This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PC.
Space adventure/survival games with a procedurally generated solar system may sound very specific and niche, but has proven oddly popular, as I am now onto my third game in this genre. I first took a look at No Man’s Sky NEXT, before tackling the Rogue-like Genesis Alpha One. Now though, I am onto Astroneer, which takes a different approach in its space exploration. How does it fair? Let’s have a look.
The game’s visuals are immediately striking. Opting to go for a minimalist yet clean textureless look, Astroneer honestly looks great. In the daytime it looks bright and colourful whereas in the dark it has plenty of solid lighting to look the part. Overall, I really like the graphics here.
Like No Man’s Sky and Genesis Alpha One, Astroneer is a space exploration and survival game. Unlike these two however, which have pre-determined goals to aim for, Astroneer has a more sandboxy approach. There’s no goal to aim for, so you just explore and survive. This lack of a goal may put some players off, and the infinite survival aspect may get boring after a while, although luckily, there’s enough bells and whistles to keep you entertained.
In your bid to survive, you have to build utilities like oxygen tethers, vehicles, and buildings. To do so, you have the handy terraformer. This lets you manipulate the ground to your will and it has the