Sur­viv­ing Mars

PC, PS4, Xbox One


Your very first at­tempt at tam­ing the hos­tile Red Planet is go­ing to be a write off. even if you pay at­ten­tion to the in­di­rect hints qui­etly ap­pear­ing at the top of the screen, you’re go­ing to build struc­tures in the wrong places, you’re go­ing to pri­ori­tise the wrong as­pects of base man­age­ment and you’re go­ing to strug­gle even to un­der­stand the pur­pose of core func­tions be­hind the game. But take the eas­i­est chal­lenge and let those fail­ures hap­pen, be­cause once the first shuttle on the in­evitable restart gen­tly touches the dusty ground of earth’s dis­tant cousin you’ll be all the bet­ter pre­pared to plan, man­age and cul­ti­vate life on mars.

it’s an in­trigu­ing spin on the city builder genre: you’re not ma­nip­u­lat­ing the masses, guid­ing grid­locked traf­fic or cater­ing to a fluc­tu­at­ing sup­ply and de­mand, in­stead you’re in­tri­cately pre­par­ing a whole other planet for hu­man ha­bil­i­ta­tion. And while we might be at the risk of over­selling Sur­viv­ing Mars, there’s a cer­tain charm to the con­cept. Au­to­mated drones are the first to touch the sur­face, but they’re re­ally just the scout­ing party, sur­vey­ing the land and build­ing the ground­work for the first liv­ing crea­tures on the planet. in that sense there are cer­tain needs that must be ful­filled, oxy­gen and wa­ter for the hu­mans but, later, an in­fra­struc­ture for con­struc­tion, self-suf­fi­ciency and, ul­ti­mately, ex­ports back to earth. it is ini­tially con­fus­ing, but there’s a good level of mi­cro­man­age­ment that will keep the player hooked. the man­ual move­ment of re­sources, for ex­am­ple, is sur­pris­ingly im­por­tant to sus­tain­ing the fledg­ling com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially if cer­tain sources are lo­cated some dis­tance from the main hub. in­hab­i­tants of each dome must have their needs met, too, and since ev­ery per­son comes with their own unique name, skillsets and pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive traits there’s a sense of hav­ing to make the right choices to en­sure a healthy and func­tion­ing base.

But for as much as it has the abil­ity to en­gross the player, even­tu­ally and far too promptly the nov­elty of Sur­viv­ing Mars does wear off. the pace, for one, can be equally ar­du­ous and anti-cli­matic; the prep takes the long­est part, and once the new struc­ture is ready the base barely feels any bet­ter for it. there’s an un­for­tu­nate lim­i­ta­tion to ev­ery­thing, too. larger domes can be un­locked, new and sub­tly dif­fer­ent struc­tures can be ap­plied to them and en­hance­ments can be gained in the ran­domly shuf­fled tech tree, but there’s no pur­pose to any of it. the goal for any city­build­ing sim­u­la­tion is to em­power play­ers so that they feel self-mo­ti­vated to tweak, en­hance and - most im­por­tant of all – ex­pand. But with Sur­viv­ing Mars you’ll find your­self adding to ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture sim­ply be­cause it’s there and not be­cause it’s nec­es­sary or, per­haps most dis­ap­point­ing of all, even in­ter­est­ing. the game has a frame­work that could be cap­ti­vat­ing, which is an achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing its slow pace, but there’s sim­ply not enough con­tent, not enough of a sym­bi­otic con­nec­tion be­tween the var­i­ous sys­tems and cer­tainly not enough com­pul­sion to sur­vive mars. 6/10 VER­DICT a Great Foun­da­tion, but sadly a Gi­ant mis­step

Each dome is a sep­a­rate en­tity, which flies in the face of the idea of es­tab­lish­ing a new hu­man com­mu­nity on Mars.

anno 2205

cities sky­lines

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