June 12, 2021

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Surviving Mars review – offworld, things are just itching to go awry

2 min read
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Survive Mars? It took me the best part of a day to decide where to land. And with good reason: there’s a lot of stuff to think about from the very off here in this wonderfully detailed planet colonisation sim. I’m not sure that on my most recent attempt at surviving Mars – spoiler: I didn’t – I was any quicker at finding a parking spot than I was on my initial outing.

Firstly, what to name the initial rocket? Tricky business! I tend not to rename things in games these days. Not quite so much, anyway. Soldiers? Too many of them, and they only die on you. Cities? Who is bolshy enough to think they deserve to decide what an entire city should be called? But a rocket? Christ, there is romance to a rocket. Romance and the suspicion that they will be in limited supply. I was going to call my first Surviving Mars rocket Feynman, but I couldn’t bring myself to type that in given the dim view he sometimes took of the whole space mission stuff. So I went with Hawking. He has been in all our minds this week, of course, and he has always struck me as the kind of man who would enjoy getting his name stuck on a rocket.

What to pack in the rocket? An eternity of fretting. (This is why I’ve never progressed very far with Dwarf Fortress, which Surviving Mars, at times, kind of reminds me of.) And then the landing zone. This stuff is crucial. Not only do you get to spin a beautiful globe of Mars to pick your spot, probably choosing, your first few times, between a few suggestions the game has made for you in advance, when you finally do pick that spot you then have to pick a smaller spot within it. You use up a few probes to reveal the terrain in any sectors that look promising – nice and flat for building stuff – and then you try to slot yourself in between resources. Concrete’s crucial in the early game. Metals would be nice. You can make oxygen pretty much anywhere and ditto electricity. What you’re really looking for, I think, is water. Your first landing brings no people with it, just drones, and with drones you try to get the essentials running – oxygen, electricity, water – and then you can build your first habitation dome, plug it into the grids and pipes and start thinking about making food and calling in some actual human crew.

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