As an avid lover of management simulators, I was excited to start on Planetbase as I really enjoyed titles like Tropico V. I remember being a military-tyrant warring with various countries of my choosing, nuking their collective arses back to the stone age and thus starting WWIII; not a single country had the power to stand against me! Having such freedom to make the world my plaything gave me such pleasurable moments that I hoped Planetbase would produce similar feelings. Players start out with only a few settlers along with a handful of resources and will be tasked with gathering more to expand their base. Will Planetbase be an enjoyable ride or will it fall short like so many other management games out there?
Easy-to-understand controls – Planetbase utilizes solid controls in terms that are easy to use for new players to get the grip of. You can press the LB (or L1) button and gain access to a multitude of extra structures to build such as a canteen, greenhouse and a metal refinery. In addition to this, while hovering over your newly built structure and then pressing RB (or R1), you will add another set of indoor structures to build which makes your base more charming. If you’re still unsure about the controls and functions there is also a detailed tutorial for you to play so that you feel more comfortable with the mechanics.
Stunning environmental graphics – The graphics in Planetbase are both breathtaking and beautiful. There are multiple planets in this game and each contain their own unique ecosystem to adapt to. For example, the first planet you encounter is a desert planet and features a sandstorm that looks and feels like it would tear apart my base at any given time. Interestingly, there is a mechanic included for sandstorms that affects the movement of your colonists by slowing them down and, in turn, damage their health along with their outdoor structures. There is are unique qualities that separate the planets and give nice variety as there is also a chalk-white planet featuring its own tundras and ice storms with similar mechanics to the sandstorms.
Smooth and functional camera – The camera felt smooth as it has no motion blur and/or clunkiness. It allows you to see everything that is important and includes a zoom feature that allows you to enhance the screen to a certain extent. As the camera is a vital part of any management simulator, you should be able to see any and all additional information on your screen for the current area. Unfortunately, the snap feature present in other management simulators is nonexistent in Planetbase and would have been vital in assisting the player. Although Planetbase doesn’t have a snap ability it does have a birds-eye view incorporated; this is an appreciated addition as it allows the player to spy on the population like a peeping tom and provides a nice break from the tedious game-play.
Unhappy without happiness meter – When people are unhappy they refuse to work, but there is no way to track your population’s happiness to uncover the reason behind their unrest. The people are the cornerstone to any management simulation as they are the ones who collect resources and repair structures. Having no way to check on the status of your denizens is very counter-intuitive to the very definition of a management game. It requires information screens so the player is aware of everything and can respond to every problem possible with efficiency. The lack of a meter to measure this, coupled with the fact that you lose more resources than you gain, may lead to stressful and rage-inducing situations.
Lack of a substantial plot – As the game is already mundane, the lack of a story can make it unbearable for the player. All the characters feel like cardboard cutouts with no personality whatsoever and they all look too similar. As this is a management game, there are bound to be deaths so the inclusion of a story with an element like this could have led to so many possibilities. For example, including side stories such as characters falling in love and being separated by the darkness of space or even a war between the colonists/dangerous wildlife (if there were any) could have been more exceptional. In this way, the player could have had some sort of emotional investment into their people and would have wanted to keep playing to find out the conclusion of the ideas outlined above. Sadly, these ideas were not visualized and a lot of potential has gone to waste.
In the first few hours, Planetbase showed promise but it ultimately fell short of expectations. Although it looks breathtaking with its abundant ecosystems and has user-friendly controls, it lacks a crucial story which leads to repetitive and mind-numbing game-play. I would have liked to see some sort of story in which I try my best to keep the population from dying and eventually colonize the planet. For aficionados of the management genre, avoid Planetbase as there are games that do it bigger, better, and with more passion.
Planetbase was developed and published by Madruga Works. It was released for Microsoft Windows on October 16th, 2015 and then on Xbox One [reviewed] on May 1st, 2017. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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