A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the power of the blockchains is an integral part of civilizations in space and the peoples that live by the stars. And no, this isn't the opening title of a new Star Wars movie. But, this is the premise of an endless and immersive world that you can experience for yourself. In this Star Atlas review, we're going to see how your typical space-age, sci-fi, role-playing multiverse game can be transformed, thanks to a bit of tinkering.
We live in an exciting time when humankind is pioneering new and ingenious ways for traversing the realms beyond our Earth. While we are perhaps a few decades (or even centuries) behind being able to say “Hi” to our fellow alien neighbors, there are hugely expansive and cinematic video games that at least allow you to simulate such a future. Star Atlas shows us a fractured universe, with warring factions constantly at each other's throats battling for resources, land, and glory.
In Star Atlas, join up with your mates to form a motley crew of pirates or consider taking sides with a faction to fight for its destiny. Spaceships, laser cannons, orbital stations… Things we've seen before in other games, now improved with cutting-edge blockchain technology to provide a safe, fair, fun, and wholly decentralized experience that can bring value back into this Earth-bound reality. So, read long our Star Atlas review to find out why we're beaming with excitement.
What Is Star Atlas?
Star Atlas, as their website suggests, is a massively-multiplayer online metaverse, where players are put into a massive intergalactic world. Set in the year 2620, this distant future has split the known universe into 3 distinct factions – the human-controlled MUD Territory; a consortium of alien-governed states within the Oni Region; and the Ustur Sector that is being run by sentient androids. As a citizen of this Star Atlas universe, you can be a part of this fractured world.
In essence, Star Atlas is a blockchain-based competitor to other similar (and very popular) games such as Star Citizen, EVE Online, No Man's Sky, and more. Equally, Star Atlas' mechanics are centered around a free-roaming and open-world environment, where players can explore new settlements, space stations, or planets. Here, they can interact with other players to form new relationships or groups and complete set objectives or missions within Star Atlas.
The in-game universe itself allows you to role-play as a part of the intergalactic community. You can also build or trade vessels, weapons, armor, and other precious valuables. But unlike those regular games, Star Atlas has combined its mechanics and ecosystem with blockchain technology for its peer-to-peer in-game economy, player management, and key features to ensure a trust-less, provably fair, highly secure, and decentralized gaming ecosystem.
How Does Star Atlas Work, And How Do You Play It?
First up in our Star Atlas review, we'll be taking a closer look at how you can interact with the game. As intended in its design for a large open-world multiplayer game, there are several key features of the wider world itself that help to augment Star Atlas' gaming experience. Unlike some other games that have only been programmed for a single mode of playability, Star Atlas uses a hybridized approach to allow players to choose they can approach Star Atlas.
There are several types of modes and ways that players can choose to play within the Star Atlas universe. It's this versatility that makes Star Atlas highly compelling, given that a huge subset of different players can be immersed in its fantasy, sci-fi role-playing world. As the player, you can choose to be a strategist and plan out wars between the factions, be a part of deep space exploration, live your own space-bound life in peace, or enjoy hours of space-flight simulation.
1. Grand Strategy.
In this first genre for our Star Atlas review, the Grand Strategy mode allows the players to essentially be a part of managing and governing an entire faction. You can approach other factions with offensive and defensive maneuvers to outsmart your rivaling generals or strategically manage logistics and trade routes. With a dynamic mapping view of charted and uncharted regions of Star Atlas' space, you can start building up your own little galactic empire.
Perhaps one of the best parts of space-fantasy adventure games is navigating through the deadly and treacherous regions of outer space, finding new places and things to explore. Star Atlas allows players to enjoy this alongside the Grand Strategy. Away from all the intergalactic wars and politics, start building up your own deep-space expedition. Build up a ship and your own crew to discover new celestial and terrestrial items within the game.
Set up new mining operations on planets and moons to extract resources, and have them refined before being sold within Star Atlas' inter-galactic marketplace – where you can earn real-world monies with those in-game assets; more on that later. In this Exploration mode, players can get a top-down view of their ship, zoom into certain areas to manage their crew and perform tasks to keep the ship running, or manually fly around your vessel with a virtual reality (VR) headset.
The key-driver of the Star Atlas economy is mining for raw materials and precious metals. As such, there will be the need to help run this economy, and players can choose to enjoy a role-playing scenario by choosing and undertaking a large number of professions. The universe needs its many ores to grow and survive, so go ahead and be a trader of those raw minerals, or perhaps become a cargo hauler to ferry them around from one space station to the next – along with many more careers to choose from.
