I’m a sucker for space and strategy games, so visiting Paradox’s press areas is always an exciting proposition. Aside from reconnecting with familiar faces, I often walk out with a couple of nice memories.
At gamescom 2017, I was joined by the CEO of Haemimont Games, Gabriel Dobrev, veteran acquaintance of events past. Sitting beside me in the cold, dark, air conditioned room, he was kind enough to guide me through the hands-on session of Surviving Mars.
A sci-fi strategy game about successfully leading the first human colonisation effort of the fourth rock from the Sun, Surviving Mars allows you to build super and infrastructures around a certain area of the planet in order to develop a thriving society. Aside from industrial and technical necessities such as power plants and pipes, players are able to build huge glass dome constructs of various sizes that house the actual colonists and their living spaces.
Those domes are fully customizable, allowing you to choose and place internal buildings that will determine their function. Farms, entertainment, and apartments are a few of the options available, which all contribute towards creating a living, breathing home away from home.
Haemimont Games has put special focus on the survival aspect of resource management, such as scanning for nodes, deposit scarcity, and transportation problems. As each resource is unique, they each bring their own logistic problems: water towers may freeze, metal deposits run dry, and electronics that are not repaired may stop functioning.
Some complicated necessities, like concrete or chocolate, can only be brought from Earth via transport ships, adding an extra layer of worry to the player and colonists alike. By doubling-down on the inherent and unsurpassable dependence on the ol’ big Blue Marble, the game creates a deeper and more rewarding chain of supply -- it’s exciting to call in a transport rocket from Earth and patiently wait for it to land, before refuelling it and sending it back on it’s way. In a way, it feels more like a special ability than resource gathering.
The team is also going through great lengths to separate its sci-fi colony sandbox from more traditional city-builders. Aside from letting you fully customise your colonies’ focus to be anything from a science camp or industrial mine to a space Rapture utopia, each colonist is uniquely simulated, complete with vices and preferences. People are not just numbers on Surviving Mars, creating an interesting dynamic between their moods and preferences and the cold logic of space survival.
That space survival looks really good, thanks to Surviving Mars beautiful retro-futuristic aesthetic. Not everything is science, though -- Mars holds many secrets, and each playthrough may bring riches or ruins. It feels like some of Paradox’s Stellaris storylines rubbed off on the developers.
Overall, I left that booth extremely pleased with Surviving Mars. Colony games come and go by the dozen, but very few titles have the pedigree that Surviving Mars demonstrates. Paradox’s credentials also give me a lot of faith, and the end result is one very excited journalist.
Surviving Mars will be released on March 15, 2018 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.