The civil strategy seeks new horizons, and Haemimont Games makes the leap from the paradises of Tropico to the faraway Mars. Were you expecting our analysis of Surviving Mars? Here’s what we think about one of the most interesting video games to immerse yourself in today.
Surviving Mars is a video game that has many elements that make it interesting. On the one hand, because mixing survival and exploring the unknown and doing so from the always attractive and still atypical prism of civil strategy is very suggestive for the amateur. In the past, I would have qualified that for the PC player exclusively, but Haemimont Games and Paradox want to show that there is also room for it on consoles and have been launching their latest joint products on the computer, yes, but also on PlayStation and Xbox. In fact, even in the last few days, they have allowed themselves to flirt with Nintendo, ensuring that Surviving Mars is technically possible on Nintendo Switch.
Why is this important?
Because the new title of the creators of the Tropico saga is a pleasant but also very punitive one. An experience that has its anguishing moments and its limit situations, of course, but which are necessary to give rhythm to a video game that is otherwise as slow, brainy and thoughtful as I imagined… In fact, I would like to think that as much as I as any fan of the real-time strategy proposals in this profile expected.
From a distance, Surviving Mars seemed to me to be a very attractive proposition because I am fascinated by science fiction and also by the stories of space colonization and because, in general, I am grateful for the”warrior’s rest” provided by this type of proposal in the midst of so much overdose of action on the market today. Are you looking for a break too? Exploring Mars and expanding the horizons of humanity can be a good focus to devote a lot of hours to, but be careful.... It’s not an easy task.
Mission to Mars
Leading the first steps of Martian civilization should not be easy, and Haemimont Games has tried to reflect this in his new work. The appearance of Surviving Mars is calm, like its rhythm, but if we are not ordered we will end up suffering the consequences and our first humans will go through hell on the Red Planet. Of course, before thinking about taking people this far, the ground must be”paved” for this, and one of the best things is precisely that of planning colonization and creating infrastructures. If you’ve played any title in this studio you know, more or less what to expect.
The launch has an intricate internal mechanism of dependence between resources that forces us to take into account many elements before we can achieve the desired balance. Once there is a good balance between what we want to achieve and what we have available in terms of raw materials and life support, the programme inevitably pushes us towards expansion. He wants us to grow, he wants the colony to enlarge and he wants us to become eager builders of unexplored land and new minerals, polymers, metals and fuels to be found for its exploitation.
In fact, Surviving Mars has one thing in common with this type of game, and that is that everything is so seemingly placid and peaceful that it’s easy to inadvertently screw it up and not notice it until it’s too late. Don’t expect your first foray into Martian colonization to go well, use it rather learn everything that can be done wrong in terms of infrastructure management and distribution. There are many places to stumble and the Haemimont Games title doesn’t forgive mistakes if they are serious… Just missing!
What happens when the first human settlers arrive?
The playable experience of Surviving Mars changes a bit, and the game mixes everything it had to offer with elements that are more reminiscent of the Tropico’s own deliveries or a title from the SimCity saga. We have to be careful that nothing is missing from our inhabitants, neither in terms of the supply of basic materials such as food, water, and oxygen nor in terms of the buildings that we can build inside the gigantic vaults that allow our people to move freely without the annoying scuba diving helmet. It will take about two or three hours to get everything ready to arrive and set up if you’re doing things right and, as I showed you in the Surviving Mars Gameplay Commentary, they open up a whole world of possibilities.
What I like most about this Martian colonization is, in fact, how well Haemimont Games manages to mix the elements of micro-management with those of micro-management. As soon as we have to be on the lookout for mastodontic expenses so that a space rocket can bring us the elements we need and that are valued in millions of dollars, like having to worry also that one of the new little people who has come to populate the new world is a hypochondriac, to give just one example. I’m not going to fool you, not everything that has to do with controlling the lives, tasks, and happiness of the settlers is well done, and sometimes it can be really uncomfortable because it’s hard to see what’s happening to them or what makes them unhappy, but above that is the feeling that I love to dominate layers so different from colonization.
For things like that, and for the need to be aware of so many different things, of the big and the small, of the divine and the human, there are moments in the that the player can invade a certain feeling of being absolutely overwhelmed. It has happened to me three or four times during my games, there is no blush to recognize it, and there are so many things to be aware of and all of them are so different that sometimes it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. Do you want a council? The trick, of course, is not to let yourself be overwhelmed. Do not be afraid to abuse the pause button, going slowly is always much more advisable here than getting ahead.
Dismounting a Planet
Okay, so far you’ll have an important perception that Surviving Mars is a tough game. It is, I’d love to talk you out of it, but I couldn’t do it without lying to you. Although exploring space and colonizing a distant planet has to be. However, the game allows us some tools to make our lives easier. For example, at the beginning of the game, we can choose between a series of characteristics that will define a little where the shots will go. There are four lines: Who will be the sponsor of our mission, the profile of our commander, the logo (merely cosmetic) and the mystery. The first two define the difficulty since they offer us money and research resources in the first case and specific advantages in the second. The mystery? I hate that, but I recommend you put it at random.
