by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
One of the most surprising games we came across at Gamescom this year was a small indie title developed by 4gency and published by Versus Evil entitled Habitat. The surprise does not come in terms of brilliance, however, but more in terms of not knowing exactly what it’s for.
The game takes place in the distant future as nano-machines have taken over the world, forcing humanity to emigrate into space and make a life for themselves there. In order to do this, you must direct engineers from your habitat to venture into space; collect floating space junk; and build, expand, rearrange, and repair your habitat. Resources such as food and power must be taken into account as your base expands as each additional module will syphon energy, especially so while in use. Your habitat can also be split into two, or habitats merged into one at any given time.
Strange Things in Space
Attaching rocket boosters and steerable thrusters allows you to propel your habitat through space as you fight enemies such as nano-machine hunters for survival and salvage. Multiple types of weaponry can be attached to your hulk such as grappling hooks, lasers, and discarded tanks. Over 40 different types of items and dynamic connectors are already available in the early access build we played at Gamescom, but hold on: did I just type “discarded tanks”!? Yes, I did, and that’s where the puzzlement of my encounter with this game lies. Among the items floating through space are the severed head of the Statue of Liberty (of which there were plenty, BTW), tanks, boxing gloves, enormous rubber duckies, school buses, and other things that simply don’t belong there. The reasoning behind this was apparently to not make the game too ‘serious’, but to me it was one of those WTF moments that left me puzzled, and not in a particularly good way.
What to do? Where to go?
The final game will supposedly feature population management, physics-driven flight simulation, a seemingly endless procedurally generated universe, and at least two game modes, but as of yet, I’m not sold. I’m fully aware that this is early access and therefore in no way representative of the final quality, but in its current form, Habitat strikes me as a game that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. As a cartoony, cell-shaded kid’s sandbox, it could work wonders as a platform with which the younger generation expresses its creativity and learns about the basics of space travel and zero-gravity physics.
As a more gritty and realistic space-survival game with complex mechanics such as resource management, technology research, scraps scavenging, and potentially even habitat politics, I’d play the hell out of it. Right now, however, the game appears to be trying to navigate an area somewhere in between, which may cause it to become a patchwork of mechanics designed for different audiences. A proverbial Frankenstein’s Monster in videogame form, if you will.
Potential is There
But what do I know? The game might be a masterpiece once the early access feedback has been implemented and the mechanics polished to perfection. It might also be one of those games where the community takes the skeleton and morphs it into something greater than the developers ever thought imaginable. Only time can tell and I wish them all the best. After all, the concept sounds fantastic on paper.