“...not dying on Mars is a major challenge.”
March 15, 2018 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Surviving Mars: Fourth Rock from the Sun [Destructoid] “You'd be forgiven for assuming that a game called “Surviving Mars” might be yet another entry in the burgeoning survival genre, a Minecraft-esque recreation of Andy Weir's The Martian, or Bohemia’s Take On Mars. You'd be wrong, but a title like that invariably conjures images of punching Mars rocks to build Mars huts and craft Mars shovels and that sort of thing. Well, you do all of the above in Surviving Mars, except from a top-down perspective, as the game is actually a city-building and management sim from the folks that brought you the last three Tropico titles. But rather than playing a developing-world dictator, players this time step into the environment-sealed boots of a Martian colonial administrator, tasked with establishing humanity's first extraplanetary settlement. For that to happen, of course, survival is a must.” [Youtube][Trailer]

• Building The Final Frontier [Gamespot]
“It's been said that city simulators are best thought of as a series of stocks and flows. You have essential buildings that supply resources, which are then distributed in a grand pattern etched by your design. Your success, then, depends on how artfully and effectively you've crafted your settlement. If that is the measure by which we are to judge city simulators, nowhere is that more beautifully or essentially or thematically distilled than in Surviving Mars. Space is hard, and Mars isn't any more forgiving; your goal is to command a mission that can endure the punishing conditions of the Red Planet. You can take the reigns of an international consortium, a major private enterprise, or any number of real-world space-capable nations here on Earth. From there, you choose how to guide your Martian colony. Insofar as many simulators allow a degree of role-playing, your time on Mars is yours to do with how you will. But your progress is constantly evaluated by your sponsor country or organization, offering some very loose targets like "get colonists" and "keep them alive for a while." Beyond that, the direction is yours.”
• Surviving Mars is tough, smart and very dusty [Polygon]
“Oxygen, water, shelter and food are the first priorities. In Surviving Mars, water is held underground, in rare pockets of ice. We mine these using one of many machines, which are built from metal and concrete (which are also mined). These devices are supported by networks of power stations, cables, pipes and air filters, which act as the infrastructure for the fun stuff: biodomes. These house our humans, who are set to work (you guessed it) mining more stuff, which they need to build houses, farms, schools, hospitals, diners and drinking dens. Factories take the raw materials and craft them into new resources, which are used to build ever more useful structures. While all this is going on, we search the planet for its secrets, including scientific discoveries that supercharge a vast, baroque tech tree.”
• Famine, dehydration, domes cracking and exposing their denizens to the deadly world outside [PC Gamer]
“Ultimately you’re setting up the foundation of your production chain. Despite its survival bent, Surviving Mars still follows the same pattern as Haemimont's Tropico, turning resources into finished products and building whole industries out of them, all while trying to keep everyone happy, or at least placated. It's something familiar to hold onto when the curve balls start flying. Even dust can be dangerous, and Mars is exceedingly dusty. All that dirt loves getting stuck on solar panels, causing power issues and mechanical problems. It’s a low-key but persistent threat that becomes a micromanagement nightmare as you try to make sure that every panel is looked after by drones and every building gets serviced before it inevitably breaks down. Between the dust, meteors and tornados, carving out a life on Mars is a lot of work. Overcoming these disasters and watching as an army of drones fix everything is an incredibly satisfying experience.”
• 'Surviving Mars' Takes the Best of Asimov, 'Star Trek', and Elon Musk [Inverse]
“Players in Surviving Mars are tasked with working with a space agency, building infrastructure, and managing resources to improve your chances of survival. And with a touch of the “disaster” options beloved by SimCity fans, players can choose to invoke a “mystery” plot point into their colony that takes inspiration from Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. “We drew our light-hearted and optimistic viewpoint of the future from classic authors such as Clarke and Asimov, and from TV series like Star Trek: TNG,” Momchil Dilov, one of the designers of Surviving Mars, tells Inverse. “Post-Mariner Mars fiction, such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy or Andy Weir’s The Martian gave us some nice ideas what would be the first challenges the colonists would face and how their life would be on the red planet.””
posted by Fizz (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve lost interest in Mars since it’s turned out it’s going to be full of fucking libertarians.
posted by Artw at 8:00 PM on March 15, 2018 [28 favorites]

Mars: Downton Abbey
posted by valkane at 8:24 PM on March 15, 2018

I’ve lost interest in Mars since it’s turned out it’s going to be full of fucking libertarian

I mean, dead libertarians. That piqued my interest.
posted by figurant at 8:51 PM on March 15, 2018 [20 favorites]

Mars is libertarians, Venus is Nazis... I'd really hate to find out what's lurking on Titan and Enceladus.

(The game seems neat if you like fiddly resource management. There's no actual tutorial to speak of, though. The official recommendation from the devs is to watch some quill18 videos which, to their credit, they commissioned.)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:58 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd never heard of this game before but it looks right up my alley. Thanks for the post!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:59 PM on March 15, 2018

Since the game only flirts with realism, what's the point of using Mars?
posted by Beholder at 10:21 PM on March 15, 2018

Because it's cool and there's been a bunch of sci fi about setting up colonies on Mars for like 150 years?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:28 PM on March 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Bobby Draper deserves better than this.
posted by Artw at 11:29 PM on March 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've actually played this, it's a ton of fun. The way they mix the card hoarding/playing with resource management and map control (plus global effects) is pretty cool. I won a game harvesting fish.

