Disclosure: My copy was provided by TriplePoint PR. GOG also kindly provided a key for Samsai as well. Thanks to them both for supporting GamingOnLinux!
The hook with Surviving Mars is that it's a city builder where you're given a little more direct control over certain parts of the game (like manually moving vehicles around) and you're building in a place with no oxygen, no food and not much in the way of anything really. It's how you get from nothing to a sprawling colony that makes it so very different to what I've played before. The way the planet starts off barren and ends up as a busy city full of people, industry and more as you struggle to have enough resources and deal with any disasters that appear.
Sadly, this is one time I haven’t been able to review the game fully before release. While they supplied me with a review build, it wasn’t ready due to a text rendering bug. I struggled on for a while nonetheless and I ended up really quite enjoying it. That truly says something about a game, that even with such a glaring bug I was able to enjoy it. I've had it confirmed to me that it is indeed a game bug and it will be patched, likely in the first patch but there's no ETA. While the game remains playable, it's hard not to be dissapointed in this.
To make up for the lack of a full day-1 review, I shall be livestreaming it tonight on our Twitch channel at approximately 18:15 UTC, it will be a longer than usual stream to celebrate, as long as the text issue doesn't cause too many problems.
By far, my favourite feature in the game is the Photo Mode. Not enough games give you a way to completely hide the entire UI to really take everything in and get some good snaps. It’s not just that fact that it hides stuff away you don’t want in your shots, you can also adjust: the time of day, filters, exposure, fog and more resulting in some great shots. Here’s a few of my favourites taken in the Linux version:
There are a few things I think they can improve on, like controlling drones. You can only select them one a time, dragging to select more than one would help a lot, something I’m surprised they haven’t put in the game. I've no doubt this will see some good post-release support and I imagine it's one small addition they will do. On top of that, there's no priority system for drones. You can set building construction to a higher priority, but you can't do a similar thing with drones. For example, having a few dedicated to repairs and a few dedicating to building work would help.
There’s lots of details that I do love about it, some of them are quite simple too like how the Power Accumulator rises from the ground depending on how much power is stored, also the Water Tower which has a float that rises to show how much is stored. Simple pleasures, but it’s all the small things that add up. Some games don't focus on the simple things, but Haemimont Games seems to have put real attention to details in Surviving Mars.
The developer and publisher actually did a reddit AMA (Ask me anything) yesterday as well, where they answered two of my questions. My questions were answered by Robin Cederholm, Lead Producer at Paradox Interactive (the publisher, not to be confused with Paradox Development Studio).
How hard was it for you to support Linux with Surviving Mars?
As a Publishing Producer I can say that it wasn't super hard :) I know that for Haemimont the difficulties between different Linux distributions are extremely difficult to navigate though. Luckily the Linux users are usually resourceful and help each other out, so that helps a lot.
Would you say supporting Linux is worth it, given you've previously put games on Linux?
I'd say it's worth it most of the time, otherwise we wouldn't do it. But it's not so much about monetary gain as it's about letting Linux players enjoy our games as well. We typically recoup the cost, but we're talking small numbers here.
It’s pleasing to see someone at Paradox Interactive say it’s worth it! That makes me happy. We know our numbers aren't huge, but the fact that they do usually recover costs is a good sign.
About the game:
Surviving Mars is a sci-fi city builder all about colonizing Mars and surviving the process. Choose a space agency for resources and financial support before determining a location for your colony. Build domes and infrastructure, research new possibilities and utilize drones to unlock more elaborate ways to shape and expand your settlement. Cultivate your own food, mine minerals or just relax by the bar after a hard day’s work. Most important of all, though, is keeping your colonists alive. Not an easy task on a strange new planet.
It's a very slow-paced, but satisfying game from what I've been able to play so far. I've put quite a few hours into it already and I think it's certainly worth looking at. My concern right now, is how it will feel to play it again from the start considering the slow pacing. A lot of my time has been spent in the faster speed because of how slow it can be. However, once you start getting colonists it really does become a lot more interesting and more difficult.
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