The end of 2016 saw a little early access title launched quietly into the darkness of space. Its name was Astroneer and it's shaping up to be one of the most interesting games of the next year. Despite a lack of hype and its early stage of development, this small but ambitious #Indie title has already become a huge hit with gamers hungry for cooperative space exploration.
What's So Great About 'Astroneer'?
#Astroneer is combining the best parts of several fan-favorite games with an gorgeous but simple aesthetic that doesn't put too much strain on player's hardware.
You play as an adorable little astronaut sent down to colonize a planet in a futuristic version of a gold rush. With nothing but a little power, some oxygen and a cool terraforming tool, players have to explore their randomly generated planet to collect resources, build structures, research tech and eventually build a ship to travel to new worlds, all without succumbing to cosmic dust storms or acid spewing flora.
One of the most ingenious additions to the building and exploration genre is how modular the construction system is. Every vehicle and building comes with universal plugs, allowing you to stick together items to suit your needs. Going on a long drive in your rover? Plug in a solar panel to keep the engine running all day. Need to reach some deeply buried technology blueprints? 3D print a drill and stick it on your truck. Anything that you're not using can be pulled off and left at your base until you need it again, which means there's almost never a situation in which you regret having built an item.
The best part of the game so far is the co-operative multiplayer. Friends can drop in and out of one another's games, helping out, finding new resources or just generally chilling in the tranquility of a foreign planet. It feels like a cross between the calm enjoyment of a good session of #StardewValley and the magic of exploring Minecraft's survival mode in the early days of the game.
Will 'Astroneer' Avoid The Pitfalls of 'No Man's Sky'?
When #NoMansSky finally launched it was riding on a wave of hype large enough to wipe out a few coastal settlements. Like most games made by mortals and not wishes, dreams and poorly thought out marketing, it failed to live up. Gamers who'd been dreaming of exploring the vast universe with their friends, building settlements and changing the face of planets found themselves sorely disappointed by the game's lack of multiplayer support and sparsity of actual stuff to do beyond fly around and look at things. Some felt so betrayed by the game's failure to live up to expectations that they attempted to sue Hello Games for false advertising.
Astroneer has already started on a better foot than No Man's Sky with their early access testing model. By starting with the basics and iterating new features based off player feedback, System Era Softworks is opening a dialog with fans that No Man's Sky sorely lacked (and lacks). Instead of promising the universe and delivering a planet, Astroneer delivers a solar system and works with its intrepid explorers to see how big a galaxy they can create together.
But You Might Want To Wait
Before you rush out and purchase Astroneer, be forewarned that early access really does mean early for this game. Astroneer is still in pre-alpha, and there's plenty of odd bits of jank and bugs to be ironed out—the truck in particular handles like someone took the Mako from Mass Effect and thought, "How can I make this worse?"
If you're willing to work around the rough edges, or you're excited to be a part of the player feedback guiding the development of the game, then Astroneer might just be for you. If not, it's still shaping up to be a game you'll definitely want to check out in the future.
Are you excited about checking out Astroneer? Were you disappointed by No Man's Sky or did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments.