Games

The best space simulation game’s struggling sequel gets a big new update, For Science

Kerbal Space Program 2 always had a big act to follow, as its predecessor remains one of the most incredible games on PC, offering a comprehensive simulation of space flight and exploration with an almost unparalleled level of depth. Launched in February 2023 in early access on Steam and the Epic Games Store, KSP2 has so far struggled to win over its audience, currently holding a ‘mixed’ Steam user review score, with one of the primary complaints being a sparseness of things to do. That’s all about to change, however, with the launch of the new Kerbal Space Program 2 update For Science.

Pitched as a big upgrade to Kerbal Space Program 2, the ‘For Science!’ update adds “progression and long-form gameplay” to the space game. Intercept Games creative director Nate Simpson (who is rather emphatic about the exclamation point on the name) acknowledges that much of the community feedback has asked when the game will “fundamentally change.” Speaking to the new patch, he says, “It’s nice to finally be able to bring a fundamental step change in terms of the quality of the experience.”

The focus of For Science is its new Exploration mode. In this, you’ll collect a Science resource by exploring the universe and its planets, employing new collection parts on your vehicles, and then using your collected Science to unlock nodes on a tech tree, which will give you new parts and other upgrades. Senior designer Chris Adderly explains, “Really this mode is all about exploring the universe. It’s not so much about purely ‘getting science’ – we’re pushing you out there, and you have to get science to do it.”

Design director Shana Markham explains that this system has been changed from the first game’s science mode, where experienced veterans would typically come away with far higher returns than less-practiced players. “We really want to focus on the difficulties of building and flying, and not so much about, ‘Did I reset this experiment, did I actually put the report where I need to, did I bring the right kind of Kerbal to do this?’”

The core of the Exploration mode is a main mission arc, which does come with some light story. You’ll be briefed and debriefed between missions by Dr. Keri Kerman in your base, and senior game designer Sydney Adams says you’ll “actually get a bit of narrative and a bit of, dare I say, lore that gives a bit of context to the wider world of what might be out there for Kerbalkind.”

As for the new tech tree, Adderly says it’s an improvement on the offering in the first Kerbal. “We took all the flaws that we could think of out of the KSP1 tech tree and re-engineered something new that we think makes for a really strong player experience,” he says, emphasizing that this new tree has been “built with an eye towards expandability” for future updates.

Kerbal Space Program 2 For Science update - The new tech tree coming to the space simulation game.

“After For Science gets out there I want to understand what is working, what is not working, and be able to be agile with future deliveries of science stuff,” Adderly continues, “so that we hit the stuff that’s working and make improvements to the stuff that perhaps didn’t turn out as well as we planned.” Kerbal Space Program 2’s ‘For Science!’ update launches Tuesday, December 19.

If this is the push you’ve been looking for to jump into the sequel, be sure to run down the Kerbal Space Program 2 system requirements first. Alternatively, have a browse through more of the best simulation games on PC.

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