Mixing vets and newbies didn't work so well though, and not how you'd expect.
posted by Sphinx at 12:12 AM on March 16, 2018

Bobby Draper deserves better than this.

posted by Pendragon at 2:29 AM on March 16, 2018

So, like Outpost 2 if it was made by people that cared about your mental sanity?
posted by lmfsilva at 3:04 AM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Beautiful glass domes work well in SF and video games but I find it interesting that one of the living future Emperor Musk of Mars's current companies is a tunnel boring machine. I wonder if it breaks down and can be shipped on a few BFR's?
posted by sammyo at 5:07 AM on March 16, 2018

As long as the game doesn't expect you to raise kids on Mars. It's cold as hell, not the kind of place for that.
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:26 AM on March 16, 2018 [17 favorites]

Does the game to have a mode where all you get is a single botanist on Mars with some potatoes.
posted by nubs at 5:58 AM on March 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

As long as the game doesn't expect you to raise kids on Mars
And there's no one there to raise them - if you did.
posted by Billiken at 6:02 AM on March 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

There's the robuts...
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:05 AM on March 16, 2018

My gripes aside, Surviving Mars might be the most fun I've had with a city-building game since SimCity 2000

Sign me the fuck up!
posted by Automocar at 6:41 AM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know. I've been not dying on Mars for my whole life. It's more or less second nature to me now.
posted by Naberius at 6:45 AM on March 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

Shut up and take my money!
posted by briank at 6:49 AM on March 16, 2018

FWIW, Scott Manley released a few videos of him playing this game last week. I'm surprised I didn't notice the Tropico connection since I do enjoy that series, though I do prefer more fiddliness in my city sims.
posted by wierdo at 7:02 AM on March 16, 2018

Man, I was reading about this yesterday and I really dig the sound of it. I got out from under Subnautica last week but have a bunch of FFXV to finish up still, but this might be next on the docket.

I think it's specifically the notion of preparatory infrastructure that hooks me most (along with the refreshing bleakness of a hard red rock setting vs. the usual hospitable country side); I tend to feel a little hemmed in by the way typical city builders basically oblige you to build infrastructure just in time and plan cities piece-wise, and it sounds like this to some extent requires you to do the opposite and actually plan and prepare for inhabitants.
posted by cortex at 7:25 AM on March 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I haven't really dug too far into this, but I have two complaints:

1) The game really does not explain itself. The official tutorial is literally a series of quill18 videos on YouTube.

2) If I'm going to be doing space capitalism, then Offworld Trading Company is already the best possible space capitalism game.

It could be that the Mysteries are interesting enough to offset the second point, but I haven't got that far yet.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:08 AM on March 16, 2018

Example of thing that is not explained:

In a lot of city-building games, buildings will conduct electricity. Plonking down a power plant next to your water treatment or whatever immediately starts powering the water treatment; the electrical connections between adjacent buildings are just assumed, the same way that it's assumed that a building next to power lines will have a connection to those power lines.

Surviving Mars does not do this, because laying out and maintaining/repairing power lines is part of the game. Which is a totally valid and fun design choice, except that the game doesn't actually tell you that this is how it works until you've already placed a neat little cluster of power plants and discovered that only the one plant that's adjacent to the power line is actually delivering any power to your grid.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:21 AM on March 16, 2018

I think it's specifically the notion of preparatory infrastructure that hooks me most (along with the refreshing bleakness of a hard red rock setting vs. the usual hospitable country side);

A comment/review I read over on Steam:
“City Skylines: Total Recall Edition.”
And that seems very fitting. I might wait for the price to drop before I pick it up, but it's been on my wishlist for awhile. Besides, I still have Civ VI: Rise and Fall expansion to play around with. I've barely touched that.
posted by Fizz at 8:29 AM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rock Paper Shotgun echoes some of tobascodagama's concerns:
The way to roll with these punches – and, in the mid-game, the cable/pipe breakages come thick and fast – is to have massively over-generated and stored electricity, water and oxygen in order to weather not just the occasional meteor storm, but more importantly just general wear and tear. Another option is to having your colony neatly ghettoised into self-cotained networks, so one area’s power going down doesn’t cause everyone in a dome on the other side of the map to freeze to death.

