My first experience with city building games was back in the late 80’s on the mighty Amiga 1000. Will Wright created Sim City, and it was a blast to play. Simple, basic, but amazingly addictive. But that was back in the day when computer’s reigned supreme. Now firmly entrenched in the console era, simulation games have taken a back seat to more graphically immersive games, but for anyone who grew up playing sims on an old PC, you’ll always have a place in your heart for the genre.
Which brings us to Surviving Mars.
It was just the right time to scratch that itch.
However my memories of playing Sim City on the Amiga and easily inputting cheat codes were about to get kicked out of the ball park by this new and hostile terrain I was about to build on.
There were no cheat codes that I knew of, and there was no “you have this much cash, start building and taxing,’ it was more like explore and find the resources you need to build and survive.
Hold on, what?
And hey, where is my easy to play through hold-my-hand tutorial.
Nope, not that kind of game.
It seems that developer Haemimont Games are not into holding hands, more of a throw you in the deep end and see if you can swim type of approach is probably more authentic for a game about colinising Mars, but it’s a tough wake up call for the unwary player. And the steep learning curve may be too much for some timid players.
But if you keep at it – and I mean keep. At, It. Because you will not prosper on your first go. Or your second, or your third. You get the picture right? Surviving Mars is a bloody tough game. You’re pretty much set up to fail. Being sent to a hostile planet that doesn’t support human life with only the assumption that you’ll be able to find what you need to build a thriving community.
Yes, Surviving Mars is a slow and steady game. Pausing, thinking planning is the name of the game. You can’t just place a bio doom and expect civilisation to bloom.
Not only does Surviving Mars not hold your hand, but it doesn’t really suit consoles either. It is a game that screams BRING ME A KEYBOARD. But Haemimont have done a great job of bringing to the XBox and if you put in the hard yards, learn from your mistakes, keep getting back up, you will be rewarded.
You see where most games these days seem to offer instant gratification, Surviving Mars is old school and understands the value of hard work, of time put into a game, of how achievement feels when you feel like you worked bloody hard for it.
So if you’ve got the time to put in, and you’re not a quitter, then Surviving Mars will reward you better than most other games. The sense of achievement that you get from figuring out how to avoid the mistakes from your previous eight attempts and actually get a viable doom built is so immense that it overshadows all the frustration that bought you to that point, and you throw yourself back into the fray once again.
Graphically Surviving Mars looks good. Mars feels like it should (unless you watch too many Hollywood films) and the details all add to the immersivness. Sound works well with battery powered machines going about with out too much noise.
So if you’re looking for a challenge and can stick it out, the grab a copy of Surviving Mars and reward yourself with a game that will keep you playing for a very long time.
Rating: PG Mild Themes & Violence.