Astroneer Preview (PC)

Exploration and survival games have always had a special place in my games library and a growing number of the things popping up on Steam’s Early Access program (ARK: Survival Evolved being my favourite, although titles like Rust and The Forest also have their perks) so when I was gifted one of Steam’s top selling titles of 2016, the space survival title Astroneer, I was more than a little excited, and for good reason.    

base-camp
Home sweet home

The indie title, which launched on 16 December 2016, truly took the Steam market by storm securing its place in the bronze section of Steam’s top grossing titles of 2016 after being available for just two weeks, all the while garnering itself a very positive rating from its over 10,000 player base.

So, what is it that makes Astroneer so special you may ask? To answer that we need to delve a little bit into the gameplay of System Era Softworks new title.

inventory-crafting
Simple crafting can be done right in your inventory.

First off, in terms of pre-alpha gameplay, I personally have come across very few game-breaking bugs (aside from a little issue with tethering and vehicles which caused massive lag) and most of the issues that have arisen have quickly been swiftly dealt with by the developers. For a title that isn’t even in beta yet this seriously surprised me and should bode well for the rest of the development process.

Secondly, in terms of actual gameplay, the simplicity of the title really goes a long way in making the title both enjoyable and enthralling. Your task is simple: explore your planet and collect valuable resources so you can build up your stores in order to take to the skies and explore a new planet – all in the name of making money.

“Explore and reshape distant worlds! Astroneer is set during a 25th-century gold rush where players must explore the frontiers of outer space, risking their lives in harsh environments for the chance of striking it rich.”

building-structures
Build platforms to expand your base and to build new crafting stations.

Players start off equipped with a small outpost (onto which you can attach various tubes and platforms in order to build up a base) and a terrain-shaping, resource-gathering gun that allows you to alter the terrain in order to better extract valuable resources – all in the name of furthering your exploration of the universe (comprising of a huge number of other interesting and strange planets and moons).

While your task may be simple there are a number of factors to consider before heading into the unknown, two of which must be closely monitored at all times to avoid death: oxygen and power. Build networks of tethers to keep yourself alive as you traverse your planet or take your life into your hands by equipping a vehicle with resources and go off the grid: whatever your game style, Astroneer has you covered (my planet is going to be more tether than land soon).

collecting-resources
Collecting oxygen for some tether-free exploration (side note: the resource collection system that collects clusters of items is wholly satisfying to watch).

Other in-game hazards include steep drops into dark cavernous crevices, poisonous plants, visibility reducing sandstorms (which also have a tendency to send any loose rocks flying) and more – though all these hazards can be remedied (once you known what they do as well as your own limitations).

Sandstorms are, hands down, the most frustrating obstacle (on my planet anyway)
Sandstorms are, hands down, the most frustrating obstacle (on my planet anyway).

While the title may be a simple survival-grind title it really plays like something so much more and, with more features being added regularly (including the four-player co-op feature that was added after I had already begun my adventure), I really do see Astroneer being one of my favourite games to come out of 2016/2017.

Featuring a simple concept, equally simple but beautiful and charming graphics (as well as a haunting soundtrack that really immerses you in the game), Astroneer plays like the space exploration title we were looking for before the whole No Man’s Sky incident and I for one am extremely excited to see more of this highly addictive title (though I am tempted to say that this title is probably receiving more love that it would have had it been released before Hello Games’ now highly patched offering).

cave-exloration-1
Cave exploration: a dangerous task not for the faint of heart.

For only R219 on Steam, or R273.18 if you want a copy of the soundtrack (which features over an hour of original music composed specifically for the game), Astroneer is well worth braving the hazards of buying into an Early Access game.