Planetbase Review (PC)
Usually when I get a new game for review it comes from the Editor in Chief at Glitch Free Gaming,. Very rarely will I go hunting for a game myself because that’s what editors are for right? They do the behind the scenes work so that I can concentrate on just waffling some rubbish out into the wide world of the internets. Planetbase was different. As a new streamer on Twitch I started looking around for games that specifically interested me. Planetbase was the first game that I was sent directly from the developers. So with that out of the way, what did I think of it?
Let’s find out shall we?
You begin your first colony with a little pod, 8 little people, two robots and some supplies. The supplies are probably where we should start. The basic materials in Planetbase are starch, vegetables, vitromeat, medicinal plants and ore. Vitromeat comes in 3 flavours: beef, chicken and pork. Simple so far right? Ok, here is where it becomes complicated. Vitromeat or vegetables can be used to make food and for the love of God make sure you have both types of meal available otherwise your colonists get malnourished and stop working. This didn’t happen to me at all… Not after 4 hours of gameplay that ended when I finally realised what the little fork above my colonist’s head meant. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Starch can be turned into Bioplastic and ore can be turned into metal. Then you either use them as building materials for new bits for the colony or use them to make even more complex resources like spares which are used to repair parts of the colony, semiconductors which are used to build robots and even guns. There are others available but I’ll let you figure them out by yourself out I’ll be talking about this all day.
Moving on to the colonists themselves, there are various types of people you can have join your colony. Workers, Medics, Biologists, Engineers and Guards. Your basic worker can dig up ores in the mine, carry stuff from place to place in your colony and use basic machines to turn ore and starch into metal and bioplastic. Your engineers can build new rooms and facilities within your colony and can use the more advanced machines to turn metal and bioplastic into spares and other such things. Your medic does exactly what you would expect as well as being able to make new medical supplies. And your Biologists look after your food supplies. After that you can get robots to do the more menial tasks (drilling for ore, carrying things around and even building and fixing the various parts of the colony) to allow your actual human colonists to get on with using the machines and looking after the plants etc.
Each of these robots can be bought from traders or built within your colony once you build the right rooms and machines to do it but the blueprints for most of them are not available to you from the start. You have to buy them from trading ships. This also goes for upgraded versions of all the rooms and facilities you can have in your colony as well. This prevents you from running yourself out of resources trying to start your colony with oversized rooms that cost too much to build. A nice little balance feature that I didn’t even notice until I first saw a trader selling me a blueprint for a massive storage room.. And I though the large one available to me from the start was expensive at seven each of bioplastic and metal? Oh no. just wait until you go to build one of these bad boys!
The game’s a constant balancing act between getting enough colonists to do all the jobs, making enough food, water and power to keep them all alive and making enough spares to keep all the machines running. Believe me it’s not as easy as it sounds and it’s perfectly possible for you to miss something small that makes it impossible to keep your colonists alive. For example. When the only medic I had became malnourished, she stopped working. The only way to cure malnourishment is with treatment in the medical bay from the medic, using medical supplies. Except my medic was just wandering about not really caring any more so eventually the whole colony came to a halt as everyone got sick or injured. I bring this up not as something I didn’t like about the game. I merely mention it as a cautionary tale to those colony builders who will come after me. Don’t let your medic become injured or sick, unless you have a way of getting more….
Onward to that I suppose then…
Buildings are split into 2 groups. Inside and outside. Makes sense right? In the early stages of the game the only outside buildings you’re going to be worrying about are the water collector, Solar generator, Power collector and Wind turbines. Later on you will need to build landing pads for traders and colony ships to arrive bringing you goods, robots and new colonists for your bustling little colony. The trading has a nice little tweak with every trading ship having a randomly assigned commission percentage applied to the transaction. So while those medical supplies you’re trying to buy may only be worth $15 the trader may be asking up to an extra two-thirds on top as a commission. My advice is to pay attention to the cost of things because while you may be desperate for those supplies the next ship that comes along may only want 40% so patience in this case may be justified. Or it might not. Yay for RNG.
Moving on to some of the nice little touches that appear in Planetbase. My favourite is probably the camera view that is available in each and every room within your colony. It lets you see what’s actually happening at that time from a little camera perched high on the wall in the room. And it’s not just a stock room with the beds inside in all the wrong places. It matches your room exactly. It’s a nice little side note that the developers didn’t have to put into the game but they obviously thought ‘Hell this’ll be kinda awesome so why not?’ as you may find yourself sitting waiting for something to happen at various points in the game. Either waiting for ores to be processed so you can build a new room, or waiting for a colonist ship to arrive with that new medic you’re asking for, it manages to distract you for a while, letting you just watch life go by in your colony.
You begin on a Mars like desert planet with your first colony but there are two more planets for you to try and colonise. Each one more fiendish than the last. How do you unlock these? By having your colony reach certain milestones. Some of these are easy to figure out. Such as the Self Sufficiency milestone that you should manage to reach in the first few days. There are more interesting ones like Power monger which involves you generating 500KW of power. Or Expansion which is simply reached by getting new colonists to your base. This becomes difficult to do if your colonists are unhappy or unwell as your colony has a prestige rating. The better and happier your colonists are and the more stuff you have, the higher your prestige. New colonists will stop arriving if it drops too low. This has caused me many a headache in the past…
There is one other thing that can cause you problems and that is the environment itself. The desert planet you start on is prone to dust storms. This will cause your solar panels to cease generating power but will make your turbines go nuts. It’ll also slow down any colonists or robots you have outside to a crawl as they try to navigate while almost completely blind. It also causes damage to your outdoor facilities so be ready with your spares for when it stops. If you have managed to build a control centre then you can raise the alert status of your colony to yellow. This will make everyone come inside and stay there until you lower the status back down to normal again. This is where I have my only gripe with Planetbase. Alert status’ should have their own hot keys. It’s possible by the time you’re reading this they do but right now it’s a click of a button that’s inside a menu. It doesn’t feel fast enough for my liking. And if you’ve built a spaceport and have visitors coming in who might want to attack your colonists or steal your stuff then I want to be able to go to red alert as quickly as possible. Minor gripe but a gripe none the less.
Other than that Planetbase is, in my opinion, completely solid. It’s a game that I can easily sink a massive amount of time into. You get to love your little colonists which makes it all the more upsetting when one of them drops dead from radiation poisoning because he happened to be out repairing that solar panel when a solar flare hit… The way you have to manage all aspects of the colony at once means you’re constantly engaged, watching to see which resources aren’t coming in fast enough or which ones are overstocked. There rarely seems to be any real downtime where you’re just watching things tick by. Generally if you think you’re sorted enough to do that then there’s something you’ve missed that’s gonna bite you in the ass in half an hour.
And so allow me to finish by tipping my hat to the gentlemen and ladies at Madruga Works. You have done a wonderful job here. Keep ’em coming.