These are nine scenarios that the video game proposes to us to give background to our adventure. I won’t tell you what it’s about, but I will tell you that they live up to their”mysterious” status and present fascinating things to discover. Why do I encourage you to use the option of not choosing it yourself? Because you won’t know what’s in store for you in Surviving Mars (although its definitions are extremely vague), and artificial intelligence will always take precedence over making you play in a kind of context you haven’t tried yet.
In the end, all this contributes to the sense of exploration and the dangerous. Of course, there are things as terrible as the wildest catastrophes we can imagine from the Martian surface, but there are also moments as poetic as when we begin to see the first ones born on the planet, or as prosaic as when those”qualified engineers” we ask for on the last rocket start to make the heavy wheels of colonization spin. There is room for magic in Surviving Mars, but also for the most pragmatic.
The wonderful thing is that there is often room for maneuvering in the face of a slight or moderate screw-up, something that is not so common in other video games of this profile. Imagine that everything is going great, but your supplies to produce concrete are pouring (everything is finite on Mars) and that to access another extraction point you need a brutal investment. That in other titles of the genre could put you in a dead end that you can’t get out of and that would condemn your departure. At Surviving Mars you always have the safety net to ask for them from the ground and, with a million-dollar investment and a long waiting period, have a rocket loaded with supplies that can make your life a little easier. Haemimont Games concession? Call it what you will, but it’s a joker that has saved me a couple of times from throwing the computer out the window… And it’s also saved my little settlers from dying of dehydration a couple of times. Believe me, you can get to see it and it’s a lot less fun than it sounds.
Ochre Powder – Graphics and Sound –
This video game profile is always difficult to evaluate visually. After all, they tend to be more interested in displaying as much information as possible, especially in one that shows the amount of data it offers, than in being spectacular. Surviving Mars takes the path of sympathy in the visual execution of the different models. Drones, vehicles or even human beings have a casual look that helps the title to lighten the visual load and helps us to have a clear view of things. It’s not a spectacular aesthetic look, but I like it.
What I do have some more doubts about are some elements related to the interface. It seems to me that it takes longer than it should take to become familiar with everything the program has to offer, and that’s because the way you put it is not always as clear as it should be. There are some functions in it that I like very much, such as anchoring certain units or activities, for example, to the bottom to keep them well controlled. However, having invested countless hours in other proposals of this kind, I remember many games that are more skillful at staging even more information in a clear, orderly and, above all, useful way. A lesser evil that we can fight by spending many hours in Surviving Mars until we get used to the edges of the menus, but a nuance that we have to throw in the face of a game that should have that area much more mastered.
If we have to talk about uncomfortable elements we can make it clear that console versions can be arid when it comes to mastering their handling. The various studies continue to make real efforts in this area to adapt their controls to the pad, and Surviving Mars has some achievements in this area, but still lacks that final push. If there is already a slight time barrier to understanding the entire menu and computer interface operation, the PS4 and Xbox One versions go a step further in that direction. To this slight feeling of helplessness in the first few minutes without knowing what to do or how to achieve it, and the possibility of being overwhelmed that some fans will experience must be added as if that were not enough, the barriers of the comfort of command. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to enjoy the game on the console, of course, I’m not even arguing that it’s especially difficult… I’m just saying, and to be completely honest if you can choose the PC version. That life is complicated enough as it is.
More stuff? In order to finish this analysis of Surviving Mars, I would like to do it with the conclusions regarding sound. It is always difficult for a launch of this kind and in which it is necessary to invest so many hours not to end up offering music that hammer our senses with unbearable repetition. Obviously, Surviving Mars doesn’t have an infinite list of scores, not even a gigantic one, but it has a good selection of instrumental tracks that are harmless and seductive enough not to bother us and keep us company during the long nights we spend playing Haemimont Games’ new games. The sound effects are good, the few voices are good too (although in English), and the game enjoys Spanish texts in the PC edition but is completely in the original version on consoles… Something a little disconcerting that we trust will be solved quickly.
Surviving Mars offers exactly what it promised. An experience that is more like a long learning process where we will suffer some displeasure due to our lack of foresight but, in general, it is a pleasant and pleasant experience. There is work to be done in the game of Haemimont Games, for many hours, and sometimes neither the catastrophes nor some inconveniences of the interface will help us, but nobody said that it would be simple, right?
- It is easy to “get lost” for hours and hours in your proposal.
- It is an imaginative game and, without reinventing the wheel, it has a very curious background.
- There is an important feeling of satisfaction when things go well.
- The real feeling of being civilizing the unknown.
- The interfaces complicate some tasks more than they should.
- The micromanagement of the colonists themselves can be a bit irritating.
- Are you going to play it on the console? It is not the most comfortable thing in the world.