Star Citizen Review – Where is All The Money Going?

Star Citizen is a massive, multiplayer online space sim that is years in the making and has ambitions that exceed any game we’ve ever seen. It boasts a massive celebrity-filled cast, an astonishing scope of space to explore, and both multiplayer and single-player modes.

It promises a combination of Elite Dangerous mixed with the mission depth of Starfield and the free-flowing, planet-hopping of No Man’s Sky. As of today, at the time of writing, the budget has exceeded 650 million dollars, which begs the question, are we being scammed to the moon here, or is something of substance eventually going to happen with this game?

What Are We Paying For?

Star Citizen As It Stands – What Is It?

Star Citizen is currently in its alpha phase and is broken up into two sections. The persistent universe and the Squadron 42 single-player campaign. The single-player mode is currently unavailable, though it is aiming for a 2024 release date. The persistent universe is currently playable, but due to the alpha phase, things feel a bit rough while also being a largely enjoyable experience.

The goal of the persistent universe is to literally simulate a universe. That means everything from war to economy to life itself is simulated within the in-game engine. It’s ambitious, but one thing for certain is that it’s possible. If you boot up Star Citizen right now, you will have access to the persistent universe, and there is a good amount of content currently. You can explore entire cities, interact with 49 other players per server, and basically live another life inside Star Citizen.

Star Citizen Review
Image Source: Cloud Imperium Games

You can become a pirate, take on bounty missions, become a smuggler, a merchant, a criminal, a cop, and everything in between. Graphically, this game is staggeringly beautiful, showing off visuals that would make most triple-A games blush.

The gameplay is either first or third-person, depending on your preference, and the shooting mechanics are well done, making each fight feel dangerous and exciting. What makes everything all the more impressive is the fact that it’s all done seamlessly. There are no loading screens from planet to space. It’s an incredible achievement, though one that Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky have also done before.

The difference with Star Citizen is that it feels like a real place. There are entire cities to explore, with many more being promised on the horizon. No Man’s Sky never had anything that made you feel like you were part of a living universe, and Elite Dangerous still doesn’t have much to do once you touch ground on a planet’s surface.

The Current State of Star Citizen

The game’s current state is very buggy, but it is still technically just an alpha, so I can forgive it in this area. There are only four explorable planets at the moment, in addition to some moons as well, but the final version of the game is said to stretch that number by quite a bit. Speaking of the final version of the game, will such a thing ever exist?

The actual experience as it stands today is certainly a mixed one. The multiplayer experience is certainly fun, but it’s also broken in many ways. Players clip through worlds, ships are glitchy, and combat feels half-baked, but even with those issues, some mesmerizing experiences await.

The space battles are the most incredible-looking ones ever to exist, and the ability to leave your ship and move around in space while a friend fires from your ship is a moment that has to be seen to be believed. The physics systems at play are equally brilliant, allowing you to perform feats such as firing your weapons from space at a planet’s surface and showing the result of the impact.

There are a ton of missions available to play through at the moment as well, offering a healthy variety of reasons to explore what this abbreviated version of space has to offer. As it stands right now, Star Citizen does, in fact, give you an experience that you can’t find in any other game, but it’s an unpolished experience that will certainly leave you wanting more after a bit of time. So, if it already provides something like that, can it still be considered a scam?

Big Promises, Mixed Results

Star Citizen Squadron 42
Image Source: Cloud Imperium Games

Star Citizen has been in development since 2011. That’s over ten years of updates, budget increases, promises to players, and hirings and firings. In that time, the gaming industry has changed considerably. Graphics, game design, and narrative writing have all taken massive leaps since this game first came into being, so the question of whether it can measure up is a viable one.

Adding to those questions are the countless target dates that developer Cloud Imperium Games has failed to hit. Due to this happening time and time again, so many following the production of the game have called it out for being a scam and myth that won’t ever really come to fruition. In fact, there is an entire sub-Reddit dedicated to getting refunds for the game called Star Citizen Refunds. Since it’s missed so many target dates, Cloud Imperium Games refuses to put a concrete release date on anything in development, which includes the persistent universe and Squadron 42.

The promises that Star Citizen is hoping to deliver are certainly interesting ones. A simulated universe where AI acts independently depending on the role it’s assigned, procedurally generated worlds filled with things to explore and missions to complete, all while done in a multiplayer world, is something we’ve never seen before.

This all being done with an absurd amount of detail, and graphical fidelity ups the ante considerably. Alongside these promises is an entire single-player campaign that is stocked with some unreal celebrity talent, though that has only been shown off in trailers and has yet to deliver us anything playable.

