Once again it’s a trip to one of neighbours, the planet Mars. Red, dusty and ready to be colonised, if you’re able to find the resources to do it. Managing drones and repairs, finally bringing in colonists, it takes time to develop. Just like this game needs a little more polish.
Another game that takes you to Mars. Rather than to adventure, to fight, it’s to colonise, to build and even to master. It’s not just working to keep everyone in domes and fed, but to keep the supplies coming in, managing finite and infrequent, rare, deposits. Of keeping the technology progressing, answering current needs and future needs. Even at times, a bit of luck, that next technology to give that little step up, advantage.
This game doesn’t hold your hand, at all. Choosing a colony site is no simple matter either. From the get go you need to balance factors. You might have a lot of metal and water in one site, against limited space for building. Others the intense cold temperature of Mars is a threat. So are meteor storms and more. All of these can at the end be prevented, mitigated, but it takes time. Some far more than others. It makes keeping a number of sensors about something you need to do, for the warning you get.
After that you’ve still not put a single person on Mars. In fact you have a long, long way to go before you can do that. Both in technology and in production. At first you’re putting down facilities to gather concrete, basic power plants, just to get the resources to build your first basic dome. Power cables soon cross Mars, then eventually pipes, carrying oxygen and water. Once you have your first basic built, structures within ready to house people, should you even think about calling in that first shuttle. Yet, this game will tempt you with waiting, so you can bring more colonists in if you’re close to the technology to allow it.
Gaining technology is something that you will spend much your time planning and if you’re like me, never getting quite right. Some of the time you need people, focusing on the technology to support them. Others, you might face the opposite challenge, not having the industry to support them and needing to get it up fast. It’s broken into five major categories, such as Robotics which improves your drones and rovers. Another is Physics, giving your power plants and upgrades for them. The final area is called Breakthroughs. These are semi-random technologies, which can really shake up your buildings. Easily one of my favourites is the Plasma Rockets, halving the travel time between Earth and Mars.
House people is a challenge and one that this game is unapologetic about. Matching them to their profession is only one part of it. Proving rest and relaxation is another part. Made easier by some technologies in the Social and Biotech fields, yet, it never seems to be enough. Here I do have one specific and obvious complaint. There is no way to obvious link domes. There’s no tunnels to link them. While there’s obvious transports, I’ve not found anything in the game to transfer people between dones.
Repairing your structures is something you will do a lot of. Perhaps too much. While there’s some automation to it as you can set the priority, it’s not entirely intuitive for me. The longer I played the more I relied on the nearby clock to set my repair schedule. Not only that I often just bulk did items, not trusting the system in place to manage it for me. Some facilities I kept in far better state than others. Those which earned me money easily my main focus. Also those which gave me the resources to do exactly that.
Audio and Visuals
Rather than one soundtrack, this game has a few. Choosing the music is done by choosing the radio station you listen to. Each has its own feel and genre. Some of the time I feel like radio from Earth, over Mars, others the opposite. There’s little environmental sould that I noticed when outside the domes, which I appreciated. Close to the domes, the buildings outside it you can get some sound. Though minimal I found it enough. The same went for the sound inside the domes. It brought life to the game and another wise dead world.
Visually I have to say I’m a bit conflicted about the game. There’s elements to it I just love, the drones being only one example. Some of the other out of dome buildings are also wonderfully in theme. Moisture farms, fuel refineries and more look just right. The same goes for the dust that slowly covers everything as you spend more and more time on Mars. White gets a definite rust tone, till it can’t work on any more. Even with the rovers and drones. One thing I don’t particularly enjoy is the shape of the structures within the domes. I would have appreciated a little more variety. I would have also liked to see more definite areas to set up my base. I’ve seen all of them now and none really stand out.
No multiplayer features present and with many city builders, it doesn’t really offer any notable features or improvements.
I want to like this more to be honest. I really do. It’s taking more than a few mods for me to have the level of automation I like. Not just that I had to manage everything, all the time. I never could quite work out how to get the priorities set right to keep things in repair. Nor could I ever quite get the best balance between supplies coming in and supplies going out. Yet, Mars is a challenge to work out, that each of the mysteries, missions give you obvious things to do. Competing and conflicting objectives combined with obvious elements missing. This is a good game, but has a long way to go before it can be a great game.