Welcome to a Star Citizen Alpha 3.5.1 State of The Game, looking at what works and what does not. What can we do, what mechanics are there, how playable is all of it and how does it compare to previous patches.
TLDR Summary – Star Citizen is fun at this stage BUT is not a sitdown a play game yet.
There are major problems with the game, they are still working on the core mechanics, it requires a bit of research to even know what you can do and how to do it in game.
It’s focused on testing and feedback. There are crashes, bugs and frustration, if you want to get involved with that process great.
It’s a great tourist destination when a new patch comes out, going there and seeing what’s new OR what a whole planet looks like OR if you are part of an Org and organize your own things to do. There will also be a subset of people that love the game and really grind the current loops because the game is pretty and there is a lot of fun to be had despite it’s flaws and holes in gameplay currently.
Alpha 3.5.1 was a mini patch meant to address various bugs and QoL issues with the 3.5 branch… which it has at least in part done after the 3.5 branch broke a few features and had many QoL problems.
Specific with that patch was a major change – Any weapon & item changes made to your ships now persist (during the patch cycle) when reclaiming your ship, so you should go out and find the items that you want and buy them with in game money! There are new shop items as well in the 3.5.1 patch.
Star Citizen’s PU looks great and Frame Rates are pretty good, significantly better by magnitudes on a wider range of hardware compared to 3.0 which was the times of single digit frames for some. We are still locked to 50 players per server further server improvements and optimization is required for this.
The Most Major Problems for me currently are There is still problems with Ship Combat: aiming with fixed weapons, RubberBanding / Jitter & general Game Balance.
Partly because of the new flight model and the expanding gameplay area.
Auto Gimbals as well, if you have gimballed weapons at the moment you might as well have auto gimballed mode on and this aims for you and fixed weapons are a bit broken in a bad way… these will obviously see work in the future.
There is a lot to do in Star Citizen now and mission progression with reputation system that gives you access to some of these missions based on your crimerating and other missions you’ve done leading to bigger payouts and variants.
Delivery & Move Items/Box Missions – Tho some ships that should be able to take cargo can have problems where cargo falls out of them, this is only a couple of ship series but annoying none the less. Some of these missions have you moving very small items that you can stow on your character so you can do some with ships that have no cargo room.
There are Scramble races weapons free DD type affairs but these Very rarely played by people and require players to join them or they cancel. This requires bigger rewards, tweaking and larger server player caps to work.
There are some Simple FPS AI Missions – Clear out Security Post Kareah or Bunkers on planets & moons.
Missions involving Ships Patroling, Combat Assist / Distress Signals, Bounty Hunting (both PvP & PvE) Assassination.
Search & Investigation Missions, go to a wreck, find a blackbox or particular body.
Service Beacons for Distress Signals, Combat Assist and Please Pick me up and take me to a location are in, NPCs can also send out Distress Signals now, replacing ECN missions.
The Major LZs have mission givers some of which give you some slight variants of common missions BUT there are a couple of more interesting missions
The Twitch Pacheco – Store House Mission from ArcCorp Area 18, it lends you a Cutlass Black you need to go pickup, has you attack a bunker, clear the turrets and NPCs inside and then find a specific box of narcotics OR go there to destroy all the boxes there you can.
Clovis Darneely – Downed Satellite Mission has you travel to a Satellite on Hurston & try and find a circuit board, though this might have extra steps and you may have to search other locations OR clear out a bunker and recover it from there. Other players may also be hunting for the board to destroy it.
There is the Covalex Investigation Mission which still gives a good look at chilled PvE exploration of a station, while recovering audio and text logs, the mission has different endings based on what info you recover.
Beyond the Missions there are various Gameplay Loops
Cargo Hauling is very much a thing, much more viable for the larger ships but you can buy and sell cargo at terminals, prices change based on demand somewhat you can Scavenge for Cargo Boxes at POI & there are also Narcotics available to purchase at hidden outposts (tho you could find some of these naturally from doing outlaw delivery missions)
You’ll have players locking down areas with a load of ships sometimes, this is less common in the 3.5 branch with the extra locations for narcotics taking away the JumpTown Hot Zone.
You’ll get some light piracy going on from players still though.
More from NPCs that can interdict you out of QT both pirates and security forces in fact.
The Mining Mechanic works well & is one of the most polished areas of the Game in 3.5.1. Mining is only available to the Prospector at the moment, though the ship is purchaseable in Game at Ship Shops, it should be available to rent in the future and other mining ships will also be available.
Mineable Rocks and Asteroids are very abundant & easy to find now, scanning for them will have loads of markers appear when around moons and asteroid fields & it appears that mineables are passively detected too.
And they seem to more commonly have valuable make up.
While mining the loop is scan for mineable, approach and further scan a particular rock or asteroid, use your mining laser to break the mineable down (you have to adjust the laser power with mouse wheel to keep it within a threshold based on the instability and resistance of the mineable) putting too much power can cause the mineable to explode and damage yourship as well as sending destroying or sending valuable ore rocketing off, some mineables require breaking into again smaller chunks, then you can use your tractor laser to nom up the materials & then go to a location to sell them.
The mineral make up of the asteroid is part of the Gameplay loop, having you work out if it’s worth your time to mine.
At the moment as there are sooo many potential rocks and there aren’t easy ways to orientate yourself at a glance OR mark rocks you have scanned you can get a bit lost in a mineables area.
Atmospheric Hover Mode is coming in 3.6, which should change the feel of mining when on moons.
Scanning is pretty slick now, tab to go into scan mode then you can scan for signals, which will appear as blocks on your HUD in the area something that is producing a signal is in. Ships, Probes, Mineables. It should get a lot of use in the future but it works now.
FOIP & VOIP are interesting. FOIP is more regularly employed locally to do videos, but it does work in game but only with group members and comms calls when enabled and not all the time.
VOIP works BUT it’s a bit fiddly to get it working and is used by very few people atm.
It’s a cool set of features, that hopefully will get adopted by players when the game is more mainstream.
In Regard to Exploration and Gameplay Area Star Citizen is locked to 1 star system currently, Stanton and won’t expand out until they have at least Static Server Meshing Completed HOWEVER, the current area is absolutely massive and contains Some Planets:
Hurston that has various biomes and water, savannah with woodland areas, acid, trash, quarried and a giant city, Lorville.
Arccorp is the latest addition gameplay area wise in Alpha 3.5 a massive city covers the entire surface, area 18 is the major landing zone. In fact again specific to the 3.5.1 patch they improved lighting, the branding & ads around the planet and added new buildings and assets like the Donut Building!
Crusader is there in place holder form, it’s not visitable yet, it is planned to have it’s landing zone Orison in Alpha 3.9 so Q1 2020.
Each of these Planets / Locations has various moons that each have their own biomes AND are mostly explorable, what I mean by that is that the City of Lorville and whole of ArcCorp have a barrier close to the surface preventing you landing landing in the middle of the city, auto pilot pulls you away, tho at arccorp there are buildings to land on around that are above that.
Also on each of those Astral bodies are Missions, Outposts (some where you can spawn ground vehicles), Narcotics Labs, POI like lakes, seas…
Ground Vehicles work pretty well at the moment, I would like to see the Hover Bikes get a few tweaks, maybe the Hover / VTOL updates in 3.6 will look at this too.
There is an Asteroid Belt around Crusaders Moon Yela and a major landing zone GrimHex nestled in one of the large asteroids there.
There is a Planetoid Delamar with the Levski…
Port Olisar (Where you first spawn in the game) which is a more legacy asset now and should be being replaced by one of the large space stations in the future.
The Small space station rest stops dotted around the system. Though the rest stops, outposts and bunkers are pretty similar at this stage the other locations have their own look.
The Star map works pretty well now, if you are low on fuel you’ll need to jump to a LZ or Rest Stop.
These landing zones all have shops (some of which are unique or have unique stock) so that you can buy FPS weapons, armor, civilian clothing & equipment, Ship Weapons, Items as well as whole ships.
One of the major additions to gameplay loops here in 3.5.1 is that Changes to ships persist between reclaims, so buying equipment in game will stay with your ship., giving you a reason to want to make more than a few aUEC, also because you don’t have to keep purchasing back these items when you lose your ship it should allow you to make more money and then purchase more items or ships more easily.
That said any Patch Resets will remove all aUEC and aUEC purchases you have accrued still.
Some more minor or mission based explorable space stations exist Kareah where you can also lower your criminal rating (by interacting with a computer there) that you can get from doing outlaw missions or attacking “friendly” players and ships. If your Criminal rating gets too high security forces will hunt you in certain areas, bounties will be generated for you and security guards / turrets will attack you.
There is the Gundo Covalex Hub and focused on with one of the Investigation Missions.
And Comm arrays too, which can be turned on / off as part of missions, if you are detected doing a crime in an area that has Comm Array Coverage then you get a crime rating.