A Budget To Fund a Universe

Star Citizen city
Image Source: Cloud Imperium Games

The big point of contention is the budget Star Citizen has acquired. This game initially started with a Kickstarter goal of $750,000. It quickly exceeded that to 2 million; today, the budget is over 650 million dollars. For perspective, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt took 34 million to make. Baldur’s Gate 3 took 100 million to make. Starfield took 400 million to make. That means Star Citizen is the most expensive game ever to be developed.

It’s quite a title, and to be fair, they’re trying to achieve something that hasn’t ever been done before. But here is where Star Citizen gets a bit gross, in my opinion. The voice and likeness talent being lent to this game are as follows. Mark Hamill, Mark Strong, Gillian Anderson, Gary Oldman, Andy Serkis, Liam Cunningham, and Ben Mendelsohn round out the top names voicing the characters in the single-player campaign.

So you hear those names and then look at that budget, and you start to wonder, are we funding a game or a movie? Is their writing just not good enough that it needs a big actor to deliver every line? Why wouldn’t they give these jobs to working voice actors in the industry, and how much would the budget be if the cast didn’t involve world-famous actors at every turn?

If all of that irks you, it gets worse. You can give pledges to the developers from $40 up to $1100, and many have done just that over the past 11 years. In the persistent universe right now, you are able to buy ships with actual money. It’s not required by any means, but it is an option and feels wrong considering the alpha state of the game that has already left players with bugs that delete their ships when they log off the game.

The game has over 4.9 million backers at the moment. When these numbers start hitting you, the expectations of the game start to reach meteoric heights. This isn’t all just ordinary people backing the game, as Cloud Imperium Games have received healthy investments from private firms over the years as well. Still, in order for this game to one day turn a profit, it will have to be one of the best games of all time, and even then, it might not be enough to justify the money being spent.

Is It Worth Buying Today? A Galaxy-Sized Quandry

Star Citizen spaceship
Image Source: Cloud Imperium Games

Star Citizen remains in limbo as a complete product. As of today, the persistent universe mode is still in alpha with no beta phase in sight. However, the Squadron 42 single-player mode has been reported to be nearly completed, with just some polish needed before a full release date is announced.

More and more money continues to be shoveled into this monster by the day, and the developers seem to have no qualms about taking people’s money at this point. There is plenty to feel uneasy about when talking about this game, so it begs the question, should we believe in Star Citizen?

I think the answer is a hesitant yes. Reading about the game and watching trailers, you might think it’s a clear cash grab and that this game isn’t real. I thought that before I played it. Having spent a decent amount of time in the persistent universe, I can say this. There is nothing like this game. It takes what Starfield aimed for, what No Man’s Sky aimed for, and what Elite Dangerous aimed for and combines them all. It’s incomplete, but it’s already got hours and hours of content for you to explore with a simply mind-blowing scale.

What is here is a very impressive space sim that is clearly still just a skeleton for a larger experience. The skeleton is mighty impressive, though, and you can see the vision. You can see that eleven years of waiting hasn’t all been for naught.

Star Citizen is very real and a game worth trying, especially for those disappointed by Starfield. It delivers much of what we hoped to see with Bethesda’s would-be magnum opus but never got. It’s gritty and serious and beautiful and terrifying all at once. It gives us the mystery of the universe in a way that finally feels real.

Star Citizen is selling for $45 for the persistent universe mode and $15 for the Squadron 42 add-on. That’s not a crazy ask for a game that currently delivers something we’ve never seen before. For those curious about Star Citizen, they run free weekends all the time, giving players a small slice of what the full experience is going to be, and I implore anyone with at least a slight interest in Sci-fi to give it a shot.

I’m not saying donate $1100 or even $50 to these guys. In fact, if you donate any money beyond the buying price at this point, you’re an insane person, as I think the 650 million I mentioned earlier is more than enough to get the job done. That job is likely nowhere near done, but at least we know that something special is being built here.

Closest Alternatives to Star Citizen

I don’t blame you if you’re hesitant about diving into this intimidating universe. You might want to wait a bit before paying for an unfinished game, and if that’s the case, here are a handful of alternatives that can tide you over until then.

  • Starfield
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Eve Online


Question: Is Star Citizen multiplayer?

Answer: Yes, the persistent universe mode is fully multiplayer, and exploring the galaxy with friends is a great time.

Question: Is Squadron 42 playable yet?

Answer: No, but it is nearing completion with a targeted 2024 release window.

Question: Is there a story in Star Citizen?

Answer: Star Citizen is aiming to produce an entire universe of stories to explore. Whether there is one plot thread connecting it all, well, we’re waiting for that answer just as you are.

An Interstellar Pipe Dream?

The money going into Star Citizen makes it the most expensive game ever. That money seems to be well spent for the most part, as currently, Star Citizen is reaching for the stars when it comes to gameplay innovations. I believe that the result of a decade of work will be a game that we will talk about for a long time. It may very well be a long time to see the finished product, but I can see it. I can feel it. And I believe in it.

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