IMPRESSIONS: Universe Sandbox ²

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

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Universe Sandbox ² is… not really a game at all. It’s more of a simulation than anything, a physics sandbox on a massive scale. It’s been in Alpha for quite a while now, first being released to the public on August 25, 2014. It has quite a few improvements over the original, including improved physics, better animations, particle effects and collision effects.

Universe Sandbox ² | Michael Bay

I spent some time with Universe Sandbox (the original) around when it was first released. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun to make things smash into other things. It wasn’t exactly amazing looking, but it was very interesting way to see what would happen if, say, you were to put a second sun at the back of the solar system (it doesn’t end well).

The first major improvement that I noticed when I first started the program up was just how much better it looked. Orbit tracks are easier to see, the particles floating through the foreground are less obtrusive, planets look nicer, stars look amazing. Take a look at the video below this to see what I’m talking about. The original is on the left, the US² on the right. It looks cleaner, smoother, and more professional.

Now, the other major part of the simulation, for me, was sending things into other things to watch the carnage. I’m pleased to announce that, thankfully, the collisions are actually just as satisfying to watch as they are to set up. The improvements start with the actual look of the physical models. Planets and stars look quite a bit better by themselves, so, when they collide, you have some nice things to look at. Then, when they actually hit, the collision physics support fire balls, planetwide atmospheric destruction, bits flying off… general Michael Bay levels of chaos.

Not that collisions and pretty things are all the improvements. They’ve also added a terraforming system, where you can take a barren planet and add a few basic compounds to it, and watch entire ecosystems form. Add to that a complete climate simulation system, and you could theoretically create your own solar system, then take each planet in that solar system and make them capable of supporting life. Could I ever get that to work? No, I’m not that smart.

Overall, though, Universe Sandbox ² is a vast improvement over the original. It’s still in Alpha, so it could be completely overhauled tomorrow, but, in its current state, it’s an incredibly enjoyable simulator. It costs $24.99 right now, available exclusively through the game’s website for PC, Mac and Linux. There’s no scheduled release date for the full version of the game, but, if you buy in to the Alpha, you get all updates, as well as the full release. I’ll revisit Universe Sandbox ² when the full release comes out and give a full review of it.

About Matt Welwood

Matt does a lot of stuff, and now also does stuff on oprainfall. Frequent player of Hearthstone, and many other games besides. Follow him on Twitter (@ghostlyweevil) for infrequent updates about things that he thinks about.