Skyjacker lets you play space pirate in customized, destructible ships

After a long drought, the space-flight sim is coming back into vogue. Skyjacker , a new space combat simulator from indie developer Digitilus , simulates the lives of ruthless space pirates in an open, deep-space setting. Players' ships will be fully customizable, and each mission lets them hijack, destroy, and loot enemy vessels for parts. To expand this experience, Digitilus is returning to Kickstarter to help raise funds for development.

Based on a series of novels written by Digitilus co-founder Eugene Zhukov, Skyjacker will feature a system of fully-destructible ships owned by numerous alien races. Players will follow the story of the ruthless pirate Ael, fighting as mercenary pilots harassing enemy ships traveling across the galaxy. While Chris Roberts' Star Citizen is focused on creating a massive persistent MMO-like universe, Skyjacker will tell the story of a single pirate amid a vast galaxy.

The heart of Skyjacker will be first-person dogfighting combat, a system that the team is already very proud of. Skyjacker is only in alpha right now, but already has full joystick support. Each scripted mission will take place in a solar system generated from random variables such as the number of suns and locations of planets.

“Currently we have 24 basic types of mission scenarios which we'll multiply to over 30 environmental assets,” Zhukov tells PC Gamer. “This way, we're getting over one hundred possible mission conditions.”

Digitilus has turned to Kickstarter to raise funds before, and the result was the intricately detailed Starship Constructor app. Allowing players to build ships and experiment with in-game systems with the sandbox freedom of Kerbal Space Program or Minecraft was really important to the team, according to Zhukov. “Freedom is always good,” he says.

The question for me is, will the spaceship creator live up to the full creative promise of that freedom? There's nothing wrong with ambition, but Skyjacker is a much larger project than anything Digitilus has tried before.

Zhukov was able to show me an ungainly eel-like starship built by an artist as a joke and, although he assured me it would fly “if you stuck an engine on the back,” the practicality of outlandish ships is still undetermined. It will do me no good if I can build a praying mantis starship, for example, if I can't get it to perform in combat.

According to the developer, this freedom also manifests itself in combat, where players will be able to coordinate with each other to destroy enemy shields and disable engines without obliterating ships entirely. Having an intact ship to salvage will provide upgrades and raw materials to sell on the black market.

Players will also be able to express their creativity with the mission creator, a new toolset that Digitilus is hoping to develop with funds raised by fans. A new Kickstarter drive launches today to raise $150,000 for mission development tools as well as more powerful co-op and PvP multiplayer modes. Currently a server can support 12 players in a multiplayer match, but with funding that number could grow.

“We've received immense support from players,” Zhukov says, “and although we are committed to funding and completing the project ourselves, a successful Kickstarter will enable us to solidify the game and speed up the launch, providing galactic aficionados with all the features they want, much sooner than planned.”

Skyjacker is currently in alpha, and Digitilus has released a playable demo that you can play at their website .