(c) Paradox Interactive. Video courtesy of Paradox Interactive via Youtube.
Who hasn’t wanted to be an astronaut? The thrill of exploring the cosmos, discovering lost civilisations, and blowing stuff up with lasers is something that humanity has been drawn towards ever since JFK decided he wanted to go to the moon before that rascally Lee Harvey Oswald cast his vote for the 1964 election early.
Of course, there’s always the risk that you’ll be burnt to a crisp in re-entry, exploding on the launch pad or just being left stranded in space because a rivet was five millimetres off. You see, this is why I prefer time travel.
This is before you even get to the planet you set out into space to find and actually attempt to create a new civilisation amongst the stars. Now I’m not an experienced civilisation builder (unless 72 cumulative hours spent on Civilisation 6 counts for anything) but it all sounds like way too much effort yeah?
Well, then you’re in luck because Paradox Interactive has got you covered with the full simulation building experience with Surviving Mars so you can get plenty of practice in before Elon Musk goes full god complex and dumps you on Mars with just a couple of oxygen tanks and baby’s first Mars colony set.
I got the game recently and was thinking I could just pick myself a nice plot of Martian real estate, pull a Mark Watney and science the shit out of this thing. It was at this point, the game sidled up to me, “hey there buddy, this game’s a serious simulation... you might want to brush up on the tutorials.” Then the game dropped a two-week correspondence course worth of instructions on my lap.
I ignored the game, picked an area at random and tried to get some raw materials only for the game to rap me across the knuckles, “no that’s not the menu we use for that, no we won’t tell you which one,” and tossed me a brochure for their tutorials.
Sulking, I picked up their instructions and navigated back to the main menu and found the tutorial section. Then, thirty minutes later I stumbled back out dazed, confused, and with only a slightly better understanding of how to play the game.
So, I dived back into the game and if you’ve played many city-building games, the gameplay loop and controls are pretty standard. The old WASD keys get a workout controlling the camera and you’ll be clicking like a dolphin operating the switchboard during the Battle of Britain as you order drones and workers around.
I understand that the end goal for this sort of game is to get everything running so smoothly that you can step back and let the gameplay itself. This is all well and good but I always lose interest when there’s no real endpoint to games because I could get the exact same experience by sitting at your desk and watching a number slowly tick upwards.
However, the game does have a whole bunch of factors you can change to keep the experience relatively fresh from playthrough to playthrough. From having different sponsors with different objectives, to only hiring alcoholics and crazy people to be a part of your colony and more, there’s enough variety to keep you coming back for another playthrough.
Unfortunately, you can’t directly impact any of your colonists, so you just end up watching them like a pre-schooler with their ant farm.
In the half hour I played after I’d survived the game bombarding me with tutorial instructions like I was Berlin circa 1945 I managed to get my colony up and running. I even managed to get colonists onto the planet without them asphyxiating which I, the underachiever that I am, would consider a success.
The entire time, I had the feeling that the game wants me to get everything running just that little bit better and that was when I knew I had to get out before I got caught in an eternal loop of incremental self-improvement.
At the end of it all, Surviving Mars has a pretty novel setting with gameplay and progression that feels pretty generic once you drill down to the bedrock of the game. If you love city-building games but want one set in space, then this is the game for you to check out as long as you can handle the tutorials needed to actually play the game.
Have you played Surviving Mars? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments down below or get in contact.
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