About Software

Kerbal Space Program review | PC Gamer


Need To Know

What is it? A solar sandbox playground and serious sim combined.
Influenced by: Physics, NASA, Minecraft, sort of.
Play it on: Core i5, 4GB RAM, 1Gb GPU
Alternatively: Take On Mars
DRM: None
Price: £30/$40
Release: Out now
Developer: Squad
Publisher: In-house
Multiplayer: None
Link: Official site

I still remember the first time I landed on Mun—planet Kerbin’s closest moon. It was on the back of many failures; of countless times where my design, planning or ability fell short. One rocket would be too heavy, another too inefficient, another too explosive. I’d mess up my landing, splattering my little green astronauts all over the moon’s jagged craters; or I’d fail to break out of Kerbin’s atmosphere entirely, spinning them out into a watery grave. One time I ran out of fuel 5,000 meters above Mun’s surface, and, unable to slow my descent, watched helplessly as they exploded on impact. It was heartbreaking.

Out of the countless defeats and sacrifices eventually came the answer. The successful rocket was ramshackle and ugly. It was the result of a hundred inelegant solutions to unforeseen problems. Nevertheless, it held steady through the launch ritual: keeping straight through the initial 10,000 meter ascent, the smooth transition to a suborbital arc and the controlled burn at the 70,000 meter apoapsis, first to orbit, then out of Kerbin’s influence and into an encounter with Mun. Before descent, I transferred my Kerbal to a lander bolted on top of the launch payload (an over-engineered solution to my earlier fuel shortage.) Then I landed, and took one small step onto the surface.

I tell this story because it remains one of my greatest achievements in a game. It was a proper achievement, too. Not a pat-on-the-back trophy, created to convey incremental progress, but the successful completion of a challenging, self-made goal. The entire process—from failure, to revision, to hope, to euphoric completion—cemented for me why Kerbal Space Program is one of the best games on PC. That this all happened two years ago is why it feels strange to be reviewing the game now.


Kerbal Space Program is about building and flying rockets into space. Chances are you already knew that, because it was first released, in alpha, back in 2011. Thanks to the strength of the core sandbox concept, its potential was evident from the start. The added tools and features of subsequent patches have only strengthened the game’s ability to deliver on that initial promise of full space program management and execution. Kerbal Space Program was one of the few Early Access games that I felt comfortable giving an unreserved recommendation. It was brilliant then, and it remains brilliant now that it’s updated to version 1.0 for an official release.


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