Star Trucker is the most chilled demo I’ve played in a long time | Hands-on preview

by on June 24, 2024

Like a lot of people, I mostly play games to relax. There are some games I play for catharsis after a long day, or to socialise if I’m craving a bit of company, but I often like to put my feet up and chill out. Whether that includes violence or not depends on the day. Last year the game I relaxed to most was House Flipper 2, but the year before was a little spaceship salvaging sim called Hardspace: Shipbreaker, a game about having a job that I played when I wanted to forget about my real job. I have a feeling that for the rest of 2024, that game will be Star Trucker.

Having spent a few hours with the demo of Monster and Monster’s intergalactic delivery sim I’ve come away super chilled out and itching to play some more. It has strong Hardspace vibes, which I’m more than pleased with, but it’s also a really good time in its own right.

Star Trucker

I need to clarify, though, that this is not a game for the thrill-seekers. I’m not saying there’s no danger – and tight deadlines certainly create tension – but this is no high-octane adventure. You play a new truck-driver (or pilot, maybe) nicknamed “Lucky Jay” by a trio of experienced truckers you’ll talk to on the CB now and then. And your job is simple: pick up cargo at one space station and deliver it to another, avoiding debris, meteors, missed deadlines, and finding yourself floating in space with no oxygen.

The real meat of Star Trucker is keeping your rig in tiptop shape. You need to monitor a handful of vital systems such as oxygen, gravity, fuel, and your truck’s magnetic hitch. As they rundown, you’ll need to deactivate them, pick up a power cell or battery from the back of the cab, and manually swap them out. Failure to disconnect first can cause the breaker to trip, which shuts everything off until you go and turn it all back on. You can imagine how much fun it is when you accidentally shut off the gravity regulator.

To fuel up or buy new cells you need to dock with the relevant bays, and pick up jobs from each station’s job board. It plays it a bit straight-faced with the contract you have to sign, featuring none of the tongue-in-cheek mirth you’d find in Hardspace, but that’s OK. Not everything has to be a commentary on The Man, man. Star Trucker is content to let you drive, with the radio on or off, and the lights up or down. You control everything in the can from lights to temperature, and you’ll need to know where everything is in case you sustain damage. You can’t fix a thruster if it’s firing, after all.

Star Trucker

If you do take damage, you can suit up and head out to the other exterior. It’s a little tricky to control but doesn’t usually take long to patch up damage. It’s worse if you get caught short with no fuel, miles from the nearest station. Jump gates connect each area, and you have to line up your truck and pull the lever when the lights are all green, which I’m not ashamed to say made me feel like Han Solo on more than one occasion. When the jump lines up with the song that’s playing, it’s pretty damn good.

The only thing I couldn’t get my head around in the demo was the passage of time. It seems to move in real time, which is not good when shops close at a certain hour. There’s a bed in the cab but you can’t use it, and I expected to be able to park up and sleep ’til morning. Without that option I’m left wondering how the hell I get more energy cells for my core when everything is closed – but maybe I missed something in the demo.

Star Trucker

One thing I really like is how skill points work. When you complete jobs you earn XP and rank up, which grants a point. Rather than arbitrarily improving things like turn speed or acceleration or whatever, you instead spend them to unlock more dangerous or difficult job types. Tighter deadlines, fragile goods, contraband, or jobs with multiple cargo containers feel like proper rewards, and allow you to increase the difficulty at your own pace. Oh, and you can spend your hard-earned money on making your rig look all pretty at spray shops. The final touch was the option to join in on CB chatter with other truckers, even allowing you a few dialogue options. It’s wonderfully authentic and gives genuine “Convoy in space” vibes.

Star Trucker has impressed me. I’m not fully versed in all its systems yet and, honestly, piloting the truck takes some getting used to, although docking your rig, and picking up and dropping containers are relatively straightforward and don’t harshly punish you if you’re a little clumsy. It’s super chilled-out, really quite great to look at, with a nice – if limited – soundtrack, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game later this year.

Star Trucker is coming to PC via Steam on September 3rd.