by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
PERILS OF THE RED PLANET
Who’d have thought trying to build and maintain a colony on Mars would be so hard? I mean, everyone probably, but one of the things that Surviving Mars has definitely given me, is a new-found respect for Elon Musk. Not to imply that Surviving Mars doesn’t have a lot to offer; it’s beautiful and challenging, and in a lot of ways feels like a departure from many other 4xs. It is one of the most refreshing strategy games I’ve played in a long time and as you might imagine, I have got a lot to say about it, so I will jump right in.
In Surviving Mars you manage a colony through all of its stages: from the initial rocket landing, to creating infrastructure, to expanding and eventually achieving self-sufficiency. This involves every aspect you might imagine: building, resource management, exploration, research, creating habitable spaces and providing for the needs of your colonists. You will also have to keep them safe from the many perils of the red planet. There are meteors showers, dust devils and cold waves, all of which have the potential to eat away at, or disable machinery, potentially cutting life support and ending your colony. So while the main goal is to create beautiful habitation domes, where your colonists will live a Utopian existence, the true secondary goal, is to create an infrastructure that will keep them alive in any eventuality.
THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF LIFE
This is where Surviving Mars is at its smartest. In creating this vast network to support a relatively small number of people, the player is constantly reminded of the true cost of life. I don’t mean that as an abstract either; I mean the tactile costs of metal, polymer, fuel, water, oxygen and food. If there is one place Surviving Mars really shines, it is in showing the tactile. Most 4xs now reduce resources to numbers on a page, forgetting the days of Black and White, when resources had physical value and buildings weren’t constructed from an abstract property.
Every resource in Surviving Mars is laid out in pristine bundles like Lego pieces ready to be ferried to construction. This is just one aspect of the gorgeous Utopian visual design, where drones and rovers look almost toy-like, or the habitation domes are these perfect green architectural spaces, surrounded by fields of dust and solar panels.
EASY TO OVERSTRETCH
Surviving Mars has different demands of a player than the usual 4x. There is no reckless expansion, no harvesting of every resource you can lay yours hands on. From the outset you have limited resources and conditions that must be fulfilled before you can get more. For example, you can call a limited number of rockets from earth, each with a cargo-hold you can fill with supplies. Unfortunately, you have a limited mission budget for buying supplies; this can be increased by harvesting valuable metals and sending them back to earth.
Beautiful visual design, smart strategy gameplay.
Drones can be dumb, niggling complaints.