Flight of Nova: First Impressions
Updated: 4 days ago
There are only a few things in this world that fascinate me more than space. It is a place of greatness filled with emptiness and potential that one day might be exploited by our civilization. It is in one of these futures that Flight of Nova takes place.
Flight of Nova is a space sim developed by David Lloyd (Aerovery Lab) in which you play the role of a pilot who operates in what seems to be a distant mining colony world. Let's take a look at this new entry in the space sim genre and what it has to offer for us.
YOUR SHIP, A PLANET AND A MISSION
Flight of Nova is a space flight simulator in which you, as a spacecraft pilot, have the opportunity to fly a SSTO to and from the orbit while accomplishing missions. This loop is very simple but surprisingly addicting for reasons I will explain in the next section.
The planet in question is to scale with 12,700Km in diameter, putting almost 1:1 with Earth. This aspect alone is pretty impressive, even more considering that the game does not have any kind of faster than light travel available for the player to use. This means that travel times will be long, so do not coming expecting an experience similar to ED in this regard.
Missions are mostly about transport and search, with more types coming to the game at a later point in development. They are simple but easy to follow.
There is a very important distinction between ED and Flight of Nova, a deliberate omission: Flight of Nova does not have a single trace of combat. To be completely fair, what intrigued me when I booted up this game was the prospect of a true space sim-lite that allowed me to fly through space in an uninterrupted way. This omission of combat, to me, is a net possitive.
FLIGHT DYNAMICS AND SIMULATION
This is, usually, what makes or breaks a space for me. Thankfully, this is where Flight of Nova truly shines, as it is the area in which the developer has spent of their time and it shows. The flight dynamics here are some of the best I have seen in an indie space sim, and have nothing to envy from the AAA titles.
Your craft, be it the Freighter or the SSTO, has mass and it feels real. The main thrusters feel like how they should: unstoppable. It is impressive what proper-feeling physics can do for the sensation of flight. Zero-G maneuvering is a challenge and you will need to learn how to manage your moment of inertia in a 3D space in which you have 6 degrees of movement.
Docking with a ring is absolutely nerve-racking and one of the experiences that made me appreciate the work that the developer has put into the physics. I found myself making the smallest of movements to correct my own mistakes, activating my reaction control system (RCS) for fractions of a second to control my craft as I approached the ring. The closer you get, the more the tension rises. You look at your HUD, your points of reference, the current status of your alignment. You fight your instincts to over-correct, trying your hardest not to ruin your approach. This feeling, one that some might call "the zone", is what made me fall in love with this game. Hardly does a game make me map almost every single axes I have available, yet, here we are. I even found myself mapping RCS up and down to my toe brakes for improved control. It can totally be flown with simpler hardware, but; if you have the capability, I highly recommend going for a full set-up with HOTAS/HOSAS and pedals.
It is a brilliant approach between true precision space-flight dynamics and forgiveness. A balance rarely seen in more mainstream titles. To be honest, it reminds me of Kerbal Space Program in this sense. A masterpiece of accessibility that will have you wondering at the physical forces involved in these movements.
Although, despite being the highlight of this game, there is still one important aspect I have not talked about: atmospheric simulation. This game has a stupendous implementation of a realistic atmosphere, one that will burn you if you attempt entering it at the wrong angle. You will have to plan your approach and point your heatshields towards the entry vector to survive. Here is what happens if you get greedy and decide to enter at the wrong angle:
TUTORIALS, STORY, FREE MODE AND CAMPAIGNS
At the moment, the game does not have a proper story. One has been hinted and confirmed to be in development by the developer, meaning that we will see it a later point in this game's development cycle. But what it has are tutorial missions and simple campaigns.
It is evident that tutorials were a necessity and for the most part they serve both as learning tools and to showcase the different facets of this game's gameplay loop. This is always a net positive for any game, so having them here is great.
The current campaign implementation is simple yet gives me more excuses to fly in atmosphere, forcing me to learn how to hover properly with VTOL mode and to learn how each of the two different spacecraft handle flight. That being said, I have spent most of my time in "Free Mode".
Free Mode is exactly what it says on the tin. You select a station or base, then, you are let loose. You are free to do whatever you want. It might sound boring, but this game's emphasis on in-depth flight dynamics, both in and out of atmosphere is the real drive of the game. I could go and fly for hours, despite the lack of fuel that both spacecraft suffer from.
Flight of Nova is a title with a lot of promise, one where you can see and feel the amount of passion that the developer has poured into it. It has a long road ahead, for sure, but I am fairly certain that this developer will continue to put love and care into this wonderfully-crafted game.
Its in-depth realistic mechanics make it feel alive, making you always come back for a short flight every once in a while. I am sure that once more missions and features are implemented, such as interplanetary travel and headtracking, that this game will find its place among stablished and fondly-remembered space sims of old.
About the author
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034