I remember when I first played Surviving Mars soon after its debuted back in March of this year. I’ve never been big on city building games, but gave it a shot since it looked like it could offer a unique spin on the genre. After all, Frostpunk and They are Billions have signaled the arrival of hardcore colony survival games, which have become all the rage as of late.
Surviving Mars has an unusual set-up. Humans aren’t going to be stepping onto some red rock floating out in space, especially one that is a too close to the sun. Therefore, you have to send a robotic expeditionary force to Mars first. After you choose your landing site—which is based on favorable vs. unfavorable elements within each tile of the map—you plop your first space shuttle down.
You have your explorer drones cruise around, looking for valuable deposits and uncovering points of interest, while your worker drones begin the hard work of building up your colony’s basic infrastructure. You’ve got to set up water extraction machinery, MOXIE oxygen generators, power generation systems (such as generators, solar panels, and wind turbines), concrete plants, and the gigantic habitation domes themselves. Of course, you must also build a sprawling power grid network in order to provide energy to all of these burgeoning facilities.
Once you get everything set-up to where you believe life is sustainable within your little colony, you send for your first dozen colonists, which are known as Founders. After landing, you Founders automatically jog into your domes and began working their various jobs. Well, they were always supposed to when the game first came out.
Due to some type of coding errors, colonists in Surviving Mars would often run off to do jobs which weren’t suited to them. So for instance, you’d have a botanist working his day job as a bartender, while one of your school teachers was working at the steel plant. This error really turned many gamers off, who swore to not play the game until this glaring issue was fixed.
Luckily, not only has Haemimont Games addressed that problem with free updates, but they’ve also added a bunch of other interesting content. Colonists will now prioritize working the jobs that are best suited for them. Not only that, but now you can actually connect your habitation domes via connection tubes, which knocked out yet another big issue people complained about.
I recently jumped back into Surviving Mars in order to see if the changes warranted another go at it. After my initial set-up period, I ordered my Founders to the colony and watched as they ran to their various job sites. And you know what? They actually went to the right jobs. I also realized that the devs have done some optimization passes on the game because it’s much more fluid now.
Surviving Mars now feels much more organic. The ability to connect your domes is something I feel should have been in the original release. Nevertheless, it’s great to see that they’ve added that feature in, and it’s so fun to just sit back and watch your little colonists walking from dome to dome as they commute to work, or just want to indulge in some lazy leisure time at a park or amusement site that you’ve set up for them.
But you can’t sit back too much, or Surviving Mars will punish you.
Later on in the game, I almost forgot that I needed to create a fuel generator for rocket fuel, from the water and oxygen reserves I had on hand. If you don’t you’ll quickly find yourself stranded on the Red Planet with no ability to transport supplies from Earth. Shuttling supplies back and forth also makes it easier to ship in specialized polymers and electronics that enable you to build the more advanced pieces of equipment in the game.
Unfortunately, at some point in the mid-game I grew a little lackadaisical and forgot to build a defensive laser turret. Suddenly, a meteor storm showered a few space boulders down towards my bustling colony. One the meteors smashed into an important power depot and another careened right through my primary habitat dome. In no time, colonists were suffocating right and left, and since my power was compromised I couldn’t react in an efficient manner. In other words, it was game over.
Instead of being angry or anything, I was slightly amused…at myself. I’d forgotten how unforgiving Surviving Mars could be. In order to be successful at this game, you not only have to carefully plan your entire set-up, but keep a firm management hand on each and every aspect of your colony. Planning is everything, and if you don’t strategize your next couple of moves correctly, very bad things can, and usually will, happen.
Surviving Mars features great graphics that make its colony survival gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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