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Astroneer has a vast pool of champions to contest within the Action/Adventure Survival genre. A genre full of crafting, base building, resources, and exploration will require some innovation if it wants to stand out, so how does Astroneer hold up to a review by a meticulous muse?
The Survival genre is a varied one, but there are vital components that immediately push a game into this category. Essentially, the idea is to have an open world that can be destroyed and cultivated using the game’s chosen tools. Destroying and molding the landscape nets you resources and materials you can use to upgrade your tools, build up your base, create vehicles, and much more based on the game’s themes.
Astroneer, in particular, focuses on being a Space-Themed adventure. An entire solar system is out there for you to explore. Is it worth the sweat and tears of going into the business of planet-harvesting, or is your attention better suited for another star system? Continue reading our Astroneer review to find out.
Bottom Line Up Front
Astroneer is a bit rough around the edges compared to other masters of this genre’s class, but that doesn’t mean it is a terrible game. On the contrary, while there are better titles out there, should you need something new to sink your teeth into, Astroneer is a meditative and marvelous choice.
However, should you be looking for more Action than Adventure or find resource gathering to be the most tedious part of this genre, you will want to take a pass on Astroneer.
Any who takes a chance on this charming game will not be disappointed, so long as they know what they’re looking for in the genre. Your creative talents won’t really be up to the test, but you’ll find yourself borrowing into just ‘one more cavern’ night after night once this bug bites you.
- Meditative, the survival features are not too intrusive.
- The survival mechanics are not stressful
- The graphics are gorgeous. A minimalistic art style that never skimps on the details.
- Adjusting items and managing base building can be troublesome with a controller.
- There isn’t any wildlife to give the landscape motion.
- The crafting index is hard to navigate, with zero search functionality.
- There are 24 resources to be found across the planets, which can be hard to juggle.
Astroneer is an Action/Adventure survival game set in the distant 25th century. Set in a space sandbox environment, the player is given the title of Astroneer.
There are bases to build, planets to discover, glorious outer space to explore, and vehicles to travel it all. Complete with an online co-op option that allows up to 4 players to drop in and join you on your adventures. There are more than just resources to discover in this world, however. There is an ancient puzzle stretching the Solar System for any adventurer to burrow into the center of every planet. This will allow you to view mysterious structures and, should you be determined, harness their power as your own.
To stand out in this industry, you need to have a killer gimmick or unique graphics. Preferably both, but we’ll get into the plot in a bit. Graphically, Astroneer definitely stands out.
There is a methodology in creation and design where you test if your character or a still image from your product can be instantly recognizable. This is a test Astroneer passes beautifully. The game has taken to a quasi-minimalist or cartoony approach. However, this doesn’t mean just smooth lines and saturated colors. Everything blends into a calming environment. The colors aren’t garish, and the models feel like they are pieces of the same puzzle.
Most importantly, the environments vary in color and design. Even the sullen caves are left visually vibrant, with plenty of fungal-inspired lifeforms covering the walls.
Astroneer is definitely a game that achieves the goal of making every landscape past the horizon as exciting to explore as the last.
Interface, Progression, and Controls
The game drops you right in, having your escape pod crash down and only the shelter that forms to keep you company. Thankfully, a platform forms next to it, offering you a terminal packed with potential missions that will help you understand the controls and interface. These missions will also get you started on your first shelter, with plenty of lucrative rewards for simply playing the game.
The lack of story might be distasteful to some, but this is a game that isn’t about how the world shapes around you. Instead, the story will be found in how you chip at the dirt beneath you and how you build your home away from Sol.
At first, I found the interface a little jarring and clunky, but this quickly eased as I got used to the mechanics. It is an intuitive and lovely system, minus a bit of jankiness on moving items and placing them. However, setting things from your backpack or creating a line of tethers will quickly start to feel a bit tedious.
Astroneer is credited as being a more meditative and relaxed approach to the survival genre. Hunger and water are not problems you need to worry about. The only resource which can prove fatal should you not have enough is oxygen.
Oxygen can only be gained using an Oxygenator. So long as this is connected to your shelter or similar structures, it will grant you oxygen. You need to be within a specific range of the oxygenator for the suit to automatically tether to it.
To safely explore and travel the map, you will need to find means of bringing oxygen with you, which will initially come in the form of tethers. These tethers not only act as your means of gaining oxygen, but I also found them to be a unique way to find my way back to my base.
Survival games can become overwhelming when too many irons are in the fire. So it is refreshing to still have that minor stressor adding to the difficulty, but not in such a way that it becomes 90% of my first 4 hours to just maintain those meters. Rather than a test in agriculture and water purity, Astroneer tasks you with keeping your territory well oxygenated. All the while testing your ability to manage resources to have plenty of tethers to make it to the next vein.
There isn’t even any combat to speak of. While environmental dangers and fall damage are brutal enemies, there won’t be any reason to build any defenses or walls. The game’s name is science and discovery; we have no room for the bloodshed to paint the path of progress! That’d be terribly rude. Also gross, the roads would smell like rot in no time. No one wants rot-roads.
Explosive plants and hostile environments will be the significant dangers that knock you out of your explorative zen.
This genre of gaming has been defined by its crafting mechanics. Crafting in Astroneer focuses on the use of 3d printers. These printers come in sizes ranging from the smallest, your backpack printer, to the large printer, which requires a large platform to sit it on and enough power to run it.
The resources you will be collecting in Astroneer to fuel your crafting potential will be found in the form of veins. These will tell you what items will be ordered based on their color and geometry. As you excavate these items using your terrain tool, you need to drill up enough of the chosen resource to gain this resource. Using more powerful machines and automated drilling can make this easier once you progress through the game’s tech tree.
