Mention Chris Roberts, Cloud Imperium Games or Star Citizen and one of two things will happen.

Either you will receive a deluge of responses saying how the game is a scam or you’ll have players of the game commenting about how great it is.

Announced back in 2011, Star Citizen was billed as the spiritual successor to the iconic Freelancer which was released in 2003.

The game was ambitious from the outset, promising that players could traverse a universe from ground level to the stars, see other players, collaborate with them on missions and even interact with them in real-time.

But while ambition is great, Star Citizen has not had an easy development ride. Various delays have pushed the game’s campaign section – Squadron 42 – back and a recent court case with Crytek didn’t help public opinion of the game.

In December of last year a friend gifted me a Star Citizen pledge which included a ship (the MS Aurora), insurance and a bit of currency (UEC). While I did give the game a go it was buggy to the point where frustration overtook my desire to play. To put it simply, I couldn’t go an hour without hitting Alt+F4.

Last week, Cloud Imperium Games delivered update Alpha 3.9 which introduced new locations, new quality of life improvements and a prison system.

After spending a bit of time in the game after this release I decided to drop R900 of my own money in the game to buy a better ship because, I’m now invested in this game.

A Journey to New Babbage

One of my primary issues with Star Citizen when first loading in was the sparse user interface. Things aren’t a lot better with Alpha 3.9 but having a way to easily join friends is an improvement from trying to guess how to join friends or having to Google how to do that.

But perhaps the biggest improvement was in performance.

Previously attempts to play with friends would result in me either seeing my friends in-game, seeing only their name badge or seeing them but experiencing severe rubber banding.

While it’s tough to say this is completely gone, the performance in terms of seeing players and being able to interact with them is vastly improved and a lot of fun.

Our group decided to head to New Babbage, a new landing port on a planet called microTech and this is where we tested the game more than I have before.

Star Citizen is a very beautiful game but that also means it pushes your PC. When flying around in space performance is great but head into a large city and you shouldn’t be surprised to see frame rates tank.

Ship upgrades are alluring but pricey.

Except that doesn’t seem to be the case as much anymore. Granted, there were points while running around New Babbage that I noted frame rate dips and visible tearing on screen but within seconds, things were fine.

With update 3.9 Cloud Imperium Games introduced survival mechanics to the game. That means that you need to drink, eat and manage your health in-game, including your body temperature.

While this is fine, three of our four party members couldn’t purchase food or drink at the outlets on New Babbage. This has reportedly been addressed with a patch that was delivered at the weekend but as I haven’t checked myself I can’t really comment on this.

Back to the great though.

One of the new additions in Star Citizen is a weather system and it adds so much awe to the experience.

On microTech’s moon Clio for instance, we landed at a beacon that was being hammered by a storm. The force of the wind was so great that our characters couldn’t run head-on into the wind. Snow slowly caked the outside of our suits and the interior of your helmet fogs up quickly in below-zero temperatures. Perhaps most impressive was a reading of how long we’d survive in the frigid environment without protective gear.

Hell, even landing your ship in the middle of a snow storm on microTech is a feat worthy of celebrating.

Just a casual walk through a blizzard. Note, this suit is red but all you’ll see is the snow covering my armour.

The Big C

As with any game there is always the question of the big C – Content.

As it stands there is about 100 hours of pre-made missions in Star Citizen, but I do have to state a warning alongside this. Some missions are buggy to the point where completing them is an impossibility.

While this is a bummer, there is a lot you can do without starting a mission, like ever.

My group for example loves hunting folks with a criminal stat (when a person commits a crime such as killing somebody who is innocent they are given a criminal stat) and so we often cruise between stations and planets on the hunt for criminals. These usually result in massive dogfights between asteroid belts and honestly, these are some of the best moments of the game.

Sunrise on microTech was jaw-dropping.

Beyond that, you can create bounties for other players to complete. One member of my party loves telling the story of how he was spawned at a station after an unfortunate death and unable to get his ship. The player created a bounty asking for a ride and another player obliged. Payment was made and my friend got to pilot a rare ship as a bonus.

And stories like that aren’t hard to find as the Star Citizen community expands.

And when you have earned a bit of money (or UEC as it’s known) you can use it to buy ships, armour, weapons and mods for your ship. This is where the most important feature of Star Citizen comes into play.

Persistence at last

Previous patches for Star Citizen had several things in common, but one that could potentially push players away was true persistence.

That is, the idea that when you log in after a week, everything you had was still in place.

With previous versions of the game and often after a major patch you’d find all your money and purchases made with UEC wiped from the game.

That is no longer the case and it’s a sigh of relief for long-time players.

This also means that grinding out missions and earning money isn’t for nothing now and you can finally make some sort of progress. Of course, this could change as the game is still in an Alpha development state,

And it also highlights something long-time players have known for a long time – Star Citizen has the potential to be one of the greatest games ever made.

Hear me out.

I’ve played many games that say they are open world and that you can play the game your way but often, there are severe limitations placed on what players can and can’t do.

That doesn’t exist in Star Citizen (with exceptions such as firing weapons in an Armistice Zone for instance) and you can do what you want.

Would you like to interdicted couriers travelling between planets? That’s possible. Can you team up with friends and hunt down criminals? Yes and it’s a lot of fun.

As you walk through the various stations and landing zones you start to see how this game is evolving. From being able to shop for clothing on shelves in the game or even walk onto ships you’re considering buying, the game is starting to feel like a space simulation that truly lets you play the way you want to play.

Cloud Imperium Games has even introduced a working prison system that players will enter should they break the law. From here players can serve their time or break out of prison.

Having fawned over the game for so long I do have to state that is by no means complete or ready for an official launch.

That having been said, there are many games on the market right now that are less polished, less thought out and more buggy than Star Citizen is.

I still wouldn’t recommend Star Citizen to a person outright because it’s not a finished game and there is still the risk that the game never comes out. That, and the game is rather pricey with a base pledge package coming in at $45 (this includes a ship, 1 000UEC, three months of insurance, a self-land hangar and access to the game). Even as I type that though R837.74 once off with no subscription fee is not a lot to ask of a game and if you disagree might I interest you in Fallout First for Fallout 76, a game that pales in comparison to Star Citizen despite being “finished”.

Something that should be noted about Star Citizen is that it’s an active player’s game. By that I mean that one has to keep up to date with developments, patch notes and news from the developers otherwise you’ll be left behind.

While I don’t like this – generally speaking – I’ve chosen to play by these rules because despite all its faults, Star Citizen has me hooked and man, is it a beautiful addiction.

To infinity, and beyond!