ΔV: Rings of Saturn Preview

This Early Access game is not complete and may or may not change further. If you are not excited to play this game in its current state, then you should wait to see if the game progresses further in development.

ΔV: Rings of Saturn takes place in the year 2273, when a space mining industry came into fruition in response to the discovery of highly valuable minerals in Saturn’s rings. In Rings of Saturn, players get to pilot an asteroid mining ship, as they attempt to make the best out of their current situation by successively diving into Saturn’s ring of asteroids and slowly accruing wealth by vaporizing asteroids of all sizes and carefully collecting ores which can then be sold back at the nearest space station.

The ships in ΔV: Rings of Saturn follow an extremely realistic physics model, which makes ships feel extremely satisfying to pilot. With that said, you can actually use autopilot or pilot ships manually. Based on my experience, I’d say that you can’t really just stick to one of these, you have to use a combination of both. Luckily, this is pretty easy because the autopilot can be engaged by simply using the left mouse click to set a target and then you move around your cursor, or use the movement keys, to adjust your velocity in relation to that target. Likewise, if you’re manually controlling your ship, you can also use your keyboard to fire up individual thrusters for a more controlled manoeuvre. However, if some of your thrusters happen to be damaged or misaligned, I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to stabilize the ship without using autopilot.

The core gameplay loop of ΔV: Rings of Saturn is pretty straight-forward, you set off from a space station out into the ring of asteroids, and then you mine as much as you can until your cargo bay gets full or you’re forced to go back to repair, either because you rammed your ship into some asteroid or because you were attacked by pirates. If this sounds like it’s highly repetitive, then that’s because it is. However, I didn’t really ever find myself bored while playing this game, sure, you’ll be doing the same thing over and over, and mining is all done in the vacuum of space where there’s nothing really interesting going on around you, but the gameplay mechanics and systems manage to be so engaging and simple at the same time that I found myself really hooked to this experience. 

Thanks to the combination of a great retro looking UI, with controls that make manoeuvres simple to execute, mining is a painless task. Essentially you target an asteroid or manually face it, and then you fire whatever it is that you have on your hardpoints, which can be mass drivers that fire slugs, lasers, or even retrofitted thrusters. Then, once the asteroid is destroyed, they’ll spawn ore nuggets which you must also target and bring inside your ship by opening your extractor and flying towards them. The deeper you go into the rings, the more ores and bigger asteroids you’ll find, and sometimes, you might even be approached by fellow miners, bounty hunters, or even pirates.

Now, once you make your way back to the station, you can sell gathered minerals or even buy minerals and see if you can score big by waiting a while for prices to rise, buy a new ship, replace or repair damaged ship parts, fine-tune individual ship systems and components or upgrade them, as well as hire crew members and manage them (which grant you great bonuses). There are a lot of customization options in ΔV: Rings of Saturn, and that’s also one of the main reasons why I enjoy it so much. While most games just implement some sort of upgrade system where upgrades are incremental, in ΔV: Rings of Saturn there are plenty of valid upgrade options. It’s not a matter if X is better than Y, what matters is if you’re willing to make the needed compromises to use a certain component. For example, you could install bigger fuel reserves to obviously have more fuel or some other upgrade that increases a certain capacity of your ship in one way or another, but that would also make your ship heavier, and thus harder to manoeuvre. The same thing goes for weapons, as you could install a laser on your ship, but you’d need to have the necessary energy to properly power it up.

Another great aspect of ΔV: Rings of Saturn is the fact that there are tons of different statuses that can influence how each ship part behaves, like nuclear reactor leakage and thruster misalignment. Whenever you’re out mining, things can quickly take a turn for the worse. A careless thrust that ends up with you going straight against an asteroid or a sudden pirate attack can severely hinder your ship in multiple ways, and it’s all thanks to the fact that each ship component has different systems within them that determine how they perform. While you can obviously repair them or replace them back at the station, you can also adjust them by jerry-rigging on the fly to mitigate any received damage. It might sound and look daunting at first, but it’s actually relatively simple thanks to it just being a system of sliders.

A big part of ΔV: Rings of Saturn’s experience is the sound design, which is nothing short of amazing. From the chill and relaxing beeping tunes that are constantly playing, to the subtle noises that your ship makes, and even more urgent sounds such as when you suddenly make a U-turn and the whole ship just creaks under the pressure. Visually, the game might initially look like it doesn’t really have that much going on for it, but it quickly becomes apparent that things such as particle effects, like firing a weapon or your thrusters do look quite good, and it’s also particularly satisfying to witness a giant asteroid being reduced into tiny pieces and nuggets. Furthermore, lasers look pretty cool, since you can only seem them when they go through dust clouds or where they hit the surface of an object.

I completely adore ΔV: Rings of Saturn for what it is, but I’m not sure if it’s by intention and design, or if it’s just missing it at the moment, but I think that the game could feed more information to the player about the game’s systems. Currently, there’s only a rather brief tutorial that teaches you how to pilot your starting ship and that’s pretty much it. There’s nothing said about crews, upgrades, different components or ship systems. Aside from the movement system, everything else falls on the player’s shoulders, and it’s up to them to learn how to deal and handle things. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate the sense of discovery of figuring out how things work on your own, either by researching or through trial and error, but I feel like a lot of people might not appreciate the lack of hand-holding. 

ΔV: Rings of Saturn released on Steam’s Early Access back in August of 2019, and is currently slated for a full release sometime this year, although the game will supposedly continue to receive updates after that. Currently, the game is feature complete, all of its major gameplay systems are in place and in working order, so the developers are working on adding more content and squashing any bugs that might appear.

In any case, ΔV: Rings of Saturn is an extremely relaxing game that can also simultaneously be really challenging and tense, and while I’m pretty sure that this might not be the right cup of tea for the vast majority of people, this game sure has a lot of potential and it’s surely a hidden gem waiting to be found by a lot of people out there. There might not be much to the game in terms of story content at the moment, but even then, for the asking price, you’re already getting an exceptional game that is unlike anything else out there. If you’re on the fence and unsure if this is something you’ll enjoy, then you can go on ahead and download the demo, either on Steam or Itch.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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ΔV- Rings of Saturn Review

Summary

The unexpected discovery of valuable minerals within the rings of Saturn has sparked a thriving space excavation industry. Experience hard sci-fi, top-down space mining simulator, with every aspect backed up by real physics and science.