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Planetbase Review

Rating: 5.00/5 (1 Vote)

Space, The Final Frontier, as someone said on some tv show.  It really is though, as we’ve pretty much explored and colonised our own planet, so the next challenge for mankind is to colonise new planets, and it’s no picnic.  Planetbase gives you what it says on the tin, you build a base on a planet, with the aim of expanding it into a thriving colony.

The game starts with you landing on one of four planets, you start on the easiest one and unlock the others as you reach enough milestones in the game.  Your small craft land with a crew of only 7 and a couple of robots to do the building and the heavy lifting.  The colonists are all trained to perform different roles, Biologist, Engineer, Medic, Guard, or just plain old Worker.  As the game progresses, how many of each role becomes massively important to the success of your base, for example not enough biologists means you won’t produce enough food to keep your population from starvation.

 

The ship you arrive in isn’t very big so only holds a limited amount of supplies; food, building materials and medical supplies.  You use these materials to build your initial buildings, and the first of these needs to be an oxygen generator with an airlock.  Then from there you need to think about keeping the lights on and the fridge working, so you need to go for a solar panel, a wind turbine or both.  There are plenty of buildings that you need to build to keep your colony running smoothly. And the trick is working out what order to build them in and at what time.  It’s not a case of getting everything in as fast as you can as if you expand too soon you might run out of building materials or not be able to generate enough power to keep everything running.  Things like a canteen and a dorm for your workers are essential early on, but the game takes a step into the minutiae when you can lift the lid off your buildings and look inside.  Canteens need tables and machines to produce the food, so it’s up to you to make them, and what the hell, give them a big tv screen to watch while they munch their lunch.  The dorm is no good without the beds for your hard-working crew to nap in, so stick a couple of them in too.  The camera zooms in and out with the trigger buttons so you can position the furniture in each building before panning back out to get the bigger picture of the whole base.

Obviously, you won’t get too far with your crew of 7 so stick in a landing pad and if youre running a successful base, other ships will land with people wanting to join your colony.  The game gets into the fine tuning with things like this, as you can set sliders to attract certain types of workers depending on what you need.  The same can be done with the canteen to decide what types of food will be produced, which may seem superficial at first class, but will actually effect the morale of your workers.  Happy workers are productive workers so keep them sweet and you’ll get more out of them.

There’s a hell of a lot to building a successful base, but luckily there’s a decent tutorial mode that’ll walk you through the basics of not only the controls but the tactics needs to start you off.  I think without this I would’ve been totally lost and failing dismally, so don’t skip this bit, you’ll get much more out of the game if you play it through.

As if you didn’t have enough on your plate trying to manage a thriving colony on your planet, you’ll then have to content with dangers caused by the environment.  Each type of planet has its own ways of causing mayhem, from sandstorms to meteors or lightning storms, any of which can wipe out one of your vital buildings.  If you haven’t kept some of your resources back to cope with these disasters, you’ll not be able to repair the building and that can easily start a chain of events that lead to eventual disaster for your base.

Planetbase closely follows the model of a classic city builder game, which is very popular on PC but doesn’t convert to well to consoles mainly because they work so much better with a mouse, given the vast array of options that are usually on offer.  This game converts the control interface excellently to the Xbox controller by instead of a dropdown menu or a panel full of options, you click a button for a general feature, then pick the item you want from a wheel by simply rotating your left stick around to the desired position.  It’s a simple and intuitive method that is being employed in more and more console versions of games, and means you can quickly navigate what would’ve been vast menus.

The graphics of the game are pleasing on the eye without being spectacular, but you get some nice detail when you zoom in closer.  I would’ve liked to see more variety in the look of the buildings as a lot of them are similar looking domes so once your base gets to a reasonable size it becomes more difficult to pick out one building from another amongst all those domed rooves.  It can be a bit of an issue as you really need to think about which structures go next to each other to ensure a more efficient running of the colony.  Placing a new building in the wrong place could mean workers having to make long detours that waste their valuable time.

If you don’t want to build up your base from scratch you can have a go at the challenge mode, and believe me they really are a challenge.  You’re thrown into specific tough scenario and have to work out how to avoid disaster and get your base thriving again.

Although Planetbase may seem quite slow paced, the player needs to keep their eye on everything that’s going on a think a good few steps ahead to be successful, so its not really a game for dipping in and out of as it needs a lot of concentration and micro-management for you to be able to thrive.  The first couple of hours of each game gives you plenty to think about and a lot of variety but once your base gets bigger and your population starts to rise, things become more of a grind, with you just adding more of the same buildings and following the same procedures over and over.

Planetbase is one of the better examples of this kind of city sim on the Xbox One and is good value for money, but you have to be a big fan of the genre for you to get continued enjoyment from it over a longer period.

Huge Thanks to XCN for the review copy.

Developer:  Madruga Works

Publisher:  Madruga Works

Price:  £15.99

Website:  http://planetbase.madrugaworks.com

Twitter:  @madrugaworks

 

 

 

 

 

 

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