Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor
Surviving Mars was created by the Bulgarian Haemimont Games and published by Paradox Interactive from Sweden. It was released on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 15, 2018. The game follows in the footsteps of Cities: Skylines (Another Paradox game) and SimCity (Maxis).
Not quite what I was expecting
After spending almost a hundred hours on the indie company Magruda Works’ Planetbase, another game that’s eerily similar to what Haemimont and Paradox have offered with Surviving Mars, to say I was excited for the game would be an understatement. I pre-ordered Surviving Mars, I never pre-order games anymore. I have been burned one too many times, this game was not any different. While Surviving Mars had originally piqued my interest because the game looked like it was Planetbase++, that is, Planetbase with more substance.
What I got was a flashy game with very little substance. Which honestly should not have surprised me considering that it was published by Paradox, the kings of DLC. Paradox has a habit of releasing half-assed games and then making them better over time with DLC (See: Hearts of Iron IV, Crusader Kings II). Don’t get me wrong, I like Paradox games (I’ve played the shit out of both Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris, as well as dabbling with the extremely complicated Crusader Kings II), I just I don’t like their business model.
Various Shades of Boring, with a side of Ho-Hum
Gameplay wise, you will spend a few hours collecting materials and then building windmills and solar panels so you can generate air and water and drop your first dome. After that, you call in your first batch of colonists which aren’t enough to staff all of your structures. Later on, when the games design to allows you to recruit more colonists it will automatically assign people to the jobs, but they are not assigned correctly. It assigns Engineers to the Farms, and Botanists to the hospital, and so on. This leads to a lot of tedious micromanagement with you attempting to track down individual colonists and telling them what building to work on.
For some inexplicable reason, the colonists sometimes ignore those commands and go back to the job they were working before, even though you’ve eliminated that shift which leads to even more tedious micromanagement. There honestly isn’t a lot to Surviving Mars. It’s basically SimCity/Cities: Skylines on Mars with a stricter ruleset. Graphically, the game isn’t really all that spectacular, either. Granted, the setting is Mars, which means that the terrain is various shades of red and brown.
In the end, I would honestly pick up Planetbase instead it is half the price of Surviving Mars. Even with the wonky AI in Planetbase, I had more fun within the first 3 hours than I did with the eight I put into Surviving Marts. I hate to trash on a game, but, Surviving Mars was a disappointment.