Surviving Mars is a sci-fi city builder simulation with survival elements developed by Haemimont Games and published by Paradox Interactive. The game is now available on Steam and I am lucky enough to lay my hands and eyes on this title, and share my first impressions with you.
While playing Surviving Mars, we are to build our first functioning dome for the Founders on the Red Planet, Mars. The game starts with a spaceship landing on Mars and our little drones and rovers are ready to discover, explore and overcome the red dusty planet by building a city in which your colonist will live happily ever after. But, like Ray Bradbury says in The Martian Chronicles “We earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.” So, this is also the story of how I ruined everything for my little colonists and how I became a mass murderer.
At the beginning, you have to work with drones and rovers which are capable of building stations you need and create a livable environment for your colonists before they arrive. Like you all know from all the sci-fi movies, the first thing you need is a dome which is a central livable environment connected to life support systems and the heart of your colony.
By clicking on your drones and rovers, you will be able to make them scavenge basic resources like concrete and metal from the rocks on Mars. Every station you need to build requires different amounts of resources and this means you should always have your drones working on resources while they are also working on buildings. You need to build stations which will provide you with resources all the time. The first thing you need to build is a Drone Hub where you control your drones. But beware, soon after, you will be lacking some rare materials which can not be found on Mars. These must be carried over to the planet with rockets and every item you need will cost you.
After the building is done, your station will require electricity in order to function. Solar panels will give you power during the day, yet wind tribunes will work as long as there is wind. The main idea is to provide an environment which will give life to the dome and support it, yet there is a lot to do before you event start building your dome. First, you need to build everything which will support the dome like water and oxygen stations, sensor towers, tunnels and many more. Each one of them must be connected with cables and pipes and they must be connected to power suppliers in order to work. Your drones and rovers must be charged with power frequently, malfunctioned stations must be repaired, rare materials must be collected and researches must be completed before even you unlock the dome.
This preparation process takes a couple of hours since laying cables and pipes are not that easy and connecting all the buildings is sometimes painful. After you complete your preparation, you will be able to build your first dome and finally, start building inside it. With the dome, there comes passengers. You will be launching a rocket in order to have colonists like you have to launch a rocket when you need rare materials such as machine parts.
The thing is that even if there are warnings and tips about the gameplay, they are not sufficient. The first try may end up as a failure since there is so much to do and keep an eye on. The instructions are not that clear and sometimes confusing even if the drones do most of the work before you even tell them to do so. You may actually find yourself looking at the screen aimlessly to figure out what to do next. What you should build next and where you should build it? Well, you’d better get ready to ask yourself this question very often. It is not rare that you finally figure out what and where to build after you realize you already did it all wrong.
After some experience, you will know what to do yet I fell like it was a waste of time. With more clear instructions, you would know which way you must follow at your first try. When it comes to your colonists, it is clear that they don’t even want to survive. They don’t want to work, job allocation is one of the hardest things to control and you need to remind yourself that they are volunteered to come work in here. How many scientist a dome needs? Seven? Management of jobs will take your time more than you think and I recommend you to take notes while doing that.
Still, it is an unexplainable feeling witnessing that the red dust turns into a shinny city and a livable environment by your hands. After your first colonists arrive, the real fun begins. The dome always in need for a functional life support system and it is the time for you to feel real helpless. Everything gets much more confusing and knowing that these poor souls will die because of you is hard to take in.
The thing is that maintaining the stations were hard enough before the colonists arrive and now everywhere is filled with systems which require more power and maintenance, and now you have little tiny people to take care of. The game shapes a demanding chain for you to take care of and it gets harder and harder to satisfy its every need. The only solution to this problem is to create a highly supportive system before your first colonists arrive. The stations must be covering for themselves before even you start to support the dome and its residents.
One mistake leads to another and if you’ve ever played management sims, you know that it will lead you to destruction in no time. Some mistakes can not be undone without ordering a rocket filled with what you need but I am afraid if you were not careful enough, you won’t be able to pay for it. Yes, there are Easy Modes you can choose with lots of supplies to offer, yet even with that, I was enable to maintain a long-term experience on Mars. I can easily say that life on Mars is hard and it will get harder and harder even if you do your best. Surviving Mars is a harsh game with lots of variables and requires all of your attention and effort.
When it comes to the technical part, I can say that the game runs smoothly and I encountered with no bugs, glitches or whatsoever during my gameplay. Visually, it is highly satisfying and since Mars is my point of interest for years, I enjoyed every rock and particle of dust. It is a calming view to look at even if I always think that we should not lay our hands to any planet since we have a huge power when it comes to demolish beautiful things. Still, it is a pleasure to witness that your own colony grows bigger and bigger on an alien planet.
Soundtracks and sound effects are satisfying and always in a harmony with gameplay. I can say that I enjoyed them at full.
Overall, I can say that Surviving Mars should be expressing itself more clearly in the beginning since it is already a hard experience. Confusion and disorder will surely lead you to genocide on Mars, even if you try to give your colonist what you need. If you are up to a high-pressure experience on the Red Planet, I recommend you to take a look at Surviving Mars’s Steam page.
Surviving Mars was reviewed using the Steam key provided by the publisher.
- No multi-select option
- Insufficient introductions
- Colonist job allocation is a pain
- No story to follow
- No decent tutorial
- Excellent environmental design
- Auto-building system
- Soundtracks and sound effects