Review: Surviving Mars (PS4)

Review: Surviving Mars (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Surviving Mars
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (5.75 GB)
Release Date: March 15, 2018
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Haemimont Games
Original MSRP: $39.99 (US), £34.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 570 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
The latest in a long line of city/colony building sims, Surviving Mars has a twist ripped directly from the headlines: Build and maintain the first human colony on Mars. It’s easier said than done.

If this game has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to be on the first colony ship to Mars, or the second, or maybe even the third. My first few tries ended in disaster with people suffocating, equipment breaking down, and very little in the way of resources.

You’ll need to choose your initial landing site very carefully or you’ll end up digging a lot of virtual graves like I did. But let’s step back a bit. Before any of your colonists set foot on Mars you’ll need to build up a solid infrastructure to sustain them.

During this proverbial calm before the storm, your biggest concern is the budget. Like many sims of this nature, it can be difficult getting a grasp on how best to lay out your colony and you’ll probably end up with a number of false starts.

While this game feels a little deeper than last year’s sci-fi city sim Aven Colony, it may be more due to the fact that the menu system isn’t nearly as refined as that was. I had a really hard time navigating the interface and just making sense of the layout.

This was clearly built for PC first and the menu text is so small that I didn’t even notice the help and guidance I was being given right there on the screen until I made a conscious effort to look for it.

Text sizing issues aside, there really isn’t a whole lot of assistance given when getting your colony up and running which really made the whole experience feel unnecessarily complicated. Simply understanding how the drones work, a critical component of resource gathering and building, can be an exercise in frustration and the overall learning curve here can be brutal.

Getting your infrastructure going is critical to get your biodomes built and eventually getting humans to Mars. To do this, you really need to take into account all the positives and negatives of the stuff you’re building since there’s always a trade-off.

Even as you build up the various components of your colony, you’ll need to keep an eye out for points of failure. The dust on Mars is quite corrosive apparently and you’ll feel like you’re constantly under siege.

It’s not all doom and gloom though as there’s usually a way out of whatever your current predicament is. The trick is learning which resources are needed and how to maintain a delicate balancing act in allocating them without the rest of your colony falling apart.

There’s also a Research Tree that isn’t really a tree. You certainly have a number of different branches to research but you can pretty much pick and choose things at random without the standard upgrade path.

It can certainly be rewarding but getting there is no easy task. There are a good number of difficulty options available based on which company you choose to fund your expedition. Some will give you more resources to start off but I wouldn’t really consider any of the options “easy”.

Visuals:
You can pull back to an overview of a large section of Mars or zoom right down to ground level for some close ups of your colony and structures. This all goes off without a hitch and I really love the look of the different technologies involved.

When you first build things they’re shiny and new but over time the unrelenting Martian atmosphere will coat everything with a fine dust, helping to maintain the illusion.

The only downside here is really with the text sizing and interface issues.

Audio:
A pleasant AI voice pops up every now and then though her calm demeanor is often in contrast to your dire situation. The background music has a suitably new age-y sci-fi slant to it setting the tone for the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
With some interface issues and a steep learning curve, Surviving Mars isn’t for everyone. But then again, it’s all right up front there in the name, isn’t it?

With most city-type sims, a few fits and starts are expected as you wrap your head around the systems and design needs. It’s harder than most here and a little more information in the early going would go a long way to making this a much more accessible experience.

As it stands, it’s a difficult, though worthwhile endeavor for people comfortable with digging into the minutiae of day to day city management.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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