4. Space-Flight Simulation.
Another joy of space-adventure games such as Star Atlas is being able to pilot your own craft outside of a gravity-controlled atmosphere. Not just being able to build, trade, or upgrade your own vessel, you can manually pilot it with Star Atlas' immersive flight simulation. Placed within the cockpit, you can manage your ship with flight-sticks and a full flight-sim kit with its many throttle pedals, switches, and buttons, alongside the use of motion tracking and VR headsets for full immersion.
What Are The Core In-Game Mechanics Of Star Atlas?
Not only did we take a look at the many gaming modes in our Star Atlas review that players can choose from, but we'll also now discuss some of the core mechanics of the gameplay itself. This is where we can see how the player can interact with the Star Atlas universe, including with other players or the diverse and mysterious environment, but also with the various items and set pieces within the wider inter-galactic ecosystem to get a sense of what Star Atlas can offer you.
These are the core aspects of which countless players from around the globe can best experience Star Atlas. We've already talked earlier about the use of strategy and planning, exploration, role-playing, and flight simulation that you can enjoy within a single game. But Star Atlas also has other mechanics set in motion to better amplify your sense of being a part of the game, such as building your own vessel, trade weapons, combat against other players, mine for ores, and a lot more.
1. Safe Zones.
Although Star Atlas can be a very wild and dangerous place, the player actually starts at a faction-secured safe zone after choosing their selected faction. This is a place where combat and destruction are not allowed, as a peaceful environment for the players to interact with one another and act as a central hub for events such as trading or marketplaces. More importantly, these ‘safe zones' behave like a secure place for new players to learn Star Atlas' in-game mechanics in peace.
Once the player is confident enough to leave the secured safe zones, they can venture out within tiered zones that will vary in difficulty. In short, the farther away a player strays from a particular safe zone, the harder the game will be. This tiered difficulty also affects your game assets. For example, getting killed in a more moderate difficulty zone will allow all your items to reset as you respawn, but getting killed in the outer fringes means that you can lose more of your inventory.
2. Deep Space Exploration.
In contrast to some other space-based adventure games, Star Atlas doesn't have any boundaries or “skybox” that limits the players' roaming distance and allows for exploration to be done visually. Any planet that can be seen could be visited by the player, where they can then drop down to its surface and navigate the terrain. Alternatively, you can use your vessel and mining equipment to survey for riches buried deep in those planets and sell that probing data on the marketplace.
3. Player-vs-Player or Player-vs-Environment Combat.
Each vessel will have a basic form of protection in the form of reinforced hulls and a shield. But players can engage in combat with one another, as each ship can be outfitted and manned with a large variety of different turrets and weaponry. You could even use your vessel to target land-based stations or use your vessel to aid you and your merry band of raiders to plunder another player's base. Just as one can play passively within Star Atlas, you can also stay on the offensive.
4. Building And Construction.
Just as important as it is for Star Atlas to gauge their players to explore the reaches of its universe and find new planets or explore new regions of space, it is just as prudent as to start settling in. Base-building is another core tenet of the gameplay mechanics of Star Atlas, as an extension of setting up mining operations on a planet. You can build additional structures and buildings, each with its own specific functions, to aid the player in progressing further in the game.
As far as our Star Atlas review, there are a few examples of the types of additional installations that can be added to your space station or mining outpost in order to enhance its abilities. This is done in the form of selected “decks,” and each of the decks has its own unique functions:
- Refinery – made for refining your raw materials and ores into higher grade (and thus more expensive) material.
- Commerce – storage, and trading of goods, connected to the wider Star Atlas in-game marketplace.
- Shipyard – for building new ships (including additional parts), repairs, refueling, fitting upgrades, and so on.
- Hanger – for safe and long-term storage of your vessels or an entire fleet of ships.
- Defensive – to build turrets or militarised installations and add defenses to your space station or mining outpost.
- University – a place to educate and train your crew, to then level up and give additional traits or skills for each member.
5. Crew Members And Ship Management.
As we mentioned earlier in our Star Atlas review, you can manage your own vessel and crews for deep space exploration. Managing their traits and balancing out your crew will be vital in ensuring your success. You can train your crew members to add new skills or improve on their current talents. Crew members could also complement their fellow crewmen's abilities, just as ships can be outfitted with a variety of different components fielded for a specific mission.
