Starfield meets FTL in stunning new space FPS game coming soon

Starfield drew a variety of criticisms, but there was one complaint that was consistent across every player of Bethesda’s latest RPG – you couldn’t move seamlessly between your ship and the surface of the planet. Admittedly vast and ambitious, procedural generation in Starfield also left many of the 1,000 planets feeling uninhabited and dull. They were pretty to look at, maybe, but whenever you touched down on terra firma, it felt as if the makers of Starfield had suddenly disappeared, and you were aimlessly wandering a directionless, nothingy landscape. From a new studio composed of former Minecraft and Hazelight developers, one upcoming co-op FPS game feels like the emotional experience of Starfield as it was meant to be. Ship and systems management borrows from strategy roguelike FTL. There’s even a hint of Valve’s Left 4 Dead. At GDC in San Francisco, PCGamesN goes hands-on with what could be 2024’s biggest breakthrough hit.

Jump Ship comes from Keepsake Games, a new studio combining talent from Minecraft maker Mojang, as well as Hazelight, the developer behind It Takes Two and A Way Out. Conceptually, it’s a co-op FPS game that aims to capture the richness of the classic space adventure. A team of up to four pilots a gigantic spaceship and is free to explore the galaxy and complete missions as they choose. The game breaks down into essentially two stages. While onboard your faithful craft, a deceptively simple power and systems management hub needs constant attention.

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If you want to go faster, someone needs to yank fuses from the shield batteries and shove them into the engine block. If you want more firepower, one of you needs to go down to the weapons bay and link more guns to the bridge computer. At times, you can coast peacefully along just enjoying the scenery, but when asteroid storms hit, or pirates appear on the starboard bow, the entire team needs to jump to action stations and rapidly respond to keep everything online. While one person shoots and steers, the rest can either put out fires (there are actual fires) in the engine room, reroute systems, or head on deck to helm the exterior canons.

Stay alive long enough and you can make it to the informal second half of the Jump Ship experience, whereby you touch down on the planet surface to complete missions and objectives, and recover supplies. First of all, you can transition seamlessly from ship to ground. No loading screens. No wait times. Using a jet pack you can hop from the deck of your star cruiser down to the terrain – and back again – in one high-powered swoop. The same applies during aerial combat or the aforementioned asteroid attacks. All four players can move around the entire ship, and its outside, completely at will with no disruptions.

Jump Ship Steam FPS game: Two astronauts fight fire in Steam FPS game Jump Ship

Every planet is handcrafted. Every mission is designed and built from the ground up. Jump Ship doesn’t have a fully explorable, totally open-ended sandbox universe – instead, you access your next mission from a computer table in the middle of the bridge. However, there are still extended sections and battles out in the vastness of space itself, and when you arrive into the atmosphere of a new planet, fight your way to the surface, and then seamlessly set down and jump overboard, it feels incredible.

“It’s really important to fulfill all the space fantasies,” game director Filip Coulianos tells PCGamesN exclusively. “People ask us ‘are there classes?’ but we’ve tried to stay away from that – whatever you have in your hands is your class. If you’re holding the fire extinguisher, you are the firefighter. We have a tiny bit of an upgrade path for players, so you can buy suits, helmets and stuff like that, which might give you a little buff. But we don’t want it to be like, ‘oh, yeah, only let that person repair because they have a class that makes them so much better than everybody else.”

Teamwork and communication are fundamental in Jump Ship. At times, it feels like a sci-fi Lethal Company, as you each take your positions and complete missions in tandem. Once you’re on the ground and you’ve located a mission site, one person might stay close to the computer console that opens a silo door, while two more keep the enemies at bay. The final crewmember is responsible for slipping inside, grabbing what you came for, and hightailing it back to the ship. One flies. One shoots. One repairs. One puts out fires. Imagine the scramble scenes from Star Trek, shared between you and three friends.

Jump Ship Steam FPS game: Two astronauts engage in combat in Steam FPS game Jump Ship

There’s no procedural generation. Alongside the handcrafted worlds and missions built by Keepsake, Jump Ship also uses a ‘director,’ similar to Valve’s Left 4 Dead, which summons in-game events based on your behavior. Get a bit too wealthy, and you might find yourself targeted more often by pirates. Sit stationary for too long, and expect a meteor shower to start obliterating your ship. Despite a small team of around ten people, Coulianos explains why building Jump Ship by hand is vitally important.

“If we want to make this giant, unending world, we wouldn’t have control over the pacing of stuff. But this way, we can jam in all the interesting things and design a good path, and put options where they make sense. Everyone’s time is really valuable. So if you’re just flying forward for 15 minutes in some big generated world, that’s terrible gameplay. We live today in a world where AI and algorithms are becoming drastically more advanced, but I’ve not seen anything produced there that’s remotely as good as a talented human being, building an environment.”

When you’ve finished Jump Ship’s many missions, you can mix things up with a variety of modifier cards. Maybe you want to revisit some of the toughest ops, only this time enemies do ten times more damage. Or perhaps you want to go around again, but with a vastly increased chance of engine failure and ship malfunctions. Rather than create something endless and recursive, the goal is to provide a large variety of substantive new missions and permutations.

Jump Ship Steam FPS game: A space battle in Steam FPS game Jump Ship

“We’re [the developers at Keepsake] becoming parents,” Coulianos says. “We don’t have that much time. So like, just having players traveling with nothing happening to us is like ‘no.’ We want every minute to be rich – rich without being too stressful. It doesn’t have to be full of action all the time, of course. But I think that’s important.”

We’re still waiting on a precise date, but Jump Ship is currently scheduled to hit early access in late 2024. Combining strategy, teamwork, seamless space adventuring, and influences from some of the best PC games of the last decade or more, you can already wishlist it right here.

Alternatively, check out some of the other best space games, or the best upcoming PC games making their way to you in the next 12 months and beyond.

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