Noctis is a wonderful space exploration program that lets you travel a vast, fictional galaxy at will. Think Elite minus the plot and combat, or Microsoft Space Simulator minus technical details, and you'll have a rough idea of what Noctis is about. The official description is actually very good (and even a little poetic) so it's worth quoting in full here: "Noctis: the latin word for "night", and the title of this simulator. Night, after all, is just the word we use to describe the absence of light while the Earth is turned away from the sun, and in space, there is no light but the distant pinpricks of ancient stars. Space is a lonely place, but it harbours some truly spectacular secrets; eerily glowing pulsars, enormous red giants, glittering, beautiful nebulae, and deadly, all-consuming singularities to name but a few. For most people, the thought of going into space and exploring such sights is an impossible dream. But no longer; Noctis allows you to do just that. In technical terms, it is a fully 3D galaxy, which allows you to explore thousands of stars, their planets and moons. From the moment you first play Noctis, you'll be hooked." |
And hooked you will be, indeed. The program is surprisingly small: the virtually unlimited galaxy fits in less than 1MB of space – yet another testament to the fact that good games don't need to be big. The highlights of Noctis are the excellent 3D graphics, as well as the dynamic nature of its galaxy. For example, you can swing past a planet, land on its surface, and watch a tree swaying in the winds amidst heavy rainfall. The physics are reasonably realistic, although the program focuses much more on exploration (and the wonder of discovery) than on spacecraft behavior. One of the best features in Noctis is that the program allows you to name any star and planet you discover. The "official" starmap and galactic guide is maintained by a very active Noctis community, and you can send your own star names and comments to the maintainer for inclusion in the next version of the guide and starmap. This means that the universe in Noctis is continually evolving and expanding. It's a lot of fun to download new versions of the starmap and guide once in a while just to see the new stars that fellow explorers have named.
With an excellent graphics model, solid gameplay, and an endlessly changing galaxy to explore, Noctis is a rare space exploration program that can evoke a sense of wonder in us all. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in spaceflight, or just space in general. Two thumbs up, way up!
Since the writing of this review, the game has reached its fourth iteration, Noctis IV, with the latest update in 2016. Available on the homepage linked below.
Reviewed by: Underdogs