There are some more hidden zone Benny Hendge, a Javelin Wreck, Various Narcotics Labs, previously we only had JumpTown but now many locations that sell narcotics of which GrimHex buys most HOWEVER this isn’t particularly profitable anymore and the amount of locations makes it so that you are less likely to see players… it’s kind of a step backwards in the short term as I quite enjoyed gameplay around Jump Town.
This is all because they are getting ready for Alpha 3.6s BlackMarket Economy and the Law System which should improve this by having more risk and reward for trying to trade in narcotics and stolen goods. 3.5.1 struggles to have much to do for outlaw players beyond a couple of missions and counter missions
If you only had a limited amount you could do and hadn’t played SC before I’d say visit ArcCorp & Lorville. Do the Covalex Investigation, Downed Satellite & Twitch Store House Missions that gives you a good feel for what they are trying to do with the mission system.
Missions at the moment are not properly dynamic nor do they have much in the way of modularity and variance.
QT Travel Times have a massive range as the distance between some of the areas is huge. From Crusader PO to ArcCorp is one of the longest QJs you could do and that ranges from 5 – 17 mins based on the size and type of QD you have equipped.
So Smaller ships do take a huge amount of travel time if they want to constantly move around the system
This isn’t too much of an issue (for me at least though) as you can take missions and stay around a single planet and it’s moons and only travel longer distances more rarely OR get a lift using the SB system, If I want to move from one planet to another I get someone in a Caterpillar to give me a lift to the LZ and then spawn my ship there. In the future I expect to see Krakens, Genesis Star Liners and Civilian Carrier Services to allow you or you and your ships to travel quickly for one area to another for a fee.
How Playable is it?
Alpha 3.5.1 is very playable however there are still occasional crashes.`
Some bugs or lack of polish in areas cause issue, the New Flight Model, Combat & AI all need a lot of work.
The New Flight Model is surprisingly good in general though, it does need tweaking but it’s got solid potential and there is lot to do on the ground or in a ship. Though management of ships systems isn’t essential to play yet, it needs a lot more meat and features in place first.
There is Rubberbanding & Jittering most notably with player and NPC ships.
This is partly based on server load and servers are pushed beyond really what they can handle with the current gameplay area.
I can have hours of fun without much of an issue in 3.5.1 BUT other times more during “peak” hours it’s not great.
Even when the game is working “well” AI both ship and FPS provide little challenge.
Sometimes stopping firing or responding properly, they are just a bit dumb.
For a Tourist Destination Star Citizen is great. If you want to come and check out the latest major patch for a couple of weeks then you get to see awesome sights and play some cool missions, the lack of variance, lack of meaningful progression, major reset every 3 months and bugs can make it frustrating beyond that currently.
The procedural generation is improving but ArcCorp has a lot of meaningless city space around it beyond area 18 and proximate areas, it looks great BUT it has no gameplay value YET, more areas and things to do in the future, some of the buildings will have interiors and be used for missions for example AND that’s where we are still with SC, an evolving Alpha where they add major additions every 3 months.
However Star Citizen is best enjoyed imo with others, if you are in an active Org, then you could easily have 100s of hours of fun in star citizen even now, the forced sandbox nature of the game actually works well with a creative community and players looking to organize things to do / events. When there is more flesh on it’s bones long term solo play will be much more viable. That said when I played the other night there were problems getting together in a party and inviting properly, that needs to be fixed!
I think that’s one of the major things actually that Star Citizen Needs better multi-crew and group gameplay, mission sharing, harder AI, things to do as a group that the game automates a bit better. Hopefully we will start to see more of this from 3.7 onwards.
Star Citizen is in Alpha and testing, feedback, bug hunting and evolution of it’s gameplay are at it’s core, it’s certainly not for the mainstream at this stage.
And there are many edge case bugs as well, players sometimes getting 100% CPU use or constant crashes for example. Some trolling exists with players being able to ramships into landing pads repeatedly, ways of dealing with this in game should be coming in the future
Alpha 3.6 will Address some of issues with 3.5.1, there is always going to be crashes in an Alpha but the 3.5 had broken/changed some of the previous gameplay, 2 steps backwards for what might be a bigger leap forward in Alpha 3.6 as the patch focuses on improvements, ships, addition & evolution of mechanics rather than adding more gameplay area.
But What Do You think? Are You Enjoying Alpha 3.5.1 OR waiting for 3.6 before you play again OR waiting even longer for Star Citizen to be in a more playable State. Do you think that Alpha 3.6 might see delays?