Herding humanity to space-faring glory
“Space…the final frontier…” – Every Star Trek Captain, and then some.
What would it take for humanity to stop trying to overcome one another in economic struggles and wars of attrition? How could humanity redirect all of its energy towards a cooperative effort, like reaching the stars and exploring the galaxy? Well, according to Uncaged Studio, we would only need to accidentally create a sentient Artificial Intelligence with programming devoted towards supporting humanity, even if it meant restructuring the global leadership.
The Sentient is a spaceship crew management and survival simulator that gives a player access to design the layout of their ship, as well as control the different crew members as the sentient A.I. The initial tutorial provides a clear look at how to build each room and fill it with key objects that powers the ship’s main systems and gives the crew the ability to control them. A command room, for example, will need weapons and shield consoles to keep your ship safe, a galaxy map to travel through space, flight controls to move the ship, and a command seat to give aid to all other working members of the flight crew.
Other rooms include the engine room, the bar, the cafeteria, the bathroom, and the crew quarters. Of these, only the engine room provides another bonus to shields and weapons power, which gives the specialized mechanics something to do during a space battle. The rest of these rooms serve to satisfy the needs of the crew by keeping them fed, allowing them to relieve themselves, or letting them relax with a few drinks before going back to work.
The size of each room determines how many objects can fit within, making it an important factor to consider before the crew is even selected. In order to have a large number of crew members, for example, the crew quarters must be large enough to hold the same number of beds as there are individual members. The ship has a finite amount of available space that can only be expanded by researching bigger and better ships. Reaching the appropriate number of research points for this is a long, careful process, requiring players to select a competent crew that follows orders quickly and gets to their stations on time, especially during battle.
Each crew member has randomly generated attributes that determine their competency. These are divided into physicality, intelligence, teamwork, work ethic, punctuality, and leadership. They can help players determine which crew members are most useful and which ones can be replaced when the ship returns home to resupply. Moving crew members around is a bit like herding cats as they have a mind of their own and will drop what they are working on to go to the bathroom or get a meal. In order to help with this, the A.I. can set up a work schedule for the crew to try to follow, freeing the player to focus on a smaller number of crew members who are not punctual and require direct orders to get to their stations. This can get a little frustrating when it comes to dealing with combat situations, but the crew can at least help prepare the ship for battle as it moves through space by storing power to the shields and weapon systems.
Gameplay primarily focuses on exploring different sectors of space within FTL travel and checking out all of the randomly generated anomalies. The ship and crew cannot head to another sector or back to Earth until all of the anomalies have been visited, requiring players to carefully determine their course of action with each encounter. The primary goal for the ship is ultimately to return to Earth and use research points earned exploring space to upgrade different ship components. This research feature is especially important as any research point brought back to Earth is permanently added to the pool. This means that even if the ship is destroyed and the crew lost, the player can start over again using the same ship, sporting the same upgrades. The sectors previously explored will also continue to appear in the galaxy map, letting the ship’s crew start from where their unfortunate predecessors left off.
The Sentient is currently available for PC on Steam Early Access. As a result, the game is a work in progress and should see several improvements as more of the community takes part and provides feedback to Uncaged Studios. Happy flying my space-faring friends. Live long and prosper.