What do I think of it? It's definitely fun and I spent the whole afternoon after I downloaded it playing it. The game deliveres in its promise of 15-20 minutes of fun gameplay. The objective is quite simple, explore the universe in your spaceship and then return home in the alloted time alive. You will then get a score based on how much of the universe you explored, how many alien races you met and what you have when you return.
However after playing it for about 6 hours, I realised to my great dismay that I had discovered and experienced nearly all the game features; something which I confirmed when I checked online with other websites. In randomly generated games like this, part of the fun is discovering new aspects of the game. SAIS really needs more variety in events, ship choices and aliens.When contrasted to a free dungeon crawl like Stone Soup, the lack of long term replayability makes it all the more disappointing. In Stone Soup, there are combinations of races and classes to choose from and a fairly large variety of creatures and places in the dungeon giving a large replay value. You're constantly discovering some new aspect of the game or have the option of choosing a different race and class which alters how you play the game.
The core gameplay is quite solid and definitely fun but I feel SAIS doesn't quite cross that threshold and give you bang for your buck in the area of replayability at the time of release when it was still a commercial game. Fortunately, there are several very good mods which bring SAIS up to scratch and provide a much more varied experience. But a game company shouldn't be relying on its community for such content.
There are several other minor gripes about the game:
- There's too much reliance on the trader to give you good items. As I understand from reading another review and my own experience, the trader is always in a star system adjacent to the starting star system. To counter this, they really should have just given you a wider choice of ships and technology at the beginning of the game so you can customise your ship to survive. Indeed one of the mods acknowledges this issue and does just that.
- I don't understand why the ship only travels in a straight line and you can't have a ship plot around certain obstacles like black holes and nebulaes which greatly slow down your progress.
- Sometimes you start off in a nebulae which is very aggravating as nebulas really slow your ship down.
- There is no individual score telling you how much your items are worth at the end of the game which would really have helped in determining what items I should keep from the trader.
- The gun descriptions could have been more helpful in giving a clue as to how effective they are against certain ships or shields. For some reason the gun descriptions for the mid-range guns are particularly cryptic. This doesn't apply to other items such as the missles because the game tells you how many megatons the warhead delivers making choices fairly easy. As such I'm curious as why they made it so difficult for mid-range guns.