When I first saw Madruga Works’s Planetbase, I thought to myself “Will I be disappointed again? Will this have some flaw that many of the recent city builder-survival-sims have had?” And after playing Planetbase for many hours, I can tell you without a doubt, that any worry I’d had, has been utterly swept away.
In Planetbase your objective is to create a thriving and robust colony. The game gives you a rather quick and precise tutorial that helps you get on your feet quickly. After the tutorial, you’re able to venture out on your own, onto the first planet. Planetbase is broken up between 3 planets. Each one has various challenges that the player will face and have to overcome. It took me 9 separate attempts to have a base that didn’t die horribly in the first hour. But most of the problem was my own lack of preparedness for growth and disasters.
There’s something that’s happened in Planetbase that’s never really happened to me before in these Sim-Survival-City Builder/management games. Early on in the game, you’ll only have about 7 colonists, so each one of them is pretty important, as there are different classifications of jobs that each colonist is permanently bound to. At one point, I watched a meteor fall on the structure housing 4 sleeping colonists. In the blink of an eye, I’d lost over half my crew. My two robots had been lost due to disrepair about half an hour earlier, and now I was down to three colonists. A biologist, who I need for food. An Engineer who I need to work certain devices, and then a worker, who I need to mine and work other devices. These 3 roles are pretty pivotal towards your colony’s survival. And I was down to 1 of each. So instead of wiping my game then and there, I decided to try and stick it out. I wanted to see if I could pull back from this near-loss. I needed to construct a landing pad, so that ships could land and bring new colonists. With my limited crew, it was definitely going to be a problem. But after a short time, I had the resources I needed and I was able to start construction on the landing pad. Everything was going great. But as the worker went out to bring more materials to the landing pad; a solar flare struck. I didn’t have time to bring the worker back to safety. He was stuck outside, constructing my only hope for survival. It wasn’t long before my last worker got radiation poisoning. Without a medic colonist, he was dead in minutes. There was no way I’d be able to pull things off after that point. So the colony was lost, and a new game began.
It’s the sense of. “Please don’t die!” you think to yourself as some of your colonists move around the base. Because yes, they are likely to die under certain conditions, some of which you have no control over. All you can do is prepare your colony the best you can, with the resources you have at your disposal. Placement of structures is important, as is your resource management. I feel that Planetbase has found quite an amazing balance when it comes to how resources are managed. Each and every resource you acquire, whether it be more food, or metal, or medicine, it’s all hugely important. Everything has value. Nothing is worthless, but some things are worth more than others, depending on your situation. If you have a landing pad, trade ships can stop by and you can barter with them. There’s a variable exchange rate for each ship, so your resources might net you more value for what you’re trying to acquire, as opposed to other trade ships.
Beyond the resource management, is the water, power, and air management. Power is hugely important (obviously.) If the base shuts down, you die. The game allows short intervals that your base can be unpowered, but if the oxygen structure loses power, then things go downhill quite quickly. The game gives you all the tools you need to survive, but it’s up to you as to how you want to prepare your colony for expansion.
As I said, the game is broken up into 3 planets. Each one has a myriad of achievements you need to reach in order to complete that planet and unlock the next. These achievements, or goals, can range from having X amount of power storage, to X amount of robots. These goals are good objectives to get your colony moving in the right direction. But I’d advise caution in your expansion process, until you understand how heavy the weight of new colonists can be on your resources.
There’s nothing lacking about the graphics and ambiance of the game. Looking at the same planet for a while can feel a little old, but the same could be said about almost every strategy game out there. The game has some nice background music and audio that helps bring everything together. Overall, the game feels superbly polished. There’s this sense of balance in the game, between the structures, the AI, and the resource management, that a lot of indie strategy games fail to pull off in such a perfect way. I feel that it’d be nice to have a tiny bit more control over the AI’s priority system, if I want to try and pull people back into the base, for instance. But it’s a very tiny gripe. Having to manage things otherwise, just adds to the challenge.
The game will be available on steam for 19.99 with 15% discount at launch. I think that’s a perfect price for the game. Definitely another value buy. There’s a great amount of quality in the game, as well as plenty of hours of play. I’ve already spent a lot of time in the game, and I can’t help myself. I want to unlock all the planets. I don’t care how long it takes me. I don’t care how many colonists suffocate or get raided or crushed by meteors. To the stars!