These are the voyages of the GRE Infinity. Its five-year mission: to boldly try and find somebody who can sell us food so that we don't have to eat the corpses of the pirates that raid us. And yes, we have been doing that. Nobody is happy about it.
Anyway, I think Space Haven might actually be my favourite game of the last two years or more, if not longer.
Space Haven gives me something I really really like, and that's the ability to feel like I'm taking part in my own Star Trek-style episodic television show. It's not just about the fact that I can build up the ship how I like and make it my own, but that almost everything I've encountered so far has felt more like an... experience than a game, I suppose. And yes, that comes off as pretentious, but let me try and explain what I mean.
While playing it recently, I almost ran out of energy for my generators while hopping between planets. I had to make a last-ditch rush to get more, and that meant switching off most of the ship to conserve power so that my chief Engineer (named Miles O'Brien, naturally) could use the last functioning mining pod and grab some more from a nearby asteroid. It was an incredibly close shave and could have cost me the entire "run", and having it play out successfully was an awesome experience.
The thing is, this wasn't something the game made arbitrarily happen. There are no dice rolls for "your generator explodes" or "the hull is suddenly breached" - every asteroid and bullet fired your way is something that really happens inside the game space, and it's your fault if you get tangled up in a mess you can't avoid. 90% of the time, the results are on you, and when they're not, the game is still playing by its own rules.
In another case, one of my crew essentially sacrificed herself to take a ship hostage: she managed to make the last two people surrender, but suffered major wounds that we didn't have a medical bed to treat. I put her on permanent bed rest and free time, and she died in her sleep a day later. There was nothing I could do to save her if I wanted the same outcome, but that actions of that crewmate were essential to the rest of them surviving later on when we needed more than four people to overcome another attack.
It wasn't a massively emotional moment - I'm not the kind of person who cries over in-game character deaths, really - but it put made a big difference. There was nowhere to take her, no way to extract her into a magic sub-menu or feed her food to keep her health up. She was dying, and that was that.
Everything that happens feels permanent, but it's never forced or scripted, and the game doesn't try to make things happen outside its own ruleset. Ship-building is modular and most events (such as when ships arrive in the same system and shoot at each other) happen entirely by chance, so there's a sense of uncertainty every time I do something.
Installing a generator on one side of the ship might mean that the nearby sun heats it up too much, causing a fire. On the other side, it might become too cold to work without a protective suit. Do I put spacesuit lockers in every major room, or space them out so that I can vent half the ship's air when pirates come aboard? Every space on the grid counts.
I've had to repair hull breaches while trying to make an escape from pirates, ambushed enemies in nebulas that shut off their shields, and even vented the atmosphere to get rid of a fire at the cost of killing a prisoner I captured. I've had my engineer taken hostage and mounted a rescue mission that traded another crewman's life for his. I've imprisoned pirates and convinced them to join my crew, only for a hull breach to make him asphyxiate while eating lunch.
It's not just a ship with a crew telling a story, it's my ship and my crew telling their story, with the same character deaths, twists, and awesome moments that I imagine when I think of an old sci-fi novel or show. There are even little moments where the crewmates in mundane positions get the spotlight, just barely keeping the ship afloat between a blazing fire and a generator failure as they stop to unload a pistol into a space pirate's vital organs.
The GRE Infinity isn't the fastest ship in the galaxy, and the crew may not be the most competent, but we're damn well going to find the planet of Eden eventually - no matter how many helpings of Grilled Space Pirate we have to eat.