Setting Off the Kessler Effect in Habitat’s Space Junkyard

It’s the end of the world again, but this time we’ve got a bit of warning. Nanobots are eating the planet from the inside out but it’s going to take a while for that to happen, so the logical thing to do is to chuck every single thing we can get our hands on into space. Buildings, ships, trains, nuclear reactors, and lots and lots of rockets now clutter Earth’s orbit, for as long as there’s an Earth remaining, and humanity needs to lash the bits together to construct a new home. You’ve got a small group of space-suited engineers zipping about the 2D plane with the planet in the background showing no signs of the impending apocalypse going on in its core, retrieving as much space junk as possible and welding it into place to create a Frankenstein’s monster of a space station, balancing food, oxygen, and power for its growing population. And just to make life difficult, those jerks in the other habitats don’t view you so much as fellow humans trying to survive as they do competitors stealing their stuff, so you might as well strap a rocket to the the Statue of Liberty’s cyborg head and send it crashing through their base before they do the same thing to you.

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The Habitat build at PAX East was a prototype build designed to show off the possibilities of the game, a little buggy but already filled with potential for physics-based shenanigans. Everything in space at game’s start is floating in orbit but it only takes strapping a rocket to anything and lighting it off to set up a chain reaction of debris that can cause as much damage to you as to your enemies. That’s not the point of the game, of course, but once I’d accidentally broken my home base in half and sent it cartwheeling through space it was hard to resist the urge to break ALL THE THINGS!!! Managing a balance between creating a peaceful home in a safe section of Earth’s orbit and keeping it close enough to the debris field so that your poor, overworked engineers don’t take forever to drag new bits back to base is only the first and most obvious challenge. The mass of stuff in Earth’s orbit it both tool and threat, and when the enemy AI can start using it that’s only going to cause more problems.

At the moment, though, the basics are already fun to play with. Sending the engineers out to get rockets, nuclear reactors, a giant cruise ship, or even the Eiffel Tower to make the growing station come to life is satisfying to see, and once attached you can assign a purpose to your new addition to cover you home base’s needs. Most pieces can only do one or two different functions, which are made obvious when you mouse-over before sending someone out after it, so just grabbing everything and welding it together may not make for the best plan. You’re also going to want to leave a spare engineer handy to fix breakages, because all those people inhabiting your jury-rigged home can be a bit careless.

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There were a few other toys to play with in the prototype as well, scenarios set up to show off possible strategies in combating enemy AI. Sending an asteroid into a rival is fun, of course, but shooting a tether from a rocket and dragging it flailing through a dense section of space junk? Now that’s just fun to see! The destruction of Earth may have forced humanity into space, but that’s no reason to start working together as a single people now.

This was still a very early demo, and current plans call for massively expanding on what’s there. Building upgrades, more objects to play with, campaign and randomized sandbox mode, an expansive tech tree, and the ability to create multiple habitats working together have all been announced. The base that’s been created is already fun to play with, so with a bit of luck and a (hopefully) successful Kickstarter, Habitat is a game to watch as it works its way down the long road to completion.