Planetbase Review: Sims Meets Andy Weir’s Mars
With public interest in other-world colonization at an all-time high thanks in part to books and movies such as The Martian by Andy Weir, a survival real-time strategy game like Planetbase is well positioned for success in the PC gaming market.
In Planetbase, you control a new off-world colony being established on one of three planet types, each with a higher degree of difficulty. The first planet type you tackle is very similar to Mars.
Your challenge is to direct a team of workers, engineers, biologists, security, and medics to create a colony using supplies that arrived with them before oxygen deprivation, starvation, thirst, or natural dangers of the world take them out.
The first thing you need to do upon starting Planetbase is set up a base consisting of an oxygen generator, entryway, solar and/or wind power, water generator, dining hall, and sleeping quarters for your team. All this has to happen before your team runs out of oxygen, starves, or dies of thirst.
As your base expands, you can take on new colonists and trade with trade ships that dock as they pass through the area. You have to scale up your base and support it, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
You can grow plants in a greenhouse, create synthetic protein in a lab, and trade for food from traders. If you run out of food, your colonists will quickly starve and eventually die.
Power is a constant problem for a growing base. You have to generate enough power through solar and wind generators to keep the lights on, and store enough power to last you through periods of still winds and night-time darkness.
Your colonists regularly suffer injuries during their work which requires medical treatment in the sick bay. This means having medics and supplies to treat them on-hand. Injury will keep a colonist from doing their job at efficiency, and untreated injury can result in death.
Engineers are constantly repairing things. Meteors, sandstorms, and solar storms will pummel your base and destroy your equipment. It’s your job to make sure your engineers have spare parts and clear access to the areas of your base that need repair.
Intruders can ruin your day. They sneak into your base and start blasting away any and all of your colonists until they either defend themselves or a security guard shows up and guns the intruder down.
Water and oxygen are also a very limited resource, and you have to generate enough of both to keep your base self-sustaining. Too little oxygen will suffocate your colonists. Too little water not only creates thirst, but can shut down your oxygen generators, greenhouses, and other resources that depend on water to work.
Planetbase plays like pretty much any other real-time strategy (RTS) game. Except in Planetbase, you’re not competing with another player. You’re competing with the harsh environment of the planet for survival.
There is a single contextual menu that you interact with in the upper-left corner of the screen enabling you to control, build, and access reports for almost every aspect of your base.
I found the user interface intuitive and easy to learn, but having the option to command each colonist and assign them to specific jobs would be a huge plus. You find yourself waiting for a colonist to “get around” to doing something you’ve set up.
Often, jobs like bringing trade goods inside and putting them in storage is completely overlooked by your colonists and the supplies end up spoiling in the open environment. Meanwhile, colonists are laughing and drinking in the bar and you have no way to force them to get to work.
Audio and Video
The soundtrack of Planetbase is very well adapted to the environment. It’s a bit repetitive after a while, but it’s quiet and subtle enough not to be overly annoying.
Graphics are fair. You don’t get to zoom in quite enough to see details of your colonists, but for the most part the graphics are borderline cartoony. In this aspect, Planetbase looks like a washed down version of the Sims.
The planet surface itself is gorgeous, but environmental factors such as sandstorms look like flat sprites that sweep across the landscape.
At $20, Planetbase is a very reasonably priced indie game. It poses a great challenge to even the most seasoned strategy game players, and has enough versatility to offer many hours of entertainment.
Planetbase has no campaign or storyline, so it’s definitely not for players that enjoy storytelling with their gaming experience. It’s more geared towards the science lovers that love challenging and often unforgiving gameplay.