Kerbal Space Program: Enhanced Edition (PS5) Review
Kerbal Space Program is a simulation game that has been around for, well, practically a decade if I’m not mistaken – which makes this an odd review. As someone who doesn’t frequent Steam much due to my work laptop bearing the brunt of most of my computer use, I had never given it a whirl, but the title had come up over the years. The release of the PS5 port brings the spaceship building simulator to a whole new crowd, and while it is one of the most in-depth, complex, and well done sims I have ever come across, the translation of the controls from PC to PlayStation make this should-be-fun sim nearly unplayable.
In Kerbal Space Program, you take a fledgling space program and propel your little green people into the void, from the nearest “Mun,” to the farthest reaches of the solar system, and even to the sun (if you can figure out the heat shielding). The detail and amount of ways to construct your craft are basically unlimited but it will require you to get comfortable with sending a lot of good astronauts to their death. The endgame of KSP is building an aircraft/spacecraft that allows you to conquer the heavens, but there’s going to be a lot of failing miserably first. Whether you’re fighting to get off the ground, battling fuel consumption or burning up on re-entry, the amount of ways to crash and burn are endless. It’s through a very, very, rigorous trial and error period that you finally begin to find success. Even though it begins simply, you begin to build off the back of that in a very rewarding fashion.
There are three different game modes – Career, Science, and Sandbox. Career is where you can spend most of your time as you balance budgets and gain reputation. It limits your choice of parts, so this is, by far, the most time-consuming. The challenge vs. reward is usually offset for me by the frustration of failure, but KSP gives you such a level of satisfaction with each successful launch, it has you looking at every new record with glee and you keep going. The Science tree allows you to focus on developing your scientific development without all the budgets and side duties, so this was where I spent a good chunk time. Balancing books have never been my strong suit. Meanwhile, Sandbox unlocks everything, allowing you to put your mind to work on truly whatever you want. While it’s still a game very grounded in physics, you can really let yourself off the chain and see what wonders your mind can create… and how long it takes for them to explode.
I was surprised to find that using the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller with the game is painfully difficult. While I managed to get slightly used to how it worked, it was still incredibly and constantly frustrating. The polar opposite of intuitive, the controls seem purposefully unresponsive, and honestly just a headache to do anything with. I stuck with KSP for as long as I did simply for the purpose of this review. Had it not been for doing a review, I would have given up on it far more quickly. On the flipside of that, if the controls had been better, I wonder how much more I could have gotten done in my time with KSP. Without the scream-inducing controls hindering me, how far into the cosmos could I have made it?
In theory, I could have hooked a mouse and keyboard up to my PS5 to try to alleviate the frustrations of a tail fin simply just refusing to line up and help out my aerodynamics, but alas, this isn’t 2002, so I don’t have extra keyboards and mice just laying about. So, while I still could appreciate the scope of what KSP was bringing to the table, and while there’s an extensive tutorial to bring me up to speed and help me build, it did not help with the horrible controls when I tried to put those lessons into practice.
In the end, Kerbal Space Program: Enhanced Edition is potentially the type of game I could definitely lose myself in. The amount of options to build your craft, the variety of things you have to do to maintain your space program, the charming Kerbs you blast into a million pieces, and the feeling of accomplishment when you reach a new milestone are the kinds of things I look for in a simulation. The added streamlined game modes are bonuses, letting me scratch whatever itch the game may give me. However, all of those positives are offset by a nearly insurmountable control problem. Even in Sandbox mode, where my wildest ideas begged to be carried out, I grew more and more frustrated with each passing moment the engines didn’t line up or my failsafe parachute just disappeared because it wasn’t where I thought it was on the lander. I could always go out and buy a keyboard and have to rearrange the entire layout of my living room to really get the most out of KSP. At that point, though, wouldn’t it be better to just find out if my laptop can handle some Steam?
***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***
• Accomplishments make you feel brilliant
• Incredibly complex but digestible
• Light-hearted even with in-depth gameplay
• The poor port controls
• Unplayable at times