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Top 5: Ruined Space Ships at the Start of Games


That’s right, we’re getting oddly specific with this week’s list; taking a closer look at one of the more common settings for the start of Sci-Fi games and popular games in general, ruined space ships.

What is it about starting on a space ships under trouble from events prior to the games story that grips us right away? Is it the struggle for survival? The chance to show off some mind-blowing special effects? Or just that primal fear of being sucked out into space and experiencing an excruciating death by suffocation?

Well whatever it is, keep it coming – because here are five of my favourite games which feature this setting, and probably five of my favourite games of all time as well.

5.       The Ulysses – Bulletstorm – 360/PS3/Windows (2011)

A controversial choice for any top 5 list right out of the gate, Bulletstorm takes my number 5 slot. Sure it may not have been a darling to the critics with its overly documented potty language and underappreciated shoot-with-skill gameplay, but you have to hand it to them when it comes to setting. Drunk driving your space cruiser and taking out bandits when you stumble upon one of the largest space ships in the galaxy – the Ulysses – what is a murderous space pirate to do but down his grog and try to ram it into oblivion? Whatever the answer to that question is, I don’t want to know it, because that is how you start off a game with a bang and the fusion of Grayson Hunts Spectre spacecraft and the burning wreckage of the Ulysses crash landing onto the planet which would form the setting of the game was well worth it.

Special mention of (*spoilers*) returning to the wreckage of the starship at the end of the game, something I’m going to count up on the sly while I do this list (*end spoilers*).

4.       The Endar Spire – Knights of the Old Republic – Xbox/Windows (2003)

Did I say some of my favourite games of all time? Because I meant some of my favourite games OF ALL TIME. Knights of the Old Republic will always be the Cadillac of Star Wars games (not just RPGs) and the setting is no different, tasking you with taking out invisible Sith assassins upon a starship under attack where virtually nothing is as it seems. Tutorial and prologue in one, your adventures on the Endar Spire make a perfect entrance point to this series without revealing too much of your past – which as anyone who has played the game knows, is essential for the plot to develop. The only bad part about this whole thing is sacrificing your friend and party member of roughly 10 minutes, Trask, to fight off Sith apprentice Darth Bandon – never to be seen again.

We will remember your sacrifice Trask.

3.       The Ishimura – Dead Space – PS3/360/PC (2008)

This one sort of sneaks onto the list as it actually isn’t the beginning of the game – it’s the entire game. Still, if you are going to make a list about ruined starships, you feature the Ishimura. This is basically a law at this point, and for good reason. The Ishimura is basically the perfect setting for a claustrophobic horror shooter – which Dead Space is in spades. From cramped corridors to zero gravity chambers, its size is only matched by its capacity to terrify – and the necromorphs have never found a nest quite so compelling as this space miner. Technicalities and rhetoric aside, this was simply one of the best examples of how to use a ruined spaceship in a game and I felt like an idiot not featuring it.

So yeah, the Ishimura, it’s a good ship. Gone bad. In a good way. A terrifying, scream-inducing, high quality kind of good way.

2.       The Normandy – Mass Effect 2 – 360/PS3/Windows (2010/11)

And the silver medal goes to… The Normandy! Once you saw the Ishimura on this list you probably should have figured I’d feature the Normandy on here somewhere, and this time it’s even relevant. The disaster-heavy start of Mass Effect 2 not only features a spaceship which is on its way to splitting directly in half, it puts you in the shoes of a lead character who is ultimately doomed not to survive its destruction. That’s right, this ship basically gets the number two spot because it accurately shows you exactly what happens when you go down with your ship and get sucked out into the void – only to burn up in a nearby planet’s atmosphere. Now of course Shepard inevitably gets regenerated via the Lazarus project, but that doesn’t change the fact that for the first 10 seconds or so that you are seeing the Mass Effect 2 logo you know that you just died. You got sucked out into space and died.

The Normandy did that. And by god did it do it well.

Side note: Not sure if this counts towards my whole “return to the ship later” list since you basically get a new version with all new toys to explore for the rest of the game. We will count it as a half point.

1.       The Pillar of Autumn – Halo: Combat Evolved – Xbox (2001)

And like so many of my lists, we end up with Halo on top. Maybe it’s because it did it first, maybe its because I still remember that gutwrenching feeling of watching the Pillar of Autumn go down while I was (relatively) safe in an escape pod. Maybe it’s because “Pillar of Autumn” is the coolest name on this list. I don’t know. What I do know is that it made a hell of a first level for Halo: Combat Evolved, with the only downside being the lack of vehicles (which was rectified when we revisited it later, add a point to my sub list). Distinctively designed, heroically destroyed leading aliens away from earth and its captain even when down with it to boot – the Pillar of Autumn had it all in spades, and it even through in a few sticky grenades and overshields to get us there.

Keyes, I salute you and your ship.

And for those of you playing at home, the whole “return to the ship at the end of the game” list ended up on 2.5/5. Which is still pretty high realistically, I think it’s safe to call it a cliché.

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