STAFF REVIEW of Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition (Xbox One)

Monday, February 26, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition Box art I remember first watching someone play Kerbal Space Program (KSP) on PC back when it was released, being intrigued by the sheer freedom given to the player to create essentially any type of spaceship they wanted, complete with cute little green men. The PC version had quite a following after its release, leaving console players wishing they could experience the same spaceship building antics. While it did release on console 2 years ago, it was a buggy and unoptimized mess. Here we are once again, but this time with the Enhanced Edition, promising some much needed improvements for console players hoping to have an improved PC-like experience.

It seems this Enhanced Edition has been remade from the ground up to utilize the consoles much better, addressing the numerous issues from the first release, yet it’s still far from perfect. While it is an improvement over the initial version, it’s still galaxies away from the PC version in terms of controls and ease of use. With a sudden interest in space travel again thanks to SpaceX, Kerbal Space Program: Enhanced Edition might just scratch that itch, as long as you’re willing to put in a substantial amount of time to learn its metric ton of features and controls.

While there’s no real storyline per-se, you are in control of the grand Kerbal Space Program, hence the title. Kerbals are little green aliens that are determined to create all sorts of spaceships, allowing them to explore the galaxy and perform science experiments. While you won’t need a degree in astrophysics and rocket science, there’s so much packed here that I’m sure that if you did understand every nuance, you’d also be impressed. Your Kerbal Space Center is your headquarters, based on the planet Kerbin, naturally, and you’ll be creating spaceships, rovers and nearly anything else your mind can come up with. If it flies or not is a whole other story, and if you want it to land again afterwards, you better be prepared to sink in some serious hours to learn all of the minute intricacies with mass experimentation.

The core game is unchanged, allowing you to focus on whatever aspect you desire, though I found the ship building, and launching (though usually after many failed attempts), the most entertaining. When you create a multi stage rocket with numerous fuel tanks, engines, wings and other highly technological parts, you’ll feel like an absolute genius that should be working for NASA, though, that is until you try launching and have it either explode or crash moments from liftoff, bringing your ego back down to earth. Once you do start to figure things out, slog through the unfriendly tutorial and eventually make it into outer space, it’s quite a thrill to see your adjustments finally succeed.

Tutorials are generally included to teach you the core mechanics of the game, easing you into the experience and make the learning curve much smoother. While KSP does have a quite lengthy tutorial, and it’s absolutely vital if you want to learn how to even maneuver the camera properly, the learning curve is absolutely insane. Even with the improvements included in this Enhanced Edition, the ease of use for newcomers to the game is so difficult and unintuitive that it’s actually a deterrent.

While I’m not a fan of difficult games usually, certain ones like Dark Souls for example is difficult by design, forcing you to learn from your mistakes and punish you for them, encouraging you to play more and learn. The same can’t be said with KSP, as it’s difficult, though not by design and simply due to a terribly poor job of teaching you how to play properly. There’s a ton of tutorials to go through that will take you step by step of learning the basics, and eventually the more advanced mechanics as well, but when I got stuck on the very first tutorial, that says a lot about its design.

Tutorials are done via pop-ups that need to be read and understood, explaining how to maneuver the camera, go to the menu of items, sub-menus, radial menus and more. Once you complete the step it asks you to perform you need to press RB+A to get back to the tutorial screen and then confirm. If you’ve done the step correctly it will move onto the next dialogue to explain what to do, but if you’ve not, the menu will sit there, leaving you confused as to why you can’t progress in the tutorial. Yes, you become confused and can get stuck on a step in a tutorial. I literally had to quit of the first tutorial numerous times because my cursor become stuck, as I wasn’t sure of the button combination to cancel out of what I was currently doing, or get rid of a misplaced piece. Get used to random and very awkward button presses and combinations, as there’s a handful of them that you’ll need to know to become a KSP master.

I’m totally on board when it comes to difficulty, forcing you to experiment and fail, but that shouldn’t apply to the tutorial and base controls. Even hours in I was struggling with the controls, having to purposely think of what I was trying to do and then remembering how exactly to accomplish going so. The PC version wasn’t as painful for its controls, as you have a keyboard and mouse, but the controller mapping is so incredibly unintuitive and unfriendly that it was making me not want to play as much as I should have. If I wasn’t reviewing KSP, I probably would have given up a long time ago due to this constant unwinnable battle.

If you manage to grasp the controls, the numerous tutorials will start you off with the basics, like creating a very simple rocket, all the way to learning how to make multi-staged boosters, how to land on the Mun (Kerbin’s moon) and even orbiting the solar system for science experiments. Many of these tutorials also assume you just understand why you need to change the fuel levels in certain fuel cells, or why certain wings are better for aerodynamics, and while it does try and explain them briefly, it again doesn’t do a good job of teaching and guiding you. Many times I simply followed the tutorial instructions, unsure why exactly without understanding.

While spaceship building was the feature I enjoyed the most, there’s a ton of other things you can focus on too should you wish, such as taking control of your whole staff, learning complex creations, landing on the Mun, research science experiments, using an orbit to slingshot deeper into space and more. There’s a large navigation ball, or NavBall, on the screen that will help you navigate space in 3D, directing you to your targets as you focus on other aspects of space travel.

In addition to the lengthy tutorials, there are different modes that can be played based on your preference. Sandbox mode was my favorite, as it simply puts you in the game with every item and technology unlocked, allowing you to create whatever you desire without having to worry about a budget. This mode was great for simply experimenting with each type of part, what they do and how they affect your ship. With unlimited funds, you can simply try and test anything you can think of in this mode, as I found it a great place to learn what worked for me and what didn’t. Scenarios are also available, essentially mini missions that task you with a very specific objective, such as landing on the Mun or orbiting a specific planet.

Science mode is almost like a career-lite mode, as you’re simply tasked with conducting specific experiments without having to worry about any money restrictions or other distractions. Doing this research will earn you points to spend into a development tree, thus unlocking new features. It’s a good segway mode before diving head first into the deep end of Career Mode.

Career mode is the all-encompassing mode for KSP, requiring you to run all aspects like building, upgrades, funding, staffing and more. You’ll need to take on missions and experiments to earn points that allow you to boost your headquarters, allowing for more features to be unlocked. I was quickly lost in Career mode, overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work you need to do and keep on top of. You’re going to have to sink a ton of hours into KSP to even attempt to perform well in career mode, but the option is there for those that enjoy that aspect and want a challenge.

I really do appreciate what KSP does and offers, as there’s no other experience like it. If you’re patient enough, can deal with the unintuitive and non-friendly controls, have a ton of time and patience, then there’s a ton of value here for you. There’s a ton of problems with this poor PC port, yet there’s still a certain charm to it. I’m not sure if it’s the dumb lemming-like grins on the Kerbal’s faces when I’m spinning them in space at crazy G-forces I can’t even fathom, or seeing their screams as I know I’m about to crash my poorly designed ship, but either way, I keep coming back to try a crafting a different type of ship and experiment with other parts. Sure the walls of text aren’t the best tutorial, isn’t user friendly, and the controls will take days to get the hang of, but there’s no denying the level of simulation KSP can achieve, I just wish this Enhanced Edition was even more enhanced and much more user and controller friendly.

Overall: 5.7 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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