This is all relatively easily enough done if you know about it in advance, and I do to some extent appreciate how much I learned from the calamity, but it was gruelling to have so many hours’ work destroyed because of something the game had done a poor job of explaining. Still, second time around I’m going to have a very different experience, which I am glad of. I will build my colony in neat, self-sufficient modules, no-one will be summoned from Earth until I’ve stored up enough utilities to power a small city for a decade, and I will fast track the branch of the Civ-like research tree that eventually leads to maintenance-free electricity cables. On the other hand, my first dome, my first colonists, their first baby – none of that can feel as momentous a second time around.
posted by nubs at 8:35 AM on March 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Mars doesn’t have an instruction book, and the game is about surviving so you could say the lack of explanation is a feature instead of a bug.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:51 AM on March 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

A more critical review from Waypoint: 'Surviving Mars' Never Breathes Life into a Dead Planet
“The focus on “survival” for your fledgling Martian settlement means that most of its systems feel cramped and utilitarian, and yet the planet itself doesn’t feel dangerous enough or challenging enough to make survival itself an interesting goal. It feels more like building a giant Habitrail for a family of hamsters, with the aesthetics of The Jetsons crossed with a tech company corporate campus. It’s not a game I find myself thinking about after I’ve put it down and, or sometimes even while I’m playing it. [...] But what is it that you need to service? There’s nothing I aspired to achieve with my colonies, no grand design I felt any pull to build. My colonists moved from their homes to work to recreation buildings and back again. I survived Mars. My reward was a self-sustaining economic engine serving no end greater than its own perpetuation. It was dozens of millions of miles from Earth, and I felt like I’d gone nowhere.”
posted by Fizz at 9:09 AM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also pro tip, don't try and play on mac, it's not a great experience yet. The graphics are borked and there's no fix as of yet.
posted by Carillon at 9:16 AM on March 16, 2018

I've been watching quill18's Let's Play (which is something he started after the "how to" videos he was sponsored to do); I've gone from being very intrigued to...meh. I enjoy base building types of games, and this has some interesting wrinkles in terms of the setting, but it's not looking like the kind of game I would enjoy more than once or twice.
posted by nubs at 9:24 AM on March 16, 2018

Mars doesn’t have an instruction book, and the game is about surviving so you could say the lack of explanation is a feature instead of a bug.

AKA the Dwarf Fortress experience
posted by nubs at 9:25 AM on March 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Artw: the best thing about sending all our libertarians to Mars (after getting rid of them, that is) is knowing that in a century or so, after the last sovereign citizen rebels are summarily forced out of an airlock, the surviving Mars colony will be a regimented socialist democracy/welfare state that makes 1970s Sweden look like a libertarian hell-hole. As in, if it isn't the sort of place where air and water and healthcare are free at the point of delivery but the marginal rate of income tax tends towards 95% and there's a draft for mandatory civil defense training, I'll eat my hat.

(Non-surviving Mars colonies need not be quite so regimented. But who needs to worry about school shootings in an environment where a curious toddler with a screwdriver is one airlock hatch interlock away from killing everyone on the block?)

Schadenfreude, thy name is Libertaria-on-Mars.
posted by cstross at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

Watching the trailer makes me realize how much I want a game such as this to take plenty of cues from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. Even if they're just subtle nods. I kept looking in the trailer for any signs of references to the books...

Definitely looks like it's picking up.
posted by evilangela at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Watching the trailer makes me realize how much I want a game such as this to take plenty of cues from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. Even if they're just subtle nods.

These trailers are appropriate:
• Surviving Mars - Domes, "Living on Mars" [YouTube]
• Surviving Mars - The Resources of Mars [YouTube]
Though maybe less Stanley Robinson and a bit more John Scalzi Redshirts-esque.
posted by Fizz at 2:35 PM on March 16, 2018

Damnit! No support for Macs with Intel graphics — I just submitted a refund request for my preorder. Really bummed, as this is totally up my alley.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:45 PM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I recently got briefly but intensely obsessed with Sunless Sea, another practically instructionless game about meticulously collecting resources and upgrades while avoiding the billion things that can instantly kill you only to lose everything when you discover Thing A Billion And One, rinse and repeat. I would probably love this game.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2018

How do they address the issue of the ghosts?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:35 PM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can recruit Ice Cube to deal with them for you.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:41 PM on March 16, 2018

Mars is libertarians, Venus is Nazis... I'd really hate to find out what's lurking on Titan and Enceladus.

Titan, as we recently learned, is for people who just want to watch the world burn.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:07 PM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also note that while there's a modifier to all the mouse buttons for camera management, I cannot figure out how to rotate structures with a one button mouse, and that means I'm sorta pooched given the dome layout rigidity.

And yeah, I've had at least one hard reboot crash in macOS already. I'm not sure it quite tickles the city builder sim urge for me, unfortunately.
posted by Kyol at 3:19 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, q and e change the camera rotation, r and t change the building rotation, so I managed a few more hours this morning.
posted by Kyol at 7:51 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I figured out camera rotation but not building rotation, so thanks for that!
posted by tobascodagama at 8:51 AM on March 17, 2018

I'm enjoying this (PS4, not Mac, per warnings above), though there's a lot of the PC-game-ported-to-a-console about it (I've seen much worse...).

That said:

How the bloody hell do tunnels work? Any time I try to place one I get "object in the way". Do I need to start another colony on the lower elevation first?
posted by pompomtom at 6:16 AM on March 22, 2018

Tunnels can be built from only one end, that's generally not an issue. Without seeing the faulty placement, it's a bit hard to diagnose your problem, though. :(
posted by tobascodagama at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2018

Ta, I worked it out. Definite chair/controller interface problem.
posted by pompomtom at 4:41 AM on March 24, 2018

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