PAX WEST 2018: Astroneer Hands-On Impressions

AstroneerThere is no other environment that gamers are more familiar with than outer space. We have fought wars, saved the universe, experienced love, fought in naval combat, and flew like Luke Skywalker in space video games. But what if space wasn’t about war and combat, but instead, science and exploration? This is what Astroneer is looking to answer as it moves along in early access. Seattle-based System Era Games has been hard at work with Astroneer, crafting an interesting space-focused video game that combines science and exploration, as well as accessibility for the player. I had the chance to check the game out for myself at the Indie Megabooth at PAX WEST in Seattle, Washington.

Astroneer has garnered quite the reputation, becoming popular among the PC gaming circles. Originally released in December of 2016, Astroneer is a fun, colorful space exploration game, where players will use science and resource gathering to mine for materials, construct their bases, and colonize worlds. Players will acquire both organic and inorganic matter to construct habitats, vehicles, and scientific instruments. At their disposal, players will be able to use vehicles to roam the surface of the planet, and also use mining equipment to mine resources that lie deep within the planet. Garnering resources will not be easy, as players will be subjected to a variety of hazards, such as oxygen loss and meteor strikes. However, other than the environmental hazards, there are no other risks or hazards to be mindful of. THere are no aliens to fight. There are no alternate dimensions. There are no instances of impending doom. Astroneer specifically focuses on science and exploration.

My demo was a short demo, giving me a basic look and feeling to what kind of game Astroneer is. The best way to describe it is a game experience very similar to games such as Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley. These are games that have fun, productive activities to accomplish, but you may do them at your own leisure. Astroneer doesn’t hold your hand, but it allows you to do absolutely everything, with a few pointers here and there. Right away, I was allowed to freely explore a pre-made colony, discovering the different things I could do in Astroneer.

Exploring the planet was serene and dream-like, like an illustration from space pulled from the 1980’s The bright, crisp colors, coupled with a smooth synthwave soundtrack, was relaxing and immersive. Shortly after arriving at the colony, I soon go to work, using my own resource gathering tool to gather resources and make indents into the planet’s surface. I eventually go to roam around a rover, complete with mining equipment and learn how to use the mining equipment to search for new materials. I was not able to try the 3D printer to construct a vehicle, but I did see the range of options that were there.

I was also able to see that the Astroneer can store a variety of items. A useful interface shows the players what the astronaut has in his backpack. Organic and inorganic materials will protrude from the backpack, and give the indication as to what type they are. This is useful in seeing how much material is available, without halting the experience via a pause menu. The backpack can also install modules and tool to which can be used. Towards the end of the demo, I was able to actually strap a rocket to my Astroneer. As I was exploring the colony, I found a small rocket pod, with individual rockets. I was then able to secure one rocket, and then use it to launch from my backpack. The rocket continued endlessly into space. With that last act, my demo concluded.

Astroneer felt like a great game for those looking for an engaging but laid back gameplay experience. The simple activities and light challenge make this game great for casual gamers, experienced gamers, and players with a family focus. The game’s emphasis on science and exploration will provide a fun, but educational experience, and emphasize important principals in space exploration. It’s a big universe out there, and Astroneer looks to explore it all.

Astroneer will officially launch in version 1.0 by the end of 2018, for PC and Xbox One.