Star Citizen: You can now try the most expensive video game ever made for free

Star Citizen has no release date but you can already buy starter packs for up to £1,000  - and counting  (Cloud Imperium Games)
Star Citizen has no release date but you can already buy starter packs for up to £1,000 - and counting (Cloud Imperium Games)

Star Citizen will be free to play until the end of November, offering a chance to try one of the more contentious games of the past decade.

The sci-fi exploration game is notable for the amount of money pumped into its development, with more than half-a-billion dollars, or £430 million, raised in crowdfunding payments.

CD Project Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, one of the highest-profile releases of the last few years and another contender for most-expensive game, had a reported development budget of $315 million, or £267 million.

Star Citizen remains unfinished, is in an Alpha state, and has no official release date.

However, players can already spend more than £1,000 on a “starter pack”, which includes ships, in-game currency, and insurance. This replaces your ship, should it be destroyed, bringing real-world worries into the video game space, as in a few other titles.

Star Citizen’s cheapest starter packs cost around £45, and only provide three months of insurance, after which the stakes of play increase dramatically.

This Star Citizen free-to-play period is part of an event called Intergalactic Aerospace Expo, which lets newcomers try out the game’s world and pilot many of its virtual ships.

What is Star Citizen?

It is an open-world intergalactic exploration, trading, and combat game in which players can fly across Space, and land on planets and spaceports. This grand scope has seen it called one of the most ambitious games ever made, but has also led to a disjointed release schedule where ambition and results are not always aligned.

Star Citizen is more than a decade into its development at this point, and its initial crowdfunding page was established in September 2012. It suggested the game would release in 2014.

Developer Imperium Games is also making a finite single-player game based on Star Citizen, called Squadron 42. However, in January 2022, its founder Chris Roberts told MCV it was still “years” away from release.

Roberts is an industry veteran, having directed Wing Commander in 1990. Star Citizen is seen by many as a spiritual successor to that classic title and other Roberts’ space adventures, but on a much larger scale.

To download and try Star Citizen, you will need to create an account at the Roberts Space Industries website, which also offers the required download. It’s available for PC only. Among its listed minimum requirements are 83GB of disk space, 16GB RAM, and a graphics card with at least 3GB RAM. It’s not going to run on a basic laptop made for browsing the web.