words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Morgondag for PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, Wii U, and iOS, originally released in 2015.
RymdResa is a story of solitude. A lone astronaut pilots a spacecraft through the depths of limitless space following the destruction of his home world by a gigantic asteroid. But space is dangerous and unforgiving. Hurtling asteroids, floating debris, and enemy ships stand between you and the salvation of your people… and even the emptiness of space threatens your existence, as resources are scarce.

The astronaut’s only hope is to navigate to a handful of known coordinates, gather any resources he can find, and look for clues that might lead him to a new home world.

Throughout his multi-year journey, the astronaut occasionally pauses to ruminate over his situation and his very existence… often informing the player of the toll his journey has taken on him.

These ruminations are often poetic in nature, and in fact, much of the game centers around a somber poetry, whether it be from the narrator himself or from words floating in space.

This does a great deal to set the tone of the game – as does the player’s interactions with planets and derelict spacecraft – painting a very dour picture of the universe and the player’s place within it, which is further supported by a melancholy soundtrack.

The day you died.
Watched it explode.
Watched it burn.
Observed… the… explosion.
Observed… the… fire.
Thinking of you.

Those are the words spoken by the astronaut during the opening cinematic, watching helplessly as an asteroid smashes into a life-filled blue planet.

The player must set out across a procedurally generated universe populated by dozens of unique planets and spacecraft, each of which is a potential source of resources or danger. The player is provided an indicator to point him in the direction of a set of coordinates and a small quantity of fuel to see him on his way.

The player’s fuel and health are represented by a combined “resources” meter, so navigating space and taking damage both deplete the meter, and running it to zero causes the ship to explode, at which point the player is kicked back to the title screen. The game is a roguelike – well, at least the first one-third of it is – so getting killed requires the player to begin anew, but collected currency and ship upgrades carry over between sessions.

At the start of the game, only a single ship is available to the player, and it has low stats. Three additional ships sit in the hangar (with four more becoming available in the second chapter), each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages in terms of speed, armor, and starting resources. However, these ships must be purchased – or more appropriately, leased – as each ship only lasts for the current game session. Once it is destroyed, it must be re-purchased to be flown again. Early in the going, currency caches are infrequent, making these purchases a luxury, but later in the game, players will likely want to outfit themselves with more powerful ships before taking to open space.

Each ship can be upgraded independently with better engines, shields, and a number of passive buffs, as well as consumable items like health restoratives, currency magnets, and item locators. Ship parts are found by exploring the environment and interacting with objects, which sometimes leads to an item drop… and sometimes leads to lost currency and resources. Ship parts may be swapped out at any time, but only for the ship that the player is currently piloting, and unwanted parts may be scrapped and crafted into something new.

When interacting with a floating planet or spacecraft, the player is often left with a choice, and making the correct choice may lead to currency and resource rewards or penalties, or occasionally the addition of one at the cost of another. If the player is low on resources, he may opt toward decisions that keep him alive a bit longer at the cost of money. While some of these choices are presented as moral dilemmas reminiscent of those found in FTL (the genre standout in roguelike spacing), there is no narrative consequence for performing one action over another, and the only gameplay effect is a positive or negative number in the currency and/or resources counter.

Currency is also found floating around through space in the form of stardust. In addition to adding to the player’s coffers, it also acts as an XP system, allowing the player to level up the ship’s pilot over time. Each time the pilot levels up, players can distribute stat points across four attributes: exploration, scouring, technology, and survival. These stat points allow for incremental increases in things like rare item drops, the likelihood of success during object interactions, shield recharge rates, and starting resources.

Players also earn some XP for each year of survival in space, as indicated by a meter on the top of the screen, and passing years are often highlighted with narration from the astronaut. Additional buffs and upgrades are earned at certain levelling thresholds, as well as by spending money and time to research various technologies, and players can also earn some bonus items that carry over into a future session.

Progress is made through exploration, and exploration is no easy task. Boosting drains your resources quickly and puts you in danger of running into asteroids or other flying objects, or getting pulled into the strong gravity of a nearby sun. Even using your basic thrusters causes a steady drain on your resources, requiring players to regularly seek out planets and spacecraft in hopes of scavenging more, but it is still possible to have a fast-moving asteroid crash into the ship and drain a lot of resources with little or no chance to maneuver out of its way.

Avoiding objects is made more complex by the fact that the player is pulled toward large gravitational bodies, and some objects orbit others, so they may be moving in an arc rather than a straight line. With some offscreen gravitational sources and large spinning objects in the background, it can sometimes be difficult for the player to fully comprehend his current speed and heading.

That said, RymdResa is largely a passive experience. Players are not tasked with blowing up enemies or objects, but rather exploring and collecting. Getting from one place to another generally involves boosting forward and then letting off the controls to coast through space until you get where you're going, with active engagement needed only to avoid conflict with enemy ships and fly around floating objects and mines. While death is common, and a large percentage of the game is presented as a roguelike, little is actually lost when the player’s ship is destroyed.

As the game’s universe is procedurally generated, players are free to continue flying as far as they like, although there are a limited number of “zones” to be found. Each zone is represented by a different colored background, with some zones containing lots of floating debris, others with mines or enemy ships, and some safe areas with lots of stardust and occasionally a refueling station. There are even some rare zones to be found, with their appearance becoming more likely depending on the pilot’s stats.

The game is divided into three chapters. The first chapter plays out as a roguelike with the game being restarted when the player’s ship is destroyed (but with currency, items, and pilot stats carrying over). The goal in the first chapter is to navigate between a series of coordinates – moving ever farther into dangerous territory – in order to eventually find a new home world.

In the second chapter, the player’s focus is on building up the new world, which involves searching freely in space for materials to bring back to the colonists, and meeting certain material thresholds rewards the player with bonuses.

The player can move in any direction and continue to interact with objects, but the search for free-floating materials is the key objective. The cargo bay only holds a limited number of materials, and players are free to head back to the station (at the cost of resources) to drop them off, or keep going until the hold is full, and risk destruction on the return trip.

The third chapter begins with the astronaut piloting a large ship away from the new home world. The start of the mission is the same as in the previous chapter, with the player gathering materials and gaining rewards, but this time the player is bringing the materials back to a mother ship. There are specific objectives in this chapter, but the travel distances to reach designated coordinates are much greater, as are the surrounding dangers.

RymdResa was developed by a couple working together under the Morgondag label. The 2-person studio is operated by Vendela Carlberg Larsson and Kim Gunnararsson and is based in Stockholm, Sweden. Music for the game was composed by Tom Croke and Pat Jacobs, and the voice of the astronaut was provided by Eric Reed. Morgondag previously developed iOS titles Springa and Marisol.