ASTRONEER came out during the recently passed Steam sale over the Christmas holiday of 2016, (Yeah that one where we all spent too much money on) so you’re perfectly excused if you haven’t heard much or anything about it.
As it stands ASTRONEER is Pre-Alpha, so what we have right now is bare bones, but even the bare bones had me hooked for four hours straight; exploring and getting enough materials to create new and exciting things, but more on that down the review.
Even in this early build there is online co-op and I gotta say it’s a great laugh researching new stuff and exploring the several planets in-game alongside a space partner.
Gameplay-wise this game out shines all games in this genre of interplanetary exploration. Yeah, I’m looking at you No Mans Sky. While you have lots of planets to explore, you can’t do much with ’em and that’s where ASTRONEER changes things. This is a game where you can deform terrain, strip resources, or just collect what you need. Alien life forms aren’t in just yet but no doubt they will be in a later patch.
So what do you do with all these resources you may be asking me? Well that’s easy! you’re surviving and you’re building a base just like Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in the movie “The Martian” but unlike Mr Damon you need to worry about food (yet), and of course Matt didn’t have a deform tool which resembles a vacuum cleaner available. This tool is one which our nameless hero/es in ASTRONEER need to be able to pick up their resources and dig and add terrain onto the planets.
The buildings you can’t enter, you use them like research stations, vehicle bays, smelter and many others, and when you’re off out exploring, you’re going to be finding wrecks of spaceships and satellites, and it’s during these moments where you’ll find “unknown” items that you can use at your research stations to unlock new buildings and find new materials. You’ll also be going into caves to find harder to find resources to make more useful items to help you survive, so if you ever wanted a No Mans Sky type game then this really is for you.
The UI on the game is great as all you need to know at the moment is your “power” (to use your tool) and “oxygen” as you may well know, us humans actually need it to survive. Power is the most easiest to control as your backpack generates it automatically, but buildings and vehicles need them to work. Oxygen you get when you get close to your spaceship as it gives it you VIA a tethering system, a system that you can craft more of so you can place ’em down so you can explore further away from your spacecraft, but the only UI you see is on your backpack so there’s no symbols on screen for you to have to keep a constant eye on, meaning the playing field is always clean which is nice and new in this type of genre and I hope it stays like that through the life leading upto full release.
Graphically ASTRONEER is beautiful and running on the latest version of the Unreal engine, and yeah it’s voxel’ised, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Minecraft. As you can see on the screenshots, ASTRONEER is a very smooth looking voxel game, it also suits the game quite well too, making it look very clean, stylish, and you can from the get go of the main menu ASTRONEER is a labour of love from the developer.
Musically in the game, it’s nice n’ relaxing with a melody so easy on your ears it’s hard not to fall in love with. But all the audio can be turned off if need be in options menu, which for a pre-alpha game is quite different as that usually doesn’t get implemented until at least beta stages, which has always confused me.
The controls are very simple, with using Q for backpack, E to swap using your tool with moving things, WASD is basic movement, T is dropping a tether down when you craft them but all this can be changed in the options, and just like above it’s nice n’ new for the developers to put these kinds of things into an early access game, especially this stage in its life.
Final thoughts, the developers of ASTRONEER have got themselves a winner here, I just hope the game does well financially to be able to carry on, as we all know too well, some games don’t leave early access on Steam mainly due to how much the game costs and the price it gives to keep it running.