Kerbal Space Program 2 is a transparent attempt by Take Two to reset the bad press caused by them spying on the KSP playerbase with Unity Analytics and Red Shell spyware immediately after acquiring the property, and then releasing 2 paid DLC packs in a game that had previously had mountains of freely-available content added after its release. Yes, Red Shell is gone. Yes, you can now opt out of Unity Analytics. Fuck that shit anyway. Their EULA still says they own everything you make with Making History. They only removed the spyware in the first place because of the PR nightmare it became when people realized they were being spied on and raised hell, swimming upstream against an endless wave of bootlicking brand-loving pieces of shit who are extremely into being spied on. KSP2 is how they make you forget that all this happened. And it’s going to work, because humans are slack-jawed ape-children who love new shiny things jingling in their faces. Fuck this gay earth.
This review will therefore be a second attempt at my Kerbal Space Program review, which was a rambling near-manic mess of writing that made no clear points and told the reader next to nothing about the actual game. Don’t buy KSP2. Don’t support corporate responsibility-dodging.
Kerbal Space Program is a game in which you learn astrophysics by trial and error. You fling tiny green creatures at the sky and gradually piece together how to do Hohmann transfers from scratch. It is amazing.
The game includes 3 main modes of play: Career mode, Science mode, and Sandbox mode. There are also some tutorials and other pre-made scenarios to play with. The DLC adds nothing of consequence, and is not worth your money. Take Two / Private Division have added precisely one good and substantive thing to the game since taking over the property, and that was to integrate a feature previously found in a free mod called Kerbal Engineer Redux: showing the player their delta-v, thrust-to-weight ratio, and other rocket sciencey numbers transparently in the interface.
In Sandbox mode, all parts are available for use and all the buildings of the Space Center are fully upgraded from the start. There is no point to doing science, no reputation to manage, no contracts to do, and launching rockets is free.
In Career mode, you have to pay in-game currency to upgrade buildings and launch rockets, so you have to carefully manage the cost of your crafts and take contracts to get more money. Upgrading buildings is key to getting new features and capabilities, such as plotting maneuver nodes on your orbits or employing more kerbonauts. Your organization also has a reputation that you can build by doing successful launches and getting “World Firsts”, breaking various speed and distance records to show how cool you are. Higher reputation means more lucrative (and difficult) contracts. You also start with only a very basic set of parts, suitable only for breaking atmosphere. As you do science, you unlock nodes on a research tree that gives you more parts, and therefore more flexibility to go farther and do more science. There are also organizational “plans” you can commit to to shuffle around value between reputation, science, and money.
In Science mode (or Full Communism mode, as I like to call it), you still have to unlock parts and do science to move up the tech tree, but you don’t have to worry about money or reputation, and your buildings start fully upgraded like in Sandbox mode. In both Career and Science modes, your kerbonauts also build up XP by flying on missions. The farther out you go and the more you do, the more XP they get. As they level up, they gain more capabilities. Pilots gain the ability to hold steady on a wider variety of potential flight vectors, Engineers can repair more things and increase the efficiency of mining equipment etc. more and more, while Scientists increase the efficiency of the science lab part.
Personally, I like Career mode the best. Sandbox mode is way too unfocused and there’s no real incentive to do anything. Science mode is a nice middle ground. If you get tired of managing contracts and worrying about the cost of your fuel etc., give that mode a try.
Science is your purpose and your primary mission in KSP, after all. There are no hostile (or friendly) aliens, only a vast and mysterious and mostly-empty universe out there to explore. Empty though it may be, however, it is still immensely compelling because of the challenge involved in getting places. Your first Mun or Minmus landing (protip: Minmus is way easier even though the Mun is closer) is a thrill thoroughly earned. You have a variety of gadgets you can slap onto your craft, such as “mystery goo”, thermometers, barometers, materials kits, seismometers, etc. that can be used to perform experiments with for science points. You’ll want to cart that stuff halfway across the galaxy just so you can see if you can get a temperature reading off of Eeloo. Take a rover up there and drive it around, just because you can.
One interesting challenge of the midgame, once you’re ready to move beyond the local Kerbin orbit, is that fuel and electricity are limited and communications back home are nonexistent. You may find yourself wanting to build orbital refueling and communications bases, or establishing little colonies on other worlds. Flying pieces into orbit and assembling them there by docking them together in rendezvous is a major coming-of-age moment for any aspiring Kerbonaut.
Something cool about KSP is that its physics more or less resemble the real world’s (minus some wonkiness in atmospheric flight), with the major difference that Kerbin is about 1/8th the size of Earth. This helps explain why the simple-minded (and very cute) little Kerbonauts are able to fling themselves at the sky and achieve orbit so easily. It also makes Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) craft, aka “space planes”, possible in the game. A pipe dream in real life due to the limitations of our materials and Earth’s heavy gravity and atmosphere, on Kerbin the SSTO lives. Designing these sorts of crafts is very attainable, and they’re a joy to figure out how to build and fly.
KSP’s political message is that astrophysics (STEM, if you like) is attainable by anyone. If Kerbals can have a space program, so can you! That’s admirable, and the proof is definitely in this pudding. It’s a fantastic game and (apart from the useless DLC) well worth your money. Don’t buy KSP2. Opt out of Unity Analytics. Fuck capitalism.