6. In-Game Jobs And Career Progression.
To make Star Atlas as immersive as it could be – imagine being put in the shoes of a real person living in a futuristic inter-galactic society – the players can choose to take up jobs. These choices in professions will afford the player specific tasks related to that job, where you can also earn in-game currencies. Jobs include being a pilot, construction officer, bounty hunter, mercenary, engineering, military officer, and so much more, each with their own career progression.
7. Decentralized Autonomous Corporations.
Since traversing the depths of space alone can be difficult, Star Atlas encourages its players to band together into groups and create factions of their own. These are known as Decentralised Autonomous Corporations (DAC), where you and your friends can build your own space station and manage your own government. Essentially, every DAC has its own economies, communities, and rules to govern them independently of other factions.
By combining resources, these player-controlled and operated DACs can wage war against other DACs, or perhaps manage a strategic alliance between them to keep the peace. DACs will each have their own political class – a feature made possible thanks to Star Atlas' native POLIS governance cryptocurrency token – where they can set taxes, fees, fines, and access for outsiders to become a part of their DAC or to be let into their space station.
How Does Star Atlas' Tokenomics Work?
One other core ingredient to making Star Atlas special – and a key functionality at the base of the game itself, as we discussed earlier in our Star Atlas review – is its economics. What separates Star Atlas most from other similar games in its category is its economics and how that can help players turn what is essentially a virtual in-game item into something that can have tangible value in the real world. In other words, players can earn an income just from playing Star Atlas.
This economic model helps to make sure that every single player can be compensated for their attention and contributions within the game, in contrast to other games that might instead focus more on monetization – such as loot boxes or microtransactions. This is realized thanks to Star Atlas' clever implementation of blockchain technology. Essentially, there are two native cryptocurrency tokens that form the basis for all transactions and value within Star Atlas.
ATLAS – In-Game Utility Currency.
The first – and perhaps most important – is ATLAS. This is the primary medium of currency that most players will get to interact with, as it is the main driver for the in-game economy. Basically, every single item or purchasable asset within Star Atlas is an NFT (non-fungible token), thus enabling them to have real-world value and can easily be transacted for fiat currencies. Players can thus use ATLAS as a way of spending or earning items within the game.
For example, players can use ATLAS by buying or selling items such as ships, components, weapons, armor, equipment, building materials, ores, and so on. These will be facilitated through built-in marketplaces like trading them through merchants or as peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions between players. However, players will also need to carefully manage their expenses of ATLAS tokens, like needing to spend on fuel for their ships or having to pay for mining equipment.
POLIS – In-Game Governance Token.
Meanwhile, POLIS is the native in-game governance token that could also double to help manage Star Atlas as a whole. As a completely decentralized system, POLIS is used to access the governance of the game's network as a whole. While in the game, POLIS tokens are political tools where players can manage their control over entire regions or fractions in the game. For instance, they can impose new rules or regulations, have a say over tax collection, charge tools, etc.
Players could thus collaborate using POLIS tokens to democratically govern the in-game ecosystem, and help to better optimize its experience for all players. Outside of the game, however, players that hold POLIS tokens will have a say in decision-making for the development team. POLIS token holders could then propose and vote on matters such as inflation rates, asset releases, implement new features, change the game's dynamics, and more.
What Are The Economics Of Star Atlas?
The economics of the Star Atlas universe is carefully managed and controlled thanks to the use of smart-contracts functionality embedded onto the Solana blockchain running underneath. This allows for certain actions – such as asset destruction – to have an impact on the wider economics of Star Atlas as a whole, and contribute to its deflationary mechanics. This means what players do within the game can affect the financial and monetary system of this virtual world.
For example, players that have their ships destroyed and items lost will see that particular NFT – every in-game asset has been minted as an NFT, remember – completely burned, thus increasing their scarcity and balancing out the economics for other players. Meanwhile, those players that earn their spoils of war from other players will be able to keep those items and carry over their respective NFT value.
Other items such as fuel, construction material, or ores will also apply the same mechanics. If players deconstructed a particular item for its base materials, the NFTs would also burn and readjust to reflect the appropriate value of the new items gained from that. This will naturally allow for a gradual and organic deflation model over time as items gain in scarcity, and players are encouraged to be even bolder to earn greater rewards in return.
How Do These Economics Improve On Star Atlas' In-Game Experience?
As we shall discuss a bit more in our Star Atlas review in a little bit – there's a lot of the tokenomics to be explained here – the development team over at Star Atlas will soon plan out a gradual asset release. Here, we'll start seeing items being offered for sale pending the public launch of the game to help fundraise for its creation. Players could then be allowed to buy NFTs earlier on and take advantage of those items once the game's fully released.
Other than pre-launch NFT asset sales, players can also interact with the built-in NFT marketplace. Here, you can buy or sell items, including being able to post listings for certain jobs or tasks. As we've learned earlier from Star Atlas' implementation of asset burning, the organically deflationary economics mean that every in-game item has a finite supply. However, the community governance can vote on new asset releases to bring more items if needed.
Another interesting way that players can leverage the in-game tokenomics is through player-created content. This is a feature that will be added down the line and enables players to create their own items and put it for sale through the universal in-game Star Atlas marketplace. It could be a simple skin or aesthetic option, or players could sell algorithms to improve the efficiency of a player's potential mining yields or to enable the automation in certain tools.
Inflationary And Deflationary Economics With Star Atlas.
Revenues from all NFT asset sales are to be channeled into an ATLAS: USDC AMM (automated market maker), referred to as the UAMM. The funds stored in this AMM pool can then be accessed should players want to convert their ATLAS tokens into other cryptocurrencies or fiat. Being an AMM also allows for outside market participants to join in the economics by providing liquidity to the AMM pool or enable them to earn fees from trades.
The integration of NFTs will no doubt be a key factor in pushing Star Atlas ahead as a compelling option for players. To better optimize its in-game economic model, Star Atlas will implement a periodic token burn. A part of the revenues earned by the development team will be used to facilitate token purchases and burns. These purchases will be done in open-market decentralized exchanges (DEX).
How Has Star Atlas Been Able To Build A Hybrid Game?
Underneath all the glitter, Star Atlas will be built using and powered by the Unreal Engine 5 game engine. It is one of the newest and most high-tech game engines made available today, using advanced technologies to best create a seamless and cinematic experience for its players. Just watch its public demo, and just notice how every single detail and effect has been rendered out beautifully.
Using Unreal Engine 5, Star Atlas is utilizing a few key innovations to make its inter-galactic dreams come true:
- Nanite – allows for an infinite number of polygons to be modeled following certain objects, and hence allowing for a stunning visual fidelity to be rendered out in real-time.
- Lumen – a more believable dynamic lighting system built into the engine, thus simulating a more realistic scene with shadows, refractions, reflections, and more effects.
- Chaos – a feature made to optimize and enhance a game's physics model, thus allowing for more realistic destruction or being able to simulate damage more realistically.
- Niagara – used for enhancing the details and flow of certain particles and their effects within a game, such as water, smoke, or dust.
What Are The Blockchain Tech Did Star Atlas Use?
But in addition to using a stunning bit of kit to help power their game, we also noted much earlier in our Star Atlas review that blockchain technology is somehow mixed in with all this. So, what kind of blockchain tech has Star Atlas built in to complement its gaming experience, and how does it affect you – the player?
Solana – Powering Transactions Across Star Atlas With Speed.
While the in-game visuals of Star Atlas are being managed by Unreal Engine 5, Solana will be the primary computing power that will help to manage the Star Atlas universe. Most well-known for its speed, Solana is among the largest and most popular blockchains to date. Solana is a perfect match to run Star Atlas, thanks to its high throughput speeds. This is thus different from other games or gaming platforms built on Ethereum, such as Enjin or Decentraland.
It is designed for mission-critical and high-performance applications by being able to manage 50,000 transactions-per-second (TPS) steadily on-chain, with a speedy block-timing of just 400ms, and with very low fees. Solana will not just power and certify all transactions happening within the game – such as transfers of NFTs between players – but also allow for a practically decentralized, serverless, trust-less, immutable, and secure gaming experience with a lot of room to scale.
Serum DEX – Integration Of DeFi Features Into Star Atlas.
As users can earn currencies that can have real-world tangible value, players will thus need an exchange to bridge their ATLAS tokens with other cryptocurrencies or fiat. The serum is a decentralized exchange partnered with Star Atlas to offer nearly instantaneous settlement times and minuscule fees. But also as a direct consequence of being interconnected with Serum's DEX, Star Atlas players are exposed to the added monetization abilities with decentralized finance.
