Space Station 13 is an online RPG experience that was one of a kind upon its release in 2003. One developer created the game – Exadv1, who in 2006 released the code to the public, allowing them to work on it while he retired.
The community has since tried to remake the game in a more modern engine and perhaps improving on the game’s shortcomings; however, no such effort has been successful. Still, there are multiple known projects currently trying to remake SS13. In addition, some modern games like Space Station 13 have been directly inspired or influenced by it.
The premise of the game is simple. Players can join multiple servers hosted by users with different rules and mods; once inside, players have to create a character and assign the character a job that gives them a role and set of responsibilities.
There are also survival elements to take care of since the game fully simulates biology, atmosphere, chemistry, etc. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.
Players are further allowed to ascertain an intent to their character that influences their interactions with the world; for example, interacting with a player with the intent to harm them would attack them, but if the intent is to assist, then the opposite would happen. The game sports an isometric view as one would expect for a game of this scope in 2003.
The community has managed to keep the game interesting. While its popularity isn’t growing, it’s an experience with deep mechanical complexity and enough content to keep players engaged; plus, no online microtransactions are always a big plus.
Here are some of the games that share elements with SS13.
Paranoia is a table-top game that is basically Space Station 13 but not on a computer; it comes very close to the game in terms of mechanics (as well as one can translate table-top mechanics to a video game) but features a different setting about an AI computer gone rogue.
Of course, since SS13 has no definite lore other than community created, I suppose this is to be expected.
In 2004 an unknown developer released a fan-made creation of the table-top game in a software format allowing players to play it via the internet. This “software” managed to gain enough traction to be featured in PC gamer magazine. It’s a way for the more hardcore SS13 fans to experience a similar game in a more traditional table-top RPG setting.
The game is not available easily. Anyone wanting to get into it might have their work cut out for them; the source files are available on forums but compiling and hosting them might make this game an impossibility to play for most.
Still, it’s worth mentioning a table-top game very much like SS13 is available.
Barotrauma is essentially the more conventional way to enjoy anything closely related to Space Station 13. The developer of the game said the game was inspired by SS13’s diverse gameplay and interaction mechanics. The game was released in 2019 and can be enjoyed in single-player or online.
Barotrauma is set on one of Jupiter’s water-bodied moons Europa, the entirety of the game is set in a submarine traversing the hostile waters of Europa.
Players are assigned jobs granting them access to equipment essential for the said jobs. There is an objective for each run; it could be salvaging for alien artefacts or running cargo.
Either way, players will face similar obstacles on each run. The obstacles could vary from alien hostiles wanting to kill you, a submarine malfunction that will require fixing by players or the worst, a player traitor who will willfully die and take the rest of the crew with him.
While the game is still in early access, there’s no unpolished gameplay or sudden crashing I have experienced. However, I’d say give it a go if you want a more modern SS13 experience which is just as hardcore (if not more).
3. FTL: Faster Than Light
Faster Than Light is a strategy roguelike that revolves around elements similar to SS13 and Barotrauma; however, it’s a strictly single-player experience.
While SS13 is not exactly an inspiration for the game, it does draw inspiration from the core concept of space travel with obstacles other than aliens and having players manage an array of instruments onboard the ship.
The game plays in a turn-based fashion for traversal and in a pausable real-time format where both the player and enemy attempt to disrupt their ship’s systems (air, engines, shield etc.) and crews scramble to repair any malfunctioning equipment.
Like any roguelike, repeated playthroughs and understanding game mechanics is key to survival and out-running the chasing fleet to the finish point. While it’s not precisely like SS13, as you don’t control one character, you assign jobs to the crew, and the units level their skill up the more they work on a system.
Further along in the run, players will be able to gather more crew members and lose members due to the hazardous nature of space and its inhabitants.
In addition, there are plenty of pirates and other organisms up to no good that the player will have to defeat or flee from to protect their ship and crew.
Additionally, players can accomplish various objectives to unlock more powerful and complex ships for repeat playthroughs. Overall it’s an enjoyable and refined roguelike experience with enough content to keep you entertained for days on.
4. Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead
CDDA is one of the more obscure titles that you probably have never heard of; it was released in 2013 and is still updated to this day. It is available for free, but most players would find it off-putting that it is a text-based game.
Nevertheless, Cataclysm generates a world for the player and allows players to explore and survive the future New England infested by Lovecraftian monsters.
Players must engage in activities such as farming, hunting, installing futuristic bionics to their bodies, and constructing vehicles and homes. While the game doesn’t have the same SS13 online gameplay, it breaks it down to the core concepts and allows its survival mechanics to be implemented in a larger world.
Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead is a free to play title, and its source code is public, allowing developers to make different kinds of games on the same engine. Rock Paper Shotgun even named it in its list of 50 best free to play titles in 2016.
So while text-based games might not be your cup of tea, it’s still an exciting experience. Once you allow yourself to enjoy this particular format of games, there’s a realization that possibilities are endless.
Stationeers is also a relatively unknown title that puts players in a similar space setting as SS13. The goal of the game is to construct and manage a space station either offline or in a co-op setting.
Like SS13, the game simulates the atmosphere and biological aspects as well as electrical and something as detailed as gravity, making the game complex, and decisions have to be made to keep all stats at a satisfactory level.
The game is still in early access but has a lot of content packed into it. In addition, it boasts a very complex gameplay loop that might not be for those just looking to relax. In my time, I found the in-game explanations in the game to be lacking and had to take to external sources such as YouTube tutorials and wikis to understand the game completely.
It’s not exactly a fault, but a testament to how much of it the developers have thought through. For example, you need to understand electronics and chemistry stuff like that before you venture out to build a base because, in all likelihood, your first base will blow up.
6. Among Us
Among Us doesn’t need any introduction. It doesn’t essentially share anything with SS13 except for the setting and the gameplay element of having a player knowingly sabotage your voyage and threaten your life.
In fact, the entire gameplay loop is built around that element so forget any complexities or immersive gameplay; it’s a casual experience best enjoyed with friends.
There are no complex systems of biology or survival mechanics in this game; instead, it revolves around finding the imposter and booting them off the ship. It’s a fun game to play now and then, but that’s about it for this one.
7. Star Trek Online
This one might seem similar to SS13, and perhaps it is, but it’s a more linear MMORPG experience that is unfortunately riddled with micro-transactions.
Star Trek Online was released in 2010 and, as of 2012, features a free to play access that can allow players to go in and experience limited content before they decide to spend money on the game.
The gameplay loop is like any RPG but concerns your ship; as the captain of the ship, it is the player’s job to ensure the crew’s safety and that the vessel is operational at all times. The gameplay loop is set around completing quests and gaining access to better equipment for the spacecraft or a new one altogether (some of them can only be bought using real money).
Third-person combat mechanics also involve players being beamed down, either for combat or expository purposes. The game shares little with SS13 except for a more modernized version of MMORPG set in space, and without the more detailed survival stats, there is enough liberty in STO to role play, however not to the extent SS13 players are used to.
RPGs like SS13 are very rare, and kudos to the developer who saw potential in the game and released the code to the community, so even in his absence, the player base may thrive and have something to enjoy. I will be looking forward and hoping for the success of a remake.
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