s urviving mars
Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It may just be a radioactive dustbowl, 140 million miles from the nearest breathable atmosphere, but Mars exerts an irresistible pull on Earth’s dreamers. Could people ever live there? Would a future colony seriously have a casino?
There’s a lot of work to be done before the first colonists can move in. Solar panels and wind turbines must be set up to power the machinery that extracts water and oxygen from the Martian environment. Raw materials must be processed, and miles of pipelines and electrical cables must be laid to connect everything together.
Once you’ve got some working habitation domes you can start ferrying settlers from Earth. You’d think the first people to visit Mars would be selected from the world’s best and brightest, but you’re more than likely to end up with a bunch of drunks and inveterate gamblers. Tightening the selection criteria to weed out undesirable traits such as old age and insanity means you end up with a rocket carrying just one person. Consequently, the domes must be managed and policed like any normal city sim.
Most jobs fall to an army of semiautonomous drones that trundle around in the dust, building, repairing and supplying the growing Martian base. They don’t require much direct intervention but can only operate within a fixed radius of a command post. As long as you’ve provided a pile of the correct resources within their zone of control, they’ll happily construct buildings and repair leaky pipes all day long, but if the command post itself breaks down or the resources are so much as a few inches outside their territory, they’ll grind to a halt. Locating inventory amid dozens of supply dumps and trucking items to the correct zones is a critical manual task.
As the colony grows larger, juggling multiple problems with the infrastructure becomes increasingly commonplace. For some reason the power supply upon which the entire base depends seems to be wired together with tinfoil, and it’s rare to go more than a couple of minutes without a section of burnt-out cable needing to be repaired. The oxygen supply is forever breaking down and any number of buildings will suddenly go offline.
You might want to patch a simple oxygen leak, but first you have to replace a cable to power up the drones that will fix the command centre that will fix the machine that makes the components to fix another machine that feeds the leaky pipe… Crisis management across multiple command zones can be hectic, and all the while you’ve got meteor strikes knocking out more pipes and oxygen leaking into space. Colonists will swiftly freeze to death, suffocate or just top themselves when things start going badly wrong, and the game isn’t great at telling you what you’re meant to be doing.
As long as you keep multiple save files you can always go back to a time before it all went south, but finding any sort of equilibrium is hard to do. Even if you can wean the colony off its regular supply ships from Earth, breeding and cloning the next generation of Martians as you investigate a number of potential endgame mysteries, it’s always going to require more manual oversight than a typical city-building game. There’s life on Mars, but it’s only ever one blown fuse away from extinction.
“Colonists will swiftly freeze to death when things go wrong”
Plugging an oxygen leak in this dome will be one of your main challenges.