by Matthijs Knebel
previewed on PC
Surviving Mars is a sci-fi settlement builder under development at Haemimont Games who you may remember as the team behind Tropico 3, 4 and 5. They’re going a bit further away than the Caribbean this time. As the title suggests, your goal in the game is to create an environment in which people can survive on the planet Mars. It is a constant balance between keeping the people who live in your colony safe, well supplied and happy. To do that, you build different mining facilities, deploy energy generators and a lot of other buildings to make life on the Red Planet possible.
What impressed me was the tremendous amount of detail in Surviving Mars. I realised just how much detail when I saw men come out of the Mars lander with which they first arrived in the colony and leap towards the domes that I had built for them to live and work in. Once inside, they started to change into different clothes and suits related to their occupation. The suits had weights on them, which turned out to be there to keep their bodies in shape on the low gravity world in case they would ever return home and be crushed by Earth’s pull.
Another detail that got me intrigued was the attention put into dust. Dust? Yes, simple dust. Mars is a planet almost completely covered in dust and sand. If you add the heavy winds that are blowing there you can imagine that dust and sand will be everywhere and may even form a problem. The game deals with this in a variety of ways. When a building is brand new it is also squeaky clean. After playing for a while I saw that some dust and sand had accumulated on the buildings. It didn’t just cover the roof and sides of the building, it also covered the much needed solar panels, lowering their efficiency. When there is too much dust, some parts of the building will actually break and workers will fix the broken parts – costing precious resources of course.
A game wouldn’t be fun if it did not have some kind of challenge. In Surviving Mars the biggest challenge are natural disasters. There are many different ones, and every disaster has its own unique consequences. There is a dust storm which will cover buildings completely with dust and cause them to start falling apart if you don’t do anything about it. While the dust storm is active, water and oxygen cannot be produced, so before a dust storm arrives you need to have enough water and oxygen stored to survive it. This really is quite a challenge as you won’t know beforehand when a dust storm will arrive and there is only a short window between the dust storm alert and it arriving in your base.
If you are a fan of city or settlement builder games, I can assure you that Surviving Mars will be worth the wait. I was really impressed with how much thought was put into every aspect of the game. Perhaps its most interesting feature is the promised mod support - I can’t wait to design my own Mars buildings and vehicles and will definitely enjoy this one. There is no specific release date yet, we only know that it will be somewhere in 2018.