Planetbase is a strategy game where you guide a group of space settlers trying to establish an outpost on a remote planet. Check out our review below to see if Planetbase should establish itself in your game collection…
I recently had the chance to get my hands on Valhalla Hills, as Civilisation types of games always pique my interest. Watching your people grow an expand is always deeply satisfying as they start off with the bare necessities to advance to a major power. Now it’s the turn of Planetbase. A far cry from the Viking themed Valhalla Hills as mankind travels the stars in search of a new home.
Planetbase at its core is a simple and satisfying game with its basic mechanics performing their job to allow you to begin your colonisation of an alien planet. But dig a little deeper and you will have at your disposal a fantastic set tools to create your own self sufficient colony of happy and hard working colonists. It all begins with a landing pod with a handful of people and a couple of worker robots with a modest supply of goods to help you begin. The most important of these are metal and bio plastic. These will help you lay the foundations for your success should you plan ahead. Unlike me, as my first attempt saw all my poor people suffocate. Top tip, hook your oxygen generator up to a power source as it kind of helps.
Once your basic needs of water, oxygen and power are up and running it’s time to expand your base. But given your small supply of essentials, you need to plan accordingly or wave goodbye to your fledgling colony. Get it right though, and you’ll soon expand your base and be lucky enough to generate your own resources. It becomes an immensely satisfying journey as you progress further into the game especially when you build your first landing pad as this allows traders and more colonise to arrive. Each one with their own unique job skill to assist in day to day running of operations.
As with any game of this ilk, rushing ahead is always a recipe for disaster. Patience is vital and of the essence to succeed. After all, who wants to see their digital humans perish? It becomes a relaxing pace at which to play a game, and sometimes you can sit and watch without a care in the world. Not even pressing a button and just simply enjoy what you have created. But don’t let complacency settle.
The opportunity to expand is obviously limited to the game area you pick from almost any part of the planet. But obstacles such as mountains or even small hills don’t allow for buildings to be placed upon. Which I do find a shame as the option to have a staggered look to them would have been aesthetically pleasing to me at least. But it’s not the be all and end all. Given the limitations of floor space to build on, it does make you think about where you place builds. Not only that, but also what size build also.
There are only 4 locations in which to test your management skills, but each has a different challenge for you to face and each with a set of milestones for you to achieve. The beauty of Planetbase is that the more time you play, the more you will get out of it. The learning curve is set just right and the tutorial is perfectly set up to allow you to learn everything you need to become a success. Not only that but there is also a challenge mode to sink your teeth into once you advance far enough into the main game.
Being in control of the general running of your own base is ultimately rewarding, but this only extends so far. Your colonists are still able to go about their own business without direct involvement or any input from yourself. Sometimes this can be mildly irritating, especially if a worker bot breaks down or they haven’t gotten rest etc. But this is a minor niggle and one that won’t be too bothersome as they will eventually get around to performing their tasks. With each structure that has a task that can be operated by a colonist, you can dictate how important that structure is. Do you want your food growing to take precedence? Or your factory, so you produce metal and bio plastics quicker? You also need to make sure you have enough colonists to keep the place up and running too, whilst tending to their needs. They need sleep, food, water and most importantly to be happy. Fail at one of these and it could all turn sour, sometimes quickly too. One failed attempt by myself saw my population succumb to hunger as I took too long to grow my own food supplies. Too little too late, but on my following attempt I had over 70 vitro meat and the same again for vegetables. I had that much I was able to sell to the traders, giving me valuable cash to purchase more bots. When you work for Planetbase, it works for you in return and is one of the most satisfying feelings about the game.
The whole experience is fleshed out by the acts of nature and the day and night cycle. The latter of which feels so relaxing as you gaze upon your base lit up gently by interior lights. Your solar panels in turn become redundant during the night cycle, but their reflective surfaces display the night sky and is a fantastic sight. At least for me. Power generation is left to your wind turbines should you have any, or down to your power reserves stored away. But don’t let it run out or you’ll find yourself in the dark before dawn and this will affect every single part of the base and affect the production. You can disable individual rooms, saving on power consumption and alleviating the workers to go and apply their skills elsewhere.
Visually, it an impressive game on the Indie scene. Sure the planet surfaces aren’t the most detailed, but they don’t need to be. The bulk of the game is your base and what goes on inside it. As for the game’s music and ambience, it subtle yet not to that much of an extent you forget it’s there.