The Long Journey Home is the ambitious first title from German-based studio, Daedalic Entertainment West. It’s a rich, single-player space exploration title that beautifully blends retro sensibilities with modern game design. Inspired by Star Control, TLJH is a more interactive, unsanitized version of FTL, which also drew heavily from the same PC classic. Unabashedly paying homage to sci-fi heavy hitters like Firefly, Farscape, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fifth Element, TLJH is a charming, procedurally generated rogue-like adventure for the starship captain in all of us.
Being a top-down, physics-based space shooter, TLJH initially looks like a gorgeous version of Asteroids but, like a black hole, there’s a near infinite level of possibility below the surface. The game begins immediately after your crew of four (which you select from a group of 10 unique personalities and professions) find themselves stranded across the galaxy when their first experimental jump test drive goes horribly wrong. As the game’s title implies, you must then find your way home while keeping your ship together through exploration, scavenging, battling hostile enemies, diplomacy, and trade.
“It’s kind of like a reverse RPG in that everything starts in good shape, but then you have to try and keep things from falling apart,” said Creative Director and Founder, Andreas Suika.
Although TLJH’s galaxy is procedurally generated, it’s not completely random. At the start of each game, you input a 6 digit code, which then creates the galaxy. This allows you to share a particularly interesting galaxy with others, which will surely encourage a sense of community among players online. However, although the code simply creates the universe, every player’s experience will vary greatly depending on which crew members they choose and what decisions they make at every turn. These variables, combined with the 999,999 different possible galaxies, ensure that each playthrough’s narrative will be a patchwork of little stories woven together to create one wholly unique every time.
While piloting your ship in the closest of the game’s many different “camera” perspectives, you’ll notice a grid pattern signifying gravitational fields from things like black holes or planets. In the case of planets, these fields allow for the old, fuel-saving “slingshot” maneuver familiar to all space pilots, or they can be used to bring your ship into a stable orbit. Once in orbit, you can scan planets for things like signs of life or resources. You can also send a member of your crew down in a lunar lander to explore, potentially finding valuable resources, side-quests, or perhaps certain death! Each encounter is not only determined by what’s on the planet, but by who you send and how they react. A grizzled pilot may not be able to read the alien writing on a ruin you’ve discovered, so you may decide to take it aboard. A scientist, however, may be able to decipher the writing and realize that it’s a sacred planet and that removing the ruin would incur the wrath of an entire alien civilization!
During my demo, I decided to check out a distress beacon, despite the possibility of it being a trap. Happily, I found that the beacon was a portly, stranded alien claiming to be an important emissary seeking my help to get home. Despite his planet being out of my way, my inner Han Solo could not ignore his promises of a rich reward in return for my help. Shortly after taking him aboard, I was approached by several menacing fighter ships, which I attempted to hail. Ignoring my hails, they opened fire. Being severely outgunned, I again attempted to hail them and they thankfully decided to respond. This new, mantis-looking alien race claimed that my “emissary” was actually a con artist they’d been chasing across the galaxy and that I could either turn him over, or face destruction.
I didn’t like my odds of fighting or fleeing, so I decided to cooperate. Andreas mentioned that each alien species in the game generally always behaves in the same manner. Some prefer flattery during conversation, while others won’t respect you unless you always haggle over goods during transactions. This particular species was relatively villainous, aggressive and arrogant. However, it appeared as though I made the right call as they controlled the majority of this nebula and were in charge of the Mass Effect-like “relay” used to make large jumps to other nebulas.
According to Andreas, the demo I saw was on a build “very close” to completion. As a studio comprised of many “old-school” developers, they’ve decided to beta test the game internally instead of putting it on Early Access. “We’d rather release a game that is finished than release it early,” said Andreas. With a rich universe of such vast potential and replayability, the wait for The Long Journey Home will be tough but worth it, especially for Twitch fans. The Long Journey Home will be coming to Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 at a price point of “less than $60” sometime later this year.