There is a nice assortment of resources, all of which have their own cute flair, making them useful in base building if you can get them to sit correctly. Unfortunately for efficiency, resources are not all found on the same planet nor in the same locations. Luckily, the game includes an Astropedia, located in the menu, offering you insight into several tips and tricks. Including a guide on where every resource can be found, both biome and planet.
An issue comes from this catalog of items being obnoxious to sort through. While the printers mitigate this issue somewhat by only showing what you have purchased, using bytes, and having it organized based on what printer you are accessing. However, the catalog you can print for these items is a rather cramped and tiny menu. You must cycle through items in two columns without a single text bar insight. This becomes disorienting at best and utterly obnoxious at worst.
Similarly, the resource required will show itself as a hologram on your backpack. Thanks to the sheer number of resources, it can be tricky to remember which one needs to go into your bag. You can find this information in your catalog. Still, that requires an obnoxious amount of searching and memory to locate the recipe.
Exploration is where Astroneer shines. The varied landscapes, randomized nature of where you spawn and what the planets will look like, and varying color schemes make it a relaxing joy to wander the planes and forests of whatever world you are hunting for resources.
The worlds are littered with destroyed machines and ample resources you can take back to your base to break down into bytes or materials for your own grander creations.
The ability to actually carve your way down into the planet’s very core to find a fractalling, geometric masterpiece of architecture in each celestial body. All these further stretch out into a greater purpose and quest, giving you plenty of reason to leave your pleasant starting planet’s atmosphere to explore everything this world has to offer us.
We don’t have to hoof it either. As the debris littered across the map will suggest, there are several vehicles, from buggies to space shuttles. These range from making your journey more accessible to being necessary to space travel until I work out a human slingshot. Tests have been mixed.
This is Astroneer’s weakest point. While there is plenty to place around, the ability to organize and spruce up the place is somewhat limited. There are multiple storage options like Silos and Portable Storage. Still, you will quickly find these filling up on just one venture to collect resources.
Moving and placing these items can be the ultimate test of a player’s patience to add to the problem. The mouse or joystick will constantly fight for control over moving the camera over moving the object itself. Also, adding unique touches is made difficult by each item’s center of balance seeming off-center. So giving my base the little’ home gnome’ hat I found didn’t go quite as well as I would have hoped.
Besides that, you will have plenty of machines and automatic devices, tethers, and power networks to untangle and obsess over the placement of.
To some, this will become a rats nest of horrors that you do your best to ignore until the time comes, should it ever, that you feel strong enough to face this foe. Meanwhile, to those special few whom the heavens gifted enough patience to not want to invent time travel to throttle the inventor of the wires. This will become an excellent way to accentuate your shelter’s grounds.
Where to Buy Astroneer
Astroneer retails for $29.99 and was developed by System Era Softworks. It is available for purchase on console and PC on the following marketplaces.
You may have heard of No Man’s Sky due to its choppy launch. However, where the disappointment at launch might have been warranted, Hello Games clearly could not let that stay as a bad mark on their name.
Since its disastrous launch, Hello Games has peppered the title with updates that not only act as bug fixes and promise-fulfillment. Many of these updates were massive expansion-sized additions to a now world-class game.
No Man’s Sky is similar in Astroneer’s resource collection and space-faring ways, but its scope outclasses most games in this genre.
Raft places you on a tiny platform of bound together twigs it calls a Raft and tasks you with surviving the deadly sea and a very annoying shark, but what is most unique is your main method of collecting resources. Shipwrecks are apparently common in these waters, as you will never be without driftwood or resource fragments to fish out of the water.
As with most games in this genre, progress is made by building better and better machines out of these resources you fish up, building up your raft into a mobile civilization with only you populating it.
Maybe the shark too, but that fish is rude and deserves exile.
Question: How long is Astroneer?
Answer: The main game took about 21 hours to complete when polled. Extras can raise that length to 40, while completionists expect about 70 hours out of Astronner.
Question: How many planets can you visit in Astroneer?
Answer: In Astroneer, you will be able to venture to two moons and five planets in a single solar system. These planets have plenty to explore and discover. You can even burrow through to the core and out the opposite end of these celestial bodies.
Question: Where can I find X resource in Astroneer?
Answer: In your menu, Esc button or start, a symbol in the submenu looks like a rocket ship. This has a number of tutorials and manuals, but the one important to this question is the resource guide. Thanks to the large collection of resources you will need to collect, the resource manual will be your go-to tool to figure out where the thing that recipe needs actually is. The guide is organized in a quick and easy to pursue fashion, so don’t worry about flipping through pages to find where hematite is.
Astroneer is a beautiful and charming game. However, it has quite a few headaches that might make the casual player dislike it. Not to mention that this is not a ‘throw on and build a house’ kind of survival builder. Instead, this is a ‘spend multiple days in hours strip mining entire planets’ survival.
The genre is a mixed bag, and to some, this gameplay style will be marvelous, while to others, it’ll border on tedious. But unfortunately, that is the nature of a survival builder.
I believe it is based on how you approach Astroneer. If you try to play it like Minecraft or Ark, you might be sorely disappointed. However, if you play it more like the cosmic explorer No Man’s Sky or the ocean-lost Raft, then it will be a far more enjoyable experience.
I will never get over any game that lets me look up to the sky and not only admire the stars and view orbiting moons and planets but let me blast off into them. Greet them. Maybe have a picnic on them. Then destroy it and make it wish I never invented space travel to say hello.
So I can recommend Astroneer, but it isn’t the highest on my list of games in this genre; it is definitely up there and far higher on this list of meditative games. Thank you for reading and, unlike the ground beneath my shelter, have a marvelous one.