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.