lasers, or high-impact engines. You can even build your own missiles and drones, and outfit them however you want. Yes, it’s even possible to build drones with nuclear missile launchers, equipped with “planet buster” type payloads, if you can engineer it.
If you are interested in the concept, but can’t really get your mind around some of the rather advanced mechanics of the game, there are more and more articles and videos popping up online that describes the mechanics in detail. If you can wrap your head around the navigational parts, there is even a community blooming with detailed guides to how to build modules and ships that you can merely copy, until you can grasp the concepts.
The learning curve is steep, some have described it as vertical walls at times, but it is incredibly rewarding when you finish a mission. One of the missions, the one where you unlock the ship building, took me over 6 hours to complete. The last attempt, the one where I finally nailed it, took less than 2 minutes of actual gameplay. I got frustrated and at several points I had to leave the computer. I even took a 30 minute walk with a pad in my hand to write down ideas on how I could tackle the problem. And that mission doesn’t even have any enemies! It says a lot about the amount of content you get from a game, when it takes more than 20 hours of gameplay to get through the basic tutorial.
I have played this game daily for two solid weeks and the game does not feel tiring at all. The game was recently moved from pre-release status to full release, but that does not mean Q Switched Productions have finished working on it. It is constantly under development and new content is released on a regular basis.
On top of that, the game is surprisingly light-weight, taking up only 165mb of disk space and is capable of running on 2Gb of RAM, a rather slow processor and an integrated Intel graphic card. As such, the game is available to most people.
Currently, the game is priced at £18.99 (US$24.99 or €22.99), which is well worth it, considering you’re getting more content here than most AAA titles. It can be purchased at the Steam Store and you can read more about the game, space concepts and theories about life in space on the CoaDE Blog.
Disclosure Note: This review is possible through a donated key from publishers Q Switched Productions LLC, though we would have purchased a copy next month if that had not been the case. No other transactions have been made between The Torch: Entertainment Guide, Q Switched Productions LLC or any of its employees or sister organizations.