Serum brings new DeFi functionality to its game, where ATLAS tokens can be used in-game to access financial services offered by certain factions or DACs. For instance, players can access lending services to lend out their tokens to other users in return for interest. The serum also offers an AMM where users could trade and a yield farming initiative where users can automatically earn from the spreads between borrowing or lending.
Stardust – Secure APIs For NFTs.
Stardust is a crucial partner in Star Atlas as a provider of the APIs and backend management for player accounts and NFT transactions. Stardust allows this to be done in a way that is user-friendly and secure, whereby players can actively manage their NFTs in the best and most optimized way possible. This includes being able to seamlessly integrate all future Solana-based NFTs and trading on Serum's DEX, and as such, Stardust will be an important partner for Star Atlas' growth.
What Are Star Atlas' Plans For The Future?
The biggest elephant in the room while writing this Star Atlas review is the fact that although the project itself is beginning to take shape, the game itself hasn't yet been launched or shown off in public. Naturally, the first step for the future would be its eventual public release through alpha- and beta-testing before its full launch. To help support the continued development of the game, Star Atlas will plan out 5 separate asset releases to sell in-game NFT items to would-be players.
- Phase 1 (OpenSea Galactic Asset Offering – GAO) – the first tranche of assets, including ATLAS tokens and in-game assets, will be sold on the OpenSea NFT marketplace.
- Phase 2 (Browser-Based Mini-Game) – this is where a minimum viable full version of Star Atlas will be made into a browser game for its early testing and where players can buy and start using their in-game NFTs.
- Phase 3 (Shipyard Module Sale) – following the browser game, Phase 3 will see Star Atlas make a full transition onto Unreal Engine 5, and the Shipyard Module will be made publicly available, where players can view their in-game assets (such as vessels, parts, or crew members) within a controlled shipyard zone.
- Phase 4 (Beta Version Pre-Sale) – before Star Atlas can be fully launched to the public, players can opt to play it in its still-maturing beta state with all items being made available for use.
- Phase 5 (Ongoing Sales) – following the full launch of Star Atlas, new items can still be disbursed and be made for sale on the in-game marketplace, as well as an optional Salvage Wars section of the game where players can bid and buy containers filled with in-game assets (a loot box-like mechanic).
Following Phase 5's full public launch of Star Atlas, the development does have a few more things in mind to add to the future. The in-game universe will expand further with new zones and regions, as well as being able to interact with other blockchain protocols. This way, the game itself can exist and interoperate seamlessly across different blockchains. Players could as well choose to store these NFTs on other chains, such as the highly popular Ethereum.
Star Atlas will also allow users to create their own content and sell them on the in-game marketplaces – just as we've mentioned earlier in our Star Atlas review on its extensive economics. Furthermore, Star Atlas is planning to allow players to use their computer's mining power to make real-world contributions to initiatives such as SkyHub. This way, a player can help with processing data on behalf of scientific organizations to help in their discoveries.
Star Atlas Review – Conclusion.
As we conclude our Star Atlas review, it's difficult not to feel giddy and excited over their future. It's evident, thanks to the growth of other popular space-bound role-playing games, that this is a particular genre that has plenty of legs when it comes to attracting new players. Everyone wonders about what lies within the stars, but why wonder for much longer when you can fantasize about being a part of this new world.
Star Atlas – at least, hopefully pending its launch – will bring this same experience to you in the comforts of your living room. But on top of promising a game where you can immerse yourself fully in the cockpit of your USS Enterprise for hours at a time, it brings along an entire galaxy's worth of innovations. Blockchain gaming may just be a new and niche phenomenon, but if there's one thing we can learn in our early Star Atlas review, it is that we're just barely seeing the start of a new era in gaming.
Star Atlas Review
- Use of Unreal Engine 5 for creating the best, realistic, and most cinematic gaming experience.
- Clever integration of blockchain technology to add new functionalities and improve on a more traditional gaming experience.
- Plenty of ways where players can approach the game, and play at their own pace and style.
- A well-balanced tokenomics model with the adoption of NFTs and DeFi services to bring value for each player and the wider ecosystem.
- Players can have a say and voting rights in determining the future of the game through federated community-based governance.
- The game is still far from launch, and thus its mechanics, visuals, or other added features couldn't be sampled fully.