Despite the ever increasing library of ID@Xbox titles that are making their way to Xbox one, there is still one genre that is somewhat underrepresented. Planetbase is set to change that, with the strategy simulation game giving players the chance to set up their very own space colony.
The game originally released on PC back in 2015. Being ported from PC can sometimes mean that this type game suffers from a variety of problems, ranging from a cluttered presentation to overcomplicated controls that simply don’t work on a controller. So the important aspect of this review will be to see if and how the developer Madruga Works have managed to side step these issues.
As mentioned above, Planetbase is essentially about putting you in control of establishing a brand new human colony on an alien planet. To this end, you have to manage almost every aspect of life on the surface. This ranges from constructing new facilities, managing resources, and ensuring that your population has enough of each type of worker to keep everything running efficiently. With no stated objective, the task is seemingly to create the best base that you can manage without killing everyone.
This is a much more difficult that it might sound. Unlike many other simulation games, Planetbase is not so easy to pick up and play. Much of what you need to learn will come from trial and error rather than the tutorial and it is very likely that you will see entire base populations wiped out in a few moments.
This unforgiving nature is largely down to the fact that getting the delicate balance between the different resources correct is a tricky job. In order for the citizens to survive you will need to make sure that your buildings have enough oxygen, water, power, and food. This means constantly checking levels to see if you are using more than your output. The game also requires you to invest in producing metal and bio-plastic to build new areas and equipment.
Getting this even just a little bit wrong can be disastrous. Having too many people focus on one aspect in favor of others can lead to problems that are almost impossible to overcome. Even relatively minor tasks, such as producing a certain piece of equipment that has very few uses can cause a base to collapse swiftly, such as a lack of coils stopping engineers from maintaining electricity producing solar panels and wind turbines. Unfortunately, you’ll learn about most of these challenges as you come across then, making the entire game a continuing learning experience where you apply new knowledge to your next playthrough.
While this can be frustrating at times, as you might not completely understand exactly what your issues are, it does help to give the title plenty of replay value. After all, you will have to keep using this trial and error approach to advance forward. However, there are plenty of other elements to keep you entertained outside of resource management.
A successful colony also needs to keep everyone on board happy. Experimenting with different setups is the best way of discovering what works best for you, as you attempt to provide those living on your facility the best quality of life. Restaurants, entertainment facilities, bars, and even gyms are all essential ingredients that players have to consider. Getting this right will lead to citizens remaining happy. This not only aids production but makes the base much more attractive to potential traders and new colonists. Running such a thriving venture also attracts the attention of less reputable people. These criminal can pose a major risk as they attack and try to take over as they can kill guards and innocent workers.
Perhaps the most important thing about such strategy games is for there to be enough depth to interest players over extended periods of time. Planetbase manages this by including four different unique planets, each with their own distinct challenges and idiosyncrasies that you’ll have to take advantage of to survive. There is also a rather detailed milestone system that gives you objectives for you to aim for. New planets are only unlocked upon clearing certain milestones so that gives you plenty of reasons to check them out and try to beat them.
The game does have its problems, though. As previously mentioned, the tutorial doesn’t go very far into explaining much of the complexity of the game. Although this provides a certain degree of exploration and experimentation, it can be incredibly frustrating when you are trying to use systems that were never mentioned. There are also problems with placing buildings as the environment is an uneven place that limits where you can set up new structures. The biggest problem may well be that you cannot upgrade facilities but instead have to knock down buildings in order to create new, bigger examples.
Planetbase is a nice change to the strategy simulation genre that doesn’t rely on an old fantasy setting. Having to set up your base on a futuristic alien planet delivers new tests that are interesting enough to keep you occupied. A rather limited soundtrack and dated graphics that betray the fact that it is almost two years old hold it back slightly but game is something that most fans of this type of game should try out for themselves.
This review was based on a digital copy of the game that was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Planetbase is available now on Xbox One.