Destination Ares is a delightful, top-down simulation/management game. You are an AI, tasked with safely transporting your human cargo from a dying earth. The little knowledge you have about earth is delivered at the start of the game, but it talks of strife and suffering and dying, and provided me with a surprisingly powerful urge to take these people away from there. Your end destination is the planet Ares, where the human colonies are waiting for you.
You see the entirety of the ship from a top down perspective, and are able to see your resources, details of the ship and are also able to monitor all ship systems. Being an AI you are of course able to pause the game to allow you greater think and reaction time. As your human cargo/crew is so simple, you must tell them what to do. Your only means of communicating with them are ordering them to use a device, or setting off alarms on a machine.
As you travel through space, many events will crop up. A few of them offer you a free choice, maybe some fuel or a star chart, but most require a skill check. The skill check mechanic is really interesting and something I would like to be more prevalent. Selecting a choice will take you to a mini-game, where you must manoeuvre a mini space ship through and obstacle course of invisible mines. The difficulty of the choice determines the difficulty of the mini game and how much time you start with. The time left at the end of the mini game then equates to how well the event went.
The main meat of the game is a balancing act, making sure that you keep all of your resources in check. Most of the devices on board turn one resource into another. As such much of your time is turning devices on and off to keep the cycle going. If you miss something and accidentally use up all your fuel or an event causes you to chuck all your water out of the airlock then there’s gonna be a frantic few seconds as you reroute your system to make sure everything doesn’t die.
Destination Ares advertises itself as an early access title (V 0.5.4) and as such lacks content and has bugs. While I can agree with the former, having seen the same events many times in my playthroughs, there are surprisingly few bugs. The only one I have found so far is when two characters occupy the same place, where one of them will pass in between the others body and outline, the two objects existing in separate layers.
Destination Ares raises a very interesting question, which do you rank higher, the ship or its occupants? Many of the events require to pick between protecting the ship or the crew. You might have to choose between getting your crew to safety during a solar flare, or turning off your equipment to protect it. There are another few themes in there, such as duty to yourself, the crew and humanity, fate, life and existence. These themes however feel slightly chucked in and not well meshed together. A few of these themes could fit in well, but right now they are all just fighting for your acknowledgement.
Your little crew is rather interesting, in that you are simultaneously bonding with them and learning to hate them. As they go about their tasks on the ship, attempting to fix equipment and generally just having a good time, little text boxes pop up with what they are currently thinking. Seeing so directly what they want and need really endears them to me, but at the same time they are also really rude to you, often commenting how they would wish to punch you. There is also a mechanical aspect to these little text bubbles, with crew members commenting on how successful an action or repair went. While this is useful, it is easy for these to be lost among all the inane comments the little idiots make.
In this current version there is one ship that comes prebuilt, but a full ship creator is also available so you too can create a rickety escape pod from civilisation!
The ship is based upon ship rooms, with three room size. These can be combined in the ship builder to create a ship of whatever shape and size you wish. You can then populate your ship with objects to run the ship and then a crew. Each object, room and person has a price, and you have 1000 units to build your ship, while this does stop you from building a gigantic super ship, it has not so far hampered my creativity.
Destination Ares is a game that currently has too many ideas crammed inside it. A few updates however and some time to expand its themes and Destination Ares should end up a delightful little management game.