EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
ROKH by Nvizzio Creations is a sandbox space building/survival game in which you play as one of a second wave of Mars colonists landing to settle the planet. Your objectives are manifold: with other players or by yourself, you must harvest resources and use these resources to build and achieve sustainability. You must also explore, searching the sites and habitations left behind by the previous wave of colonists, to discover why their initiative failed. Also as in most survival games, while you build towards sustainability, you must also look after your well being, finding supply caches of food, oxygen, water and suit batteries to keep yourself alive. You have a selection of tools to achieve your objectives: a pick-axe for mining, a crowbar for breaking down, a screwdriver for building and a hammer for crafting. You also have a jet-pack which can launch you short distances.
THE JERKY HARVEST
I really enjoy building/survival games that allow you to actually use tools: it’s one of the many reasons I love Don’t Starve so much. I think in survival situations, building, farming and hunting are some of the very few forms of preoccupation and solace that must keep a person sane. So when players are adopting that persona, I think it’s important the game offers them those same occupations. ROKH tells you your objective is sustainability, but from the outset, you get all of your food (mostly jerky) and oxygen from supply caches: you can’t build farms, or hunt, or harvest some kind of space flora. The same goes for oxygen. Even the buildings you make aren’t life giving: the ruined colonies of the failed expedition (presumably when the jerky ran out) are what your buildings come to resemble more than anything.
ROKH sends a mixed message. It’s trying to be a building game with realistic survival thrown in, whereas in actuality it’s currently a realistic survival game trying to be a building game. You may think that sounds like absolute nonsense, but hear me out. ROKH is a realistic survival game: you traverse ruined, sparse surroundings, scavenging the means to survive (as you do in The Long Dark). Yet it also says its goal as a building game is sustainability, but that’s a complete contradiction: how can you build sustainability when you are completely reliant upon scavenging? These occupations of building farms, of animal husbandry, of hunting, are necessary in a sandbox building/survival game. These life-giving constructs are needed to occupy a player/give them a reason to build, otherwise, in the case of ROKH, it feels like you’re simply adding more ruins to the landscape.
But we must remember this is still an early access game with a little way to go yet. And I think there is a solution to the problem. ROKH should add buildable options to create complete sustainability, but most important of all, there should be an option to break down the ruined colony buildings and use their resources. Tonally, realistic survival and sandbox building are often very different: one is about decay, sparse and lonely, surrounded by ruins and the other is about rebirth, hope, the complete opposite in many ways. I think being able to recycle the ruins left by the previous initiative would add that element of hope and rebirth that it is sorely missing for a game about colonists. ROKH is currently a great foundation for a game, but is stuck as realistic space survival and sandbox building obstruct each other, making it both but neither. If the game falls down on either side of the fence though, it could be really great.
I didn’t accomplish much during my time in ROKH: I tried to build a habitation, but failed and took shelter with another explorer, I did a lot of mining, and I contemplated the possibility of creating some form of sustainable jerky farm using my fellow colonists. ROKH is set to land sometime later this year.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.