It’s one that has been in and out of my wishlist a few times during EA I must admit, and then during the recent sales (What were they again? They seem to have sales for any old reason these days.), I picked up a copy.
First impressions weren’t brilliant and it felt like another pointless and rather shallow explore and craft-em up. In part because almost nothing about the game beyond a very brief and basic (and somewhat confusing) training section, is explained at all. To start with you’re thinking, why am I doing this, what is the point? Then you find these alien looking structures out on the surface which you can power up. That’s when the game starts to pick up, as now there is some sort of goal to aim for. I still ended up on the wiki to see what the alien structures (gateways), were all about and of course to figure out why certain items weren’t working and what I was doing wrong. For instance the terraformer can suck away the landscape by default but not raise or flatten, even though you could in the tutorial. It turns out you need a canister attached to your pack, to hold the sucked in soil to be able to then also raise and flatten. It’s little things like that which will have you scratching your head to start with and heading to the wiki or Google for an explanation.
Personally I think the thing about the gateways should have been a storied up front thing from the beginning, which would have given you some sort of goal and purpose right from the off, instead of a sort of vague fumbling about, thinking, what am I doing and more importantly, why? Perhaps they wanted folks to discover this stuff as they went along, but there’s absolutely no setup for any of it. You’re just shown landing on this planet and then left to it, whatever that is. It’s not really a creative sandbox like Minecraft, so some sort of push in the right direction to set you off on the journey is really needed.
With all that said, it’s one of the best exploration games I’ve played so far. It’s got the best feeling of actually being a lone explorer (you can play it co-op as well, which I haven’t tried yet), out braving a hostile environment, that I’ve come across in any of these types of games I’ve played so far.
As well as my explorations down in the caves shown here, I’ve had some right adventures up on the surface too. Getting lost, is very easy to do, so dropping beacons is a must. Up on the surface of course you can use a variety of buggies and rovers. I mean you could take them down below too, but the terrain below would make it almost impossible to get about. I suppose you could spend a while flattening down some roads down below and build an underground base. Anyway, at one stage, as I was going around activating the gates, I had a tractor pulling a train of trailers with my gate activating kit on (you can see it on the left of my base pic). Once I accidentally got pulled down into a deep fissure and another time a cave entrance which I drove too close too. I tried to dig my way out to start with but ended up having to re-package the vehicle and trailers to bring back up to the surface. To do that I had to go off and try to find a few resources nearby, after I’d uncoupled the tractor and got that back up. Not easy when you have a limited air supply and you don’t want to go too far lest you are unable to find your way back to your stranded supply train. I really felt like a proper little expeditionary, having to improvise my way out of a tricky situation in order to get back alive. When I finally picked the trail back up and made it back to base, it felt like I’d been out on a proper little expedition and it was quite a relief to make it back intact and with all my supplies. Having a reason and a purpose for it all though, definitely makes it all feel much more rewarding than just aimless wandering, which so many other games of these type do.