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Found 14 results

  1. Star Citizen has been in development for the past six years following a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign. The game has been envisioned and pitched as a spiritual successor to the Wing Commander series with modern sensibilities and a massively multiplayer galaxy. Though Star Citizen has received most of the media attention, the original Kickstarter was also for a single-player campaign set within the Star Citizen universe. That single player campaign was originally slated for release in 2014. However, one thing that neither Cloud Imperium Games nor the fans who backed Star Citizen could have planned on was the massive and ongoing crowdfunding that has gone on since the initial success of the Kickstarter. To date, the company has raised well over $150 million from players who have fallen in love with the dream of what Star Citizen could be. With all of that extra money, the scope of both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 has expanded. The new single-player game will have considerable star power, like Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, John Rhys-Davies, Mark Strong, Andy Serkis, and more high profile actors and actresses. The acting chops going into Squadron 42 is pretty astounding, even by blockbuster gaming standards. We get to see snippets of that throughout the trailer as Cloud Imperium also shows off their impressive game tech, interesting sci-fi universe, and proves that Squadron 42 still exists and will eventually release. So it is that four years after the projected release date of Squadron 42 we are just now seeing an extended trailer full of gameplay and story (but still no release date). Overall, the trailer is incredibly impressive and looks to be the next hard sci-fi experience on the horizon with a chip on its shoulder to tell a compelling narrative. Add on deep and engaging space combat, and you have a great recipe for something really special. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. Star Citizen has been in development for the past six years following a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign. The game has been envisioned and pitched as a spiritual successor to the Wing Commander series with modern sensibilities and a massively multiplayer galaxy. Though Star Citizen has received most of the media attention, the original Kickstarter was also for a single-player campaign set within the Star Citizen universe. That single player campaign was originally slated for release in 2014. However, one thing that neither Cloud Imperium Games nor the fans who backed Star Citizen could have planned on was the massive and ongoing crowdfunding that has gone on since the initial success of the Kickstarter. To date, the company has raised well over $150 million from players who have fallen in love with the dream of what Star Citizen could be. With all of that extra money, the scope of both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 has expanded. The new single-player game will have considerable star power, like Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, John Rhys-Davies, Mark Strong, Andy Serkis, and more high profile actors and actresses. The acting chops going into Squadron 42 is pretty astounding, even by blockbuster gaming standards. We get to see snippets of that throughout the trailer as Cloud Imperium also shows off their impressive game tech, interesting sci-fi universe, and proves that Squadron 42 still exists and will eventually release. So it is that four years after the projected release date of Squadron 42 we are just now seeing an extended trailer full of gameplay and story (but still no release date). Overall, the trailer is incredibly impressive and looks to be the next hard sci-fi experience on the horizon with a chip on its shoulder to tell a compelling narrative. Add on deep and engaging space combat, and you have a great recipe for something really special. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. Yasuhiro Wada, the designer behind the Harvest Moon franchise and Story of Seasons returns for a brand new title from TOYBOX Inc. Published by Aksys Games, Little Dragons Café has players managing the day to day affairs of a struggling café on the edge of civilization. Initially, players control one of two twin siblings, either a boy or a girl. Their working mom keeps them afloat by tending to their out of the way café, until one day she comes down with an illness that leaves her in a deep, unshakable sleep. Distraught, the children are visited by a quirky itinerant wizard. The strange old man presents the pair with a large egg and tells them that they must raise a dragon to adulthood to obtain the rare ingredient needed to wake their mother from her slumber. However, two kids can't really give a dragon the quality of life it needs to thrive without money! In order to support the business, the dragon, and themselves, the brother and sister have to take the reins of their little capitalist enterprise and turn it into a true tourist destination. To do that, they'll need all the help they can get between the abilities of their dragon, the wizard, a the motley crew of misfits who, for one reason or another, begin pitching in to make the café a success. While the other members of the team serve vital functions in the day-to-day running of the café, the dragon steals the show in terms of usefulness. Players can use the creature to discover new recipes in the wilds around their café as well as reach rare and delicious ingredients. Players will be responsible for raising their dragon. Feed it properly, nurture it with kindness and love, and it will grow larger. With each growth, the dragon gains new abilities, more stamina, and abilities - even flight. All of these a enable players to reach distant parts of the land to discover the rarest of ingredients and even long-lost legendary recipes that will bring more customers to the out-of-the-way little dragons café. With enough money, players can expand their cafe's facilities in a number of ways to better serve the ever increasing demands of the clientele. Every new recipe, if used correctly and made with the best ingredients, can help leave customers delighted and satisfied, helping to bring in more customers in the future. To get your hands on the freshest ingredients, players will have to grow produce themselves. Farm the land for fresh friends and veggies. Fish in the ocean to catch fish both common and rare. In these activities, it's really easy to spot the Harvest Moon influence. To get more clients, players have to ensure that not only their service is up to the task, but also that they show kindness and compassion for their neighbors. Little Dragons Café takes this quite literally by adding a popularity mechanic where if players help their neighbors, they (and by extension their cafe) becomes more popular. With enough money, effort, and time players will be able to unlock the secrets of their island home, cure their mother, and run the best gosh darn dragon café in all the lands! Little Dragons Cafe will release on August 24 for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  4. Yasuhiro Wada, the designer behind the Harvest Moon franchise and Story of Seasons returns for a brand new title from TOYBOX Inc. Published by Aksys Games, Little Dragons Café has players managing the day to day affairs of a struggling café on the edge of civilization. Initially, players control one of two twin siblings, either a boy or a girl. Their working mom keeps them afloat by tending to their out of the way café, until one day she comes down with an illness that leaves her in a deep, unshakable sleep. Distraught, the children are visited by a quirky itinerant wizard. The strange old man presents the pair with a large egg and tells them that they must raise a dragon to adulthood to obtain the rare ingredient needed to wake their mother from her slumber. However, two kids can't really give a dragon the quality of life it needs to thrive without money! In order to support the business, the dragon, and themselves, the brother and sister have to take the reins of their little capitalist enterprise and turn it into a true tourist destination. To do that, they'll need all the help they can get between the abilities of their dragon, the wizard, a the motley crew of misfits who, for one reason or another, begin pitching in to make the café a success. While the other members of the team serve vital functions in the day-to-day running of the café, the dragon steals the show in terms of usefulness. Players can use the creature to discover new recipes in the wilds around their café as well as reach rare and delicious ingredients. Players will be responsible for raising their dragon. Feed it properly, nurture it with kindness and love, and it will grow larger. With each growth, the dragon gains new abilities, more stamina, and abilities - even flight. All of these a enable players to reach distant parts of the land to discover the rarest of ingredients and even long-lost legendary recipes that will bring more customers to the out-of-the-way little dragons café. With enough money, players can expand their cafe's facilities in a number of ways to better serve the ever increasing demands of the clientele. Every new recipe, if used correctly and made with the best ingredients, can help leave customers delighted and satisfied, helping to bring in more customers in the future. To get your hands on the freshest ingredients, players will have to grow produce themselves. Farm the land for fresh friends and veggies. Fish in the ocean to catch fish both common and rare. In these activities, it's really easy to spot the Harvest Moon influence. To get more clients, players have to ensure that not only their service is up to the task, but also that they show kindness and compassion for their neighbors. Little Dragons Café takes this quite literally by adding a popularity mechanic where if players help their neighbors, they (and by extension their cafe) becomes more popular. With enough money, effort, and time players will be able to unlock the secrets of their island home, cure their mother, and run the best gosh darn dragon café in all the lands! Little Dragons Cafe will release on August 24 for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  5. Frostpunk gives players the task of guiding the growth and survival of New London, the last city on Earth. In order to survive in the face of an unending winter that has largely wiped out humanity across the globe, the final remnants of the human race have turned to using the power of steam. Starting from a collection of shelters in a somewhat sheltered valley, players guide New London to greatness and sustainability by managing the expansion of the city, deciding on the policies regarding food, water, and the most precious resource of all: heat. Players will be responsible for deciding how heat is distributed throughout their city, a power that can mean the difference between life and death. As the city grows, more conflicts and problems will arise from the general population. Players will have to establish laws and policies that govern the populace. Do you prioritize healthcare or building maintenance? Do you make sure everyone is fed even at the cost of increasing police presence? Another wrinkle on top of everything else, the population has to have hope. Everyone in New London is well aware of the precarious nature of their survival. The more desperate the situation becomes, the less hope people have and the more likely the city is to revolt or have various problems. As players progress, small decisions will add up and lead to decision points that will alter the entirety of society forever. How far is too far to maintain order and stability in a city that represents the last shot at the survival of the species? Once players advance to a certain technological level they can explore the surrounding world by sending out expeditions into the blinding frozen wastes. These are risky endeavors that could go down in flames and ice or discover a treasure trove of new citizens, technology, or resources. It can be hard to get society to that higher tech level, but the higher end of the tech tree brings automated drones and airships that can be a huge boon to New London. Frostpunk releases on April 24 for PC .
  6. Frostpunk gives players the task of guiding the growth and survival of New London, the last city on Earth. In order to survive in the face of an unending winter that has largely wiped out humanity across the globe, the final remnants of the human race have turned to using the power of steam. Starting from a collection of shelters in a somewhat sheltered valley, players guide New London to greatness and sustainability by managing the expansion of the city, deciding on the policies regarding food, water, and the most precious resource of all: heat. Players will be responsible for deciding how heat is distributed throughout their city, a power that can mean the difference between life and death. As the city grows, more conflicts and problems will arise from the general population. Players will have to establish laws and policies that govern the populace. Do you prioritize healthcare or building maintenance? Do you make sure everyone is fed even at the cost of increasing police presence? Another wrinkle on top of everything else, the population has to have hope. Everyone in New London is well aware of the precarious nature of their survival. The more desperate the situation becomes, the less hope people have and the more likely the city is to revolt or have various problems. As players progress, small decisions will add up and lead to decision points that will alter the entirety of society forever. How far is too far to maintain order and stability in a city that represents the last shot at the survival of the species? Once players advance to a certain technological level they can explore the surrounding world by sending out expeditions into the blinding frozen wastes. These are risky endeavors that could go down in flames and ice or discover a treasure trove of new citizens, technology, or resources. It can be hard to get society to that higher tech level, but the higher end of the tech tree brings automated drones and airships that can be a huge boon to New London. Frostpunk releases on April 24 for PC . View full article
  7. If you have been craving a comedy hospital management sim, Two Point Hospital might be the game for you. Two of the key developers who worked on the 1997 classic Theme Hospital, Mark Webley and Gary Carr, formed their own indie studio to create their ideal successor. Players design their own hospitals; placing rooms, hiring staff, and treating patients. The team at Two Point has talked about finding the silliest ways to visually communicate diseases or symptoms. The easiest way to grasp this approach is by watching their announcement trailer, which explores Light-Headedness, a condition which turns a patient's head into a lightbulb. The only cure for Light-Headedness is to use a specialized machine to remove the lightbulb head and replace it with a new human head. According to Webley and Carr, the ideas they're exploring in Two Point Hospital are ones that they have been stewing on for decades, even while they were working on Theme Hospital. The visual design seems reminiscent of the Wallace and Gromit claymation cartoons, a welcome update to the styling of their previous work. People who are interested in learning more about Two Point Hospital can sign up for Hospital Pass, which is a fictional healthcare system to keep fans up to date on development. Those who sign up will also get access to an exclusive in-game item. Two Point Hospital will release sometime in 2018 for PC. View full article
  8. If you have been craving a comedy hospital management sim, Two Point Hospital might be the game for you. Two of the key developers who worked on the 1997 classic Theme Hospital, Mark Webley and Gary Carr, formed their own indie studio to create their ideal successor. Players design their own hospitals; placing rooms, hiring staff, and treating patients. The team at Two Point has talked about finding the silliest ways to visually communicate diseases or symptoms. The easiest way to grasp this approach is by watching their announcement trailer, which explores Light-Headedness, a condition which turns a patient's head into a lightbulb. The only cure for Light-Headedness is to use a specialized machine to remove the lightbulb head and replace it with a new human head. According to Webley and Carr, the ideas they're exploring in Two Point Hospital are ones that they have been stewing on for decades, even while they were working on Theme Hospital. The visual design seems reminiscent of the Wallace and Gromit claymation cartoons, a welcome update to the styling of their previous work. People who are interested in learning more about Two Point Hospital can sign up for Hospital Pass, which is a fictional healthcare system to keep fans up to date on development. Those who sign up will also get access to an exclusive in-game item. Two Point Hospital will release sometime in 2018 for PC.
  9. Team17 and Mouldy Toof Studios are gearing up for the launch of The Escapists 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Players will be able to team up with another inmate in split screen local co-op, or grab two more friends to play co-op online. Race against your allies to be the first to escape or work together to overcome prison guards and barricades. Work your way through ever more complicated and dangerous prisons. Frozen tundra, speeding bullet trains, and even space stations make for imaginative prisons that offer the opportunity to flex your creativity to plan and execute your daring escape. Blend in with the crowd by following your daily routine, keeping your head down, and playing your role - all while secretly making your arrangements. The Escapists 2 will launch on January 11 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. It is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
  10. Team17 and Mouldy Toof Studios are gearing up for the launch of The Escapists 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Players will be able to team up with another inmate in split screen local co-op, or grab two more friends to play co-op online. Race against your allies to be the first to escape or work together to overcome prison guards and barricades. Work your way through ever more complicated and dangerous prisons. Frozen tundra, speeding bullet trains, and even space stations make for imaginative prisons that offer the opportunity to flex your creativity to plan and execute your daring escape. Blend in with the crowd by following your daily routine, keeping your head down, and playing your role - all while secretly making your arrangements. The Escapists 2 will launch on January 11 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. It is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. View full article
  11. Sega Europe is teaming up with a new studio headed by Gary Carr and Mark Webley, who you might recognize for their work on games like Black & White, Theme Park, and Fable. Sega's European branch will be working with the duo's Two Point Studios to create an entirely new IP that will modernize the soul of what made the franchises they worked on great. The game, currently unnamed, but in development, impressed Sega. John Clark, the senior VP of commercial publishing at Sega Europe, stated that, "We've been talking to Two Point Studios for a long time and are really impressed with their vision. We're delighted to announce our partnership and look forward to revealing more about the project early next year." Likewise, Sega dazzled the indie studio with Webley explaining that, "Sega Europe have really impressed us with their approach to working with creative teams, their reputation as a PC publisher and their commitment to quality - they are an ideal partner for us." While not much is currently known about the unannounced title, Carr and Webley's team at Two Point Studios consists mainly of ex-Bullfrog and ex-Lionhead developers. Gary Carr did drop a hint at what type of game might be in the works, saying, "We are really excited to be working with Sega and between us we feel confident that we can create something special, and realise our vision of crafting a beautiful, charming and challenging sim game." Challenging sim game, huh? That statement, along with the personnel involved, points us toward what the experienced team at Two Point might be making. Black & White: Theme Park, anyone? Become a god of life or death, lording over a digital theme par- wait, no, that's what people already do in theme park games. Whatever this unannounced game winds up becoming, we will have more details about it in early 2018.
  12. Sega Europe is teaming up with a new studio headed by Gary Carr and Mark Webley, who you might recognize for their work on games like Black & White, Theme Park, and Fable. Sega's European branch will be working with the duo's Two Point Studios to create an entirely new IP that will modernize the soul of what made the franchises they worked on great. The game, currently unnamed, but in development, impressed Sega. John Clark, the senior VP of commercial publishing at Sega Europe, stated that, "We've been talking to Two Point Studios for a long time and are really impressed with their vision. We're delighted to announce our partnership and look forward to revealing more about the project early next year." Likewise, Sega dazzled the indie studio with Webley explaining that, "Sega Europe have really impressed us with their approach to working with creative teams, their reputation as a PC publisher and their commitment to quality - they are an ideal partner for us." While not much is currently known about the unannounced title, Carr and Webley's team at Two Point Studios consists mainly of ex-Bullfrog and ex-Lionhead developers. Gary Carr did drop a hint at what type of game might be in the works, saying, "We are really excited to be working with Sega and between us we feel confident that we can create something special, and realise our vision of crafting a beautiful, charming and challenging sim game." Challenging sim game, huh? That statement, along with the personnel involved, points us toward what the experienced team at Two Point might be making. Black & White: Theme Park, anyone? Become a god of life or death, lording over a digital theme par- wait, no, that's what people already do in theme park games. Whatever this unannounced game winds up becoming, we will have more details about it in early 2018. View full article
  13. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: Planetbase

    A lone pod lands on a distant, inhospitable world under an unfamiliar star. A small group of colonists have come to tame a deadly new frontier. Planetbase tasks players with the construction of a facility that will allow these colonists to survive and eventually create a self-sustaining community. It’s a fairly topical release, coming days after NASA released a 36 page plan to put humans on Mars in the next couple decades as well as the recent critical and financial success of The Martian. Space colonization has become a part of the cultural zeitgeist and looks more and more like an impending reality. I don’t think it is a stretch to say we’re all interested in the inherent drama of inhabiting space, where one small mistake can spell doom for everyone involved. It represents perhaps the ultimate test of human will and ingenuity. A game that asks players to solve the problems of oxygen, food, shelter, and isolation (among other things) through brilliant base construction is a truly tantalizing prospect. Unfortunately, Planetbase stops just shy of realizing its full potential. The opening hours of base building are really quite great. Juggling the limited resources available at the outset with the immediate needs of shelter leads to some really moment-by-moment, do-or-die scenarios. Planetbase shines in those opening hours, capturing that elusive just-one-more-turn vibe that the best simulation games offer. As soon as the basic necessities are taken care of players need to begin working toward sustainability by building mines, processing plants, bio-domes, labs, and more. Simultaneously, players must expand the power grid and its support systems to be able to accommodate those structures. It is a tricky balance to maintain; if you don’t put enough resources toward the power and water grids, you could find your facility completely powered down and running out of oxygen. As you expand your facilities and become self-sustaining, you’ll be able to build a landing pad which allows for trade and population growth. Trading is the only way to obtain powerful new technologies through blueprints. New blueprints could mean being able to construct a massive solar array or gigantic wind turbine or it could be the ability to construct new robots to more efficiently perform menial tasks around the base. As all of this is going on, remember that you are usually only one poorly timed solar flare or meteor strike away from complete disaster. Random events could happen at any time around the base and result in some tense challenges. The problems with Planetbase seem relatively minor at first, but slowly magnify as the base grows and more colonists enter the mix. On the game’s Steam page, developer Madruga Works claims Planetbase has been beta tested, but there are so many little things that should have been caught and fixed prior to release. Trading is slow and grinds the game to a halt while you click several hundred times to finish your late game transactions. For some reason, colonists can’t sleep in beds when a room is not powered. Access to vitally important UI options, like bringing systems to a minimal power state or putting the base on high alert for a solar flare, feels inconveniently put behind two or three clicks, when it could be readily available. Let’s really dive into the minor annoyances with trading. When a trade ship arrives, players can exchange excess resources for different items their base might need or for new technologies. One of the things that can be traded is a currency simply referred to as coins. You can earn coins by allowing visitors into your base for some space tourism and then use those coins to even out trading transactions. However, heaven help you if you earn a lot of coins and want to use those to pay for the entirety of a transaction. You can only offer one coin every time you click and coins are only worth one in space currency. That means if something costs 600 units of space currency, you will have to click 600 times to pay for it entirely in coins. That’s just irritating and could be fixed with some simple UI tweaking to allow for typing how many units of each thing you wish to trade. However, that’s just a small, easily fixed issue. A much more pressing and complicated problem is that of the colonists’ AI. Early on, it functions adequately. However, once Planetbase enters its mid-game the AI becomes frustrating in the extreme. There are several different types of colonists: Engineers, medics, biologists, workers, and guards. While workers can mine and process raw materials, engineers are the only type of colonist that can use those materials to create more complex objects like guns or spare parts to fix power systems. As the game progresses being able to fix your solar panels and wind turbines becomes incredibly important. Without power, everyone dies very quickly. However, sometimes the AI just decides to take a break for a while. I watched in horror as one by one my power generators deteriorated and shut down while my engineers stood around the room where they could be making spare parts. They had the material in the machines, the room was the number one priority in the base, and the simply stood by as all non-essential rooms were powered down and then even oxygen systems were taken offline to maintain power in that one room. As everyone began asphyxiating, one engineer finally started making the much needed spare part until even that room powered down, leaving him to die cold and alone. That anecdote repeated itself several times with slight variations throughout my time with Planetbase, but there are also several other strange problems. As my base grew larger and larger, some colonists would choose to don space suits and make their way around an entire mountain and across a plain to reach a different part of my base rather than walk inside the base to their destination. I’d see robots broken in the middle of nowhere or get notified that a colonist had suffocated only to see them fallen prone, alone in the middle of a hostile wasteland. Watching AI make decisions this bad is like watching the dignity of the human race curl up into a fetal position and cry. An even larger problem was the priorities the AI seemed to have. Even if you have a room prioritized, the most control you have over colonists, many will simply drop what they are doing to carry supplies to a trade ship if you have struck a deal or decided to construct several items in a room. This can throw off a precious balance and leads to starvation or power loss, destabilizing the entire colony for practically no reason at all. All of these issues make the colonists of Planetbase feel more like lemmings than capable space settlers. What should feel like triumphant achievement in the face of adversity feels more like wrestling with esoteric systems. At one point, I lost all of my biologists, but had plenty of workers and engineers. Unfortunately, biologists are the only type of colonist that can cultivate and maintain crops, so all of my settlers shortly died from starvation. As smart and as capable as an engineer or worker might be, they apparently couldn’t handle even poorly attempting to grow crops. All of this frustration compounds when you finally work around all of these issues to reach the late game and find relatively few interesting things to do. Only a handful of technologies exist for players to obtain from the randomized trading ships. Even the technologies that you can acquire aren’t all that interesting or exotic; most are just bigger versions of the things you could build before. Random events start to feel repetitive due to the small pool of circumstances that can occur. There are some minor goals, like getting a population of over 300, but no rewards or cool things that happen if you manage that feat other than a small box being checked. It feels like a lot of struggle for a disappointing payoff. Conclusion: Planetbase begins brimming with hope and good ideas. It captured my imagination and filled me with such enthusiasm that I spent hours grinding through irritation to see if different environments or events might reignite the promise of the early game. Unfortunately, they do not. Planetbase feels like a game that should be an early access title, working through kinks and refining both the AI and UI while adding more mid and end-game content. If Planetbase was a work in progress I could forgive its faults, but as a fully priced title on Steam for $19.99? Not so much. Planetbase is available now for PC. View full article
  14. Jack Gardner

    Review: Planetbase

    A lone pod lands on a distant, inhospitable world under an unfamiliar star. A small group of colonists have come to tame a deadly new frontier. Planetbase tasks players with the construction of a facility that will allow these colonists to survive and eventually create a self-sustaining community. It’s a fairly topical release, coming days after NASA released a 36 page plan to put humans on Mars in the next couple decades as well as the recent critical and financial success of The Martian. Space colonization has become a part of the cultural zeitgeist and looks more and more like an impending reality. I don’t think it is a stretch to say we’re all interested in the inherent drama of inhabiting space, where one small mistake can spell doom for everyone involved. It represents perhaps the ultimate test of human will and ingenuity. A game that asks players to solve the problems of oxygen, food, shelter, and isolation (among other things) through brilliant base construction is a truly tantalizing prospect. Unfortunately, Planetbase stops just shy of realizing its full potential. The opening hours of base building are really quite great. Juggling the limited resources available at the outset with the immediate needs of shelter leads to some really moment-by-moment, do-or-die scenarios. Planetbase shines in those opening hours, capturing that elusive just-one-more-turn vibe that the best simulation games offer. As soon as the basic necessities are taken care of players need to begin working toward sustainability by building mines, processing plants, bio-domes, labs, and more. Simultaneously, players must expand the power grid and its support systems to be able to accommodate those structures. It is a tricky balance to maintain; if you don’t put enough resources toward the power and water grids, you could find your facility completely powered down and running out of oxygen. As you expand your facilities and become self-sustaining, you’ll be able to build a landing pad which allows for trade and population growth. Trading is the only way to obtain powerful new technologies through blueprints. New blueprints could mean being able to construct a massive solar array or gigantic wind turbine or it could be the ability to construct new robots to more efficiently perform menial tasks around the base. As all of this is going on, remember that you are usually only one poorly timed solar flare or meteor strike away from complete disaster. Random events could happen at any time around the base and result in some tense challenges. The problems with Planetbase seem relatively minor at first, but slowly magnify as the base grows and more colonists enter the mix. On the game’s Steam page, developer Madruga Works claims Planetbase has been beta tested, but there are so many little things that should have been caught and fixed prior to release. Trading is slow and grinds the game to a halt while you click several hundred times to finish your late game transactions. For some reason, colonists can’t sleep in beds when a room is not powered. Access to vitally important UI options, like bringing systems to a minimal power state or putting the base on high alert for a solar flare, feels inconveniently put behind two or three clicks, when it could be readily available. Let’s really dive into the minor annoyances with trading. When a trade ship arrives, players can exchange excess resources for different items their base might need or for new technologies. One of the things that can be traded is a currency simply referred to as coins. You can earn coins by allowing visitors into your base for some space tourism and then use those coins to even out trading transactions. However, heaven help you if you earn a lot of coins and want to use those to pay for the entirety of a transaction. You can only offer one coin every time you click and coins are only worth one in space currency. That means if something costs 600 units of space currency, you will have to click 600 times to pay for it entirely in coins. That’s just irritating and could be fixed with some simple UI tweaking to allow for typing how many units of each thing you wish to trade. However, that’s just a small, easily fixed issue. A much more pressing and complicated problem is that of the colonists’ AI. Early on, it functions adequately. However, once Planetbase enters its mid-game the AI becomes frustrating in the extreme. There are several different types of colonists: Engineers, medics, biologists, workers, and guards. While workers can mine and process raw materials, engineers are the only type of colonist that can use those materials to create more complex objects like guns or spare parts to fix power systems. As the game progresses being able to fix your solar panels and wind turbines becomes incredibly important. Without power, everyone dies very quickly. However, sometimes the AI just decides to take a break for a while. I watched in horror as one by one my power generators deteriorated and shut down while my engineers stood around the room where they could be making spare parts. They had the material in the machines, the room was the number one priority in the base, and the simply stood by as all non-essential rooms were powered down and then even oxygen systems were taken offline to maintain power in that one room. As everyone began asphyxiating, one engineer finally started making the much needed spare part until even that room powered down, leaving him to die cold and alone. That anecdote repeated itself several times with slight variations throughout my time with Planetbase, but there are also several other strange problems. As my base grew larger and larger, some colonists would choose to don space suits and make their way around an entire mountain and across a plain to reach a different part of my base rather than walk inside the base to their destination. I’d see robots broken in the middle of nowhere or get notified that a colonist had suffocated only to see them fallen prone, alone in the middle of a hostile wasteland. Watching AI make decisions this bad is like watching the dignity of the human race curl up into a fetal position and cry. An even larger problem was the priorities the AI seemed to have. Even if you have a room prioritized, the most control you have over colonists, many will simply drop what they are doing to carry supplies to a trade ship if you have struck a deal or decided to construct several items in a room. This can throw off a precious balance and leads to starvation or power loss, destabilizing the entire colony for practically no reason at all. All of these issues make the colonists of Planetbase feel more like lemmings than capable space settlers. What should feel like triumphant achievement in the face of adversity feels more like wrestling with esoteric systems. At one point, I lost all of my biologists, but had plenty of workers and engineers. Unfortunately, biologists are the only type of colonist that can cultivate and maintain crops, so all of my settlers shortly died from starvation. As smart and as capable as an engineer or worker might be, they apparently couldn’t handle even poorly attempting to grow crops. All of this frustration compounds when you finally work around all of these issues to reach the late game and find relatively few interesting things to do. Only a handful of technologies exist for players to obtain from the randomized trading ships. Even the technologies that you can acquire aren’t all that interesting or exotic; most are just bigger versions of the things you could build before. Random events start to feel repetitive due to the small pool of circumstances that can occur. There are some minor goals, like getting a population of over 300, but no rewards or cool things that happen if you manage that feat other than a small box being checked. It feels like a lot of struggle for a disappointing payoff. Conclusion: Planetbase begins brimming with hope and good ideas. It captured my imagination and filled me with such enthusiasm that I spent hours grinding through irritation to see if different environments or events might reignite the promise of the early game. Unfortunately, they do not. Planetbase feels like a game that should be an early access title, working through kinks and refining both the AI and UI while adding more mid and end-game content. If Planetbase was a work in progress I could forgive its faults, but as a fully priced title on Steam for $19.99? Not so much. Planetbase is available now for PC.
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