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Surviving Mars

Posted by GG Goblin On March - 19 - 2018

Is there life on Mars? Well, that is up to the player.

Developers Haemimont Games and publishers Paradox Interactive now want players to colonize the Red Planet in their latest title for PC and consoles. There are no tropical paradise islands here, and the intricacies of politics or universal domination need to be left for other games. In Surviving Mars, it’s all about keeping the little people alive in the most inhospitable environment.


So, this is city building on an otherworldly scale. The complexities of building a settlement on another planet are simply mind-blowing, but Surviving Mars eases the player in by asking them to begin by preparing for the arrival of humans. Players will get a different bonus depending on their chosen sponsor for this unlikely building project, and then they will get to land the first rocket and set about ordering an army of drones to start the preparations.

The early game is actually quite laid back. Start exploring different sectors of the planet and begin the hunt for resources. Humans will need water when they arrive, along with electricity and a friendly atmosphere that will be kept within a dome. There are also a whole bunch of other resources that will be needed for building and maintaining all of the fancy machinery needed to make this place suitable for Human life. Better start searching.


If the player has enough money, they can request another rocket from Earth, packed with any resources that they can afford. The rocket will take a while to reach Mars, so this is no good if you need stuff in a hurry, and there are only a limited number of rockets without extra outlay. However, while on the surface of Mars, the rockets will refuel and can then fly back to Earth and await further orders.

Before long, power cables will be running all over the place, connecting generators or solar panels to the various machinery that needs it. Drones will be running around, collecting resources or performing maintenance. There will be storage areas for the various resources, showing at a glance just how much of each the player has without having to rely on the boring numbers. Building a dome requires a substantial amount of resources, and really is the goal of the early game. Of course, having the dome also means connecting it to the machines that generate the oxygen and water that makes it habitable.

Domes come with a set amount of room for buildings, and there are quite a few to choose from. The most important are the living quarters, where your new little colonists will call home, but there are also science labs that will increase the speed of research, medical buildings for the health and safety of the colonists, places that provide food to the colonists and places that generate that food, and all manner of social areas that help prevent these heroic little Humans from succumbing to their Human traits.


All of these buildings, aside from the living quarters, will need Human staff. So, providing the dome is ready and it has everything needed to at least keep Humans alive, now would be the time to order another rocket from Earth, this time carrying the colonists. Each colonist is an individual, most of them having specializations that will dictate their role on Mars, and all of them having quirks and traits that will define how they manage on the Red Planet. As if there was not enough to worry about on Mars, keeping the colonists happy and healthy so that they don’t fall into a destructive state of depression, or simply rebel against your efforts to placate them, will take a lot of time and management.

It is once the Humans arrive that things start to spiral ever more into the depths of micromanagement. Players will need more colonists to run the buildings that keep the colonists happy, and so more domes will have to be built, which will require more resources and, inevitably, more money, which will mean mining something that can be sent back to Earth and sold, which will require more colonists… And the list goes on. Surviving Mars is, at its most basic, a constant push to expand and grow.

But then there are all of the other things going on. The discovery of alien artifacts that could help boost research of one type or another, the research itself, and all of the things that can go wrong. There are so many ways to kill off the colonists on Surviving Mars, and so many ways they can die through no fault of the player, just bad luck. Meteor showers, for example, are a grim way to go. But so is the Martian dust causing solar panels to stop working and not having a drone around to clear it up before the oxygen generator loses power and the colonists suffocate. Well, perhaps that is simplifying it, but things spiral quickly.

There are some things missing from Surviving Mars that prevent it from being a great game. Perhaps the most important is a tutorial of some form. There is a lot of trial and error involved at the moment, almost making the players first try at the game a throw-away attempt to simply work things out. Most of the things are self explanatory, but certain resource mining equipment that needs to be run by Humans could have done with explanation, as could the fact that electric cables and the like can’t go up hill, instead requiring the building of a damn expensive tunnel. It would have been nice to know that before I built my second dome. It would have also been nice to know that the domes can’t be connected. The AI could be a little smarter, with drones not always taking the optimal route or gathering resources from the closest source, and the UI needs to go into more depth in places.


But these are just minor issues at the moment, and ones that I am sure will eventually be fixed or resolved. For me, the sign of a great city builder is playing it for far longer in one sitting than is healthy, and then going to bed and still planning out in your head what you will do next. This is what happened with Surviving Mars; the game lingers in the mind long after play stops. While Surviving Mars has not endeared me to the possibilities of Mars as a holiday destination, it has proven an excellent city builder with an otherworldly theme.




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