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6 Games for Really Hardcore Sci-Fi Fans

6 Games for Really Hardcore Sci-Fi Fans:

Star Wars is a wonderful thing. Really. But it’s as much fantasy as it is science fiction, and that endears it to a fan base not entirely the same as those seeking to geek out on speculative stories and technological details. Neither camp is necessarily more commendable, but that’s the truth of it.

That said, here’s to the the latter, who enjoy truly hardcore sci-fi! Your love of persnickety details and brainier challenges that don’t necessarily demand heroics is about to enjoy a list of gaming suggestions.

All the names on this list establish a range of scientific facts you’re expected to accept as accurate for the duration of your stay and deal heavily in their implications. In other words, these games are what sci-fi is really all about.


’THE TALOS PRINCIPLE’
Cyborgs dream of questions most of us will never explore. You won’t find such thinkers here, but you’ll discover the signs of their existence scrawled across Grecian ruins and ancient tombs. QR codes are the language of the children of Elohim, who perform the puzzle trials He has laid to aid in their growth.

But there is a serpent in the garden. Information lodged in the incongruously old cathode ray computers speaks of things that don’t quite align with the world as Elohim describes it. He urges you to pay it no heed, but the terminals appear to have other desires for you.

This game of logic problems and thought experiments is a personal favorite. It’s a feast for the intellect, using its setting to pose fascinating questions and stimulate new thoughts. If you’re looking for a slow, contemplative burn that won’t rely on your reflexes, I cannot recommend it enough.

RELATED: ‘The Talos Principle’ Asks How You Know You’re Human’


’ELITE: DANGEROUS’
Outer space is a scary place, particularly when it’s drawn with the entire scope of our 400-billion star galaxy. Elite: Dangerous’s claim to sci-fi glory is the overwhelming scale of its playground. The inconceivably vast distances between balls of fire are travelled with a physically-based (read: complicated and cool) flight model, making a jaunt across the heavens or a violent course through skyscraper-sized asteroid fields uniformly enjoyable (and intimidating).

Nowadays the game is rife with things to do. Form wings with your buddies and head out into the vast void together, engage in dogfighting with random strangers dotting the horizons, develop space-folks’ factional interests, become a human trafficker—or, if you’re not the least bit concerned about other people’s goals, just take a tour of sky, maybe hunt for resources. Simply existing and navigating through the awe and beauty the game presents is a compelling experience, if you can wrap your head around it.


’DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION’
Social discrimination is an acid that can wear at a population in awful ways. Deus Ex: Human Revolution crystallizes these issues as an extreme divide between those with prosthetic enhancements and the unmodified humans afraid of being rendered obsolete. They protest in the streets and fling contempt and rage at anyone bearing the telltale marks of artificial flesh. What it means to retain your humanity, its worth in the grand scheme, and a smattering of other pressing problems share the world with the sorts of corporate intrigue and terrorist plots that make the armed encounters you’ll find yourself in feel meaningful.

Greatest of this title’s strengths, perhaps, is how it affords you leeway to tackle your objectives as you please. Ventilation ducts and back alleys offer stealthy approaches, but smooth talking and bartering your way inside a criminal’s nightclub may end with a similar dearth of bloodshed. Or you could shoot the place up retrieve what you need from behind a pile of bodies. Up to you.


’E.V.E. ONLINE’
Future business is even more ruthless than today’s industry—or maybe it’s the sense of anonymity and loosened consequence contributing to people’s questionable behavior in E.V.E.

Hundreds of thousands of players fill the same galaxy, seeking their fortunes amongst the stars however they see fit. Through intricate design of the many mechanisms at play, this game has allowed for massive inter-player bank fraud, colossal betrayals, and the destruction of what equates to several hundred thousand real, paper dollars’ worth of property. The sheer immensity of large-scale social phenomena is literally awesome.

The experiences of average Joes and those coming in new can sometimes feel like spreadsheets and drudgery, but the prospect of being involved in such astonishing events in a celestial opera is a tantalizing one.


’MASS EFFECT’ (AND MAYBE ‘MASS EFFECT 2’ AND ‘ME 3’ AS WELL)
Many folks bemoaned the recent Star Trek films for deviating from the talky-techy focus of the television series. The set of Mass Effect games has changed in a similar (albeit less extreme) way, but its foundational elements of technobabble and consistent lore remain more or less intact.

The original was all about existing as a citizen in a broad interstellar and interspecies community. Different races with alien values and thought patterns had been learning to coexist, and the world they inhabit was fleshed out and explorable. You could poke around space stations and planet surfaces, talk to all sorts of strange creatures, and read libraries and codices dense with information. There was even a grainy film effect laid over the screen, old fiction-fashion.

It was rife with cool sciencey stuff. The plot thread tying everything together was closer to a savior story than you may prefer, but the hard theming was there. Just don’t expect as pure a vein of rich nerdism with subsequent entries, as they wander toward action flick territory.


’KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM’
Okay, so number-crunching, acutely realistic flight simulations don’t fit as neatly within the purview of science fiction as some. I’m willing to bet that anyone who’s reached the bottom of this list is a target for Kerbal Space Program’s blend of slapstick humor and rigorous science regardless.

Intrepid, oblong, and bug-eyed men and women from Kerbin have extra-terrestrial ambitions. The player is the best and brightest of the people’s aerospace engineers, the many catastrophic system failures and Kerbal widows he or she will be responsible for the most statistically acceptable option they have. That or Kerbal hiring practices are horrid.

You can blast terrified little guys to the Mun and beyond in custom-built rockets at your leisure in a creative setting not limited by finance, or tackle the piecemeal tasks assigned in career mode. Each will make the nitty gritty details of gravity and mass something the successful become well acquainted with. Luckily, the bloody-murder death screams of those doomed by your failures are silent from the far side of a monitor.


Suriel Vazquez has written for Playboy, Paste, Kotaku, and several others. You can follow him on Twitter @SurielVazquez.


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