The second I saw the trailer for Star Trucker, I was in love. A space trucking game with faux Peterbilts that have thrusters where their wheels should be running through space lanes dotted by US-style highway signs? Sometimes you find a game that feels like it was pulled out of your own subconscious and marketed directly to you, specifically. After a bit of time with Star Trucker’s Steam Next Fest demo, I remain mesmerized even as I have to admit that I’m very, very bad at space trucking.
Star Trucker puts you in the cockpit of a very literal space truck, and does a fantastic job of making that cockpit feel like a physical space. When you’re in the driver’s seat and cruising, you need to look around at your dashboard to flip physical switches and press physical buttons, which helps give the game a tactile feel. Yeah, sure, looking up and clicking on the big overhead lever to jump hyperspace isn’t much different from having a button on the controller that does it, but it feels cool.
That dedication to physicality extends to the truck maintenance, too. You’ll sometimes need to get out of the driver’s seat, pop on your space suit, pass through the airlock, and float around your truck to manually investigate damage and do repair work. It feels like a light version of Hardspace: Shipbreaker, and that’s a glowing comparison. Similarly, you’ll sometimes need to pick up things like batteries to keep various electrical subsystems up and running.
The thing I wasn’t prepared for in Star Trucker is just how hard driving a space truck can be. There’s a great sense of momentum when you’re on the accelerator, and the game nicely splits the difference between the inertia of space flight and the weight you associate with a big rig. It’s not overly challenging to run the space lanes, but it still feels great to do.
But once you need to dock at a station or hook up to a cargo trailer, things get tough. Backing up to connect to trailer hitch is already the hard part of a game like American Truck Simulator (or, you know, being an actual truck driver), but there you only have to maneuver your truck on the flat plane of terra firma. Here, you have to manage your X, Y, and Z axis to successfully dock, and I’ve found that process extremely fiddly from what I’ve played so far.
On my first pickup, I think I managed to dock to my trailer upside-down, which seemed to end up wreaking absolute havoc on my ability to fly in a straight line. I never would’ve thought it would be possible to jackknife a truck in the openness of outer space, but somehow I managed it, and never quite figured out how to recover before my editors started telling me I needed to stop space trucking and get back to work.
Regardless of that, the vibes of Star Trucker are so impeccable that I can’t be too frustrated. I want to get back in there and learn how to pilot effectively, because all that cargo ain’t gonna deliver itself. I won’t have to wait long for more, either, since Star Trucker is set to launch in full sometime in 2024.
It’s a good day to be me, specifically, because I’ve waited 8 years and now they’re finally putting my hometown in American Truck Simulator.