by Maximus Smith
During the 25th age of discovery, you are one of many Astroneers tasked with exploring the vast reaches of space, and enhancing the reaches of your technological potential all while surviving in a beautiful, yet unforgiving environment. Astroneer wholly encompasses this enticing, and promising experience while giving the player much freedom to satisfy their nagging thirst for creation.
When the player first boots up Astroneer they are given the option to learn many useful concepts via a tutorial. The tutorial is thankfully immersive due to its dynamic introduction to the games core mechanics. Many of the games core mechanics, such as its unique approach to construction compliments the aesthetic very well, as they put the games complexity into a manageable context. In addition, the aesthetic and unique user interface allow the player to grasp each abstraction in the game while furthering the games immersive value. While the game is in early access at the time of this review, much of the game’s core mechanics remain true, creating a solid base for analysis, such as the general focus on producing new technology, and the demands posed by growth and movement; such as oxygen, and power.
The survival aspect of Astroneer is given a degree of concern akin to many other survival games, but doesn’t prove to be a chore, as the player is given a way to subvert the limitations of their small, but mighty astroneers through researching new technologies.
At the moment Astroneer lacks the ability to support a large quantity of people on a single server, and the player is limited to playing with friends In its current rendition however, we ought not assume this to be the peak of its multiplayer functionality for good. Through the games development, methods of conducting research have slightly altered for the better, however, the player is still tasked with collecting adequately rare resources including “unknown objects” scattered about the surface of planets.
In the current build of the game, being alpha 8.0.0, research the player collects is converted into “bits” via a research chamber, or by interacting with objects in the environment, which is then used to unlock items via a small display in the players backpack. There are a satisfying number of unlockables which provide a sense of progression throughout the game, however, the game becomes relatively stagnant some time after everything is unlocked, as the player is still given much to pursue, such as admiring the games aesthetics, and colonizing planets which is still quite entertaining in its own right, but doesn’t have the same value as being given the opportunity to dive into other previously unattainable aspects of the game.
This is however a far off, and usually unattained status as there is much to do in Astroneer, which will serve to preoccupy the player as their research chambers humm along in a near constant state of activity. The aspect of the game pertaining to research has in recent renditions of the game lost its previous association with grinding to a significant degree, as the player is given the ability to research almost anything in the environment, at the cost of efficiency in “bits per minute,” or bpm.
Due to a lack of oxygen present on all celestial bodies in Astroneer the player is incentivized to be constantly connected to a base or vehicle however, the player is given a limited supply of oxygen and the ability to craft tethers to explore their environment. These limited tools are however rendered obsolete mid- game as a result of unlockables – Astroneer possesses a notable deviation from other experiences of a similar regard is its take on base construction, which is heavily modulated to the benefit of the player, as this greatly simplifies an otherwise complex aspect of the game.
This degree of modulation is present in many aspects of the game, from customizing rovers, to modifying shuttles, “did i mention there were rovers and shuttles?” Due to the massive size of the environment, the player is quickly drawn to devote time towards unlocking highly customizable array of rovers and shuttles to greatly enhance the potential of their exploratory efforts. These vehicles adopt all of the core mechanics of the players structures, all while being unique, and versatile in their own right.
The vehicles in Astroneer serve as a secondary oxygen source, and a means of traversing the solar system, and the planets the player colonizes. The first vehicle the player unlocks is most likely to be one of the three Rover variants, which increase in volume, carrying capacity, and power consumption with their expense. The second vehicle type is the shuttles, of which there are two, each adopting the same trends as the rovers regarding their cost, and allow the player to reach distant worlds at the cost of hydrazine, the in game form of kerosene or hydrogen.
Each distant world the player visits has much in the way of diversity, as each one contains resources which possess a unique degree of rarity for example, a rare resource on the players starter planet may be rendered common on a moon, or remote planet. In addition, the player will notice a vast deviance in cave structures, crash sites, environmental objects, and plant life between planets in favor of a unique, and diverse set of places to explore. With their multilevel cavernous structures, every planet has more to explore than meets the eye, which presents a new set of challenges, and dangers for the player to overcome.
From mountainous tundras, to massive craters the player will certainly receive their fair share of incredible screenshots, and environmental hazards. Aside from the static plant and animal life encountered throughout the solar system which does its best to murder the player at each step of their journey, the player is also tasked with enduring the destructive force of massive storms washing over the surface of most planets.
Of the many tools given to each player, one of extreme importance is the terrain tool, which allows the player to mine and terraform the planet they inhabit to a limitless degree. Being one of the most important tools available to the player, the terrain tool is highly customizable with items such as terrain analyzers, and modifications to its geometrical manipulation capability providing the player more freedom to customize their surroundings. Throughout the players adventures within caves, their terrain tool will see unmatched use, being used to create ramps and tunnels for both the player and their vehicles.
With the prospect of high energy consumption due to the fabrication of structures, and research the player is heavily incentivised to provide a means of constantly generating power. In Astroneer the player is given many ways to go about producing energy, such as renewables, and coal power plants. In order for the player to take full advantage of their energy production, they must take into account patterns in their environment, such as the rarity of coal, organics, sunlight and wind strength, all of which factor into the players ability maintain a supply of energy.
All in all and in its Alpha 8.0.0 state, Astroneer is an addictive, and intriguing experience, which gives the player the opportunity to expand their influence, and explore entire planets with much immersion. The construction aspect of this game is simple and intuitive in a manner which allows new players to quickly adapt to and learn the mechanics and niches of the game, such as its focus on exploration, and the prospect of facing the moderately challenging hazards in a manner which allows the player to posed by the environment. Astroneer is well suited primarily for casual gamers who want to be sucked into a simplistic, and aesthetically pleasing solar system of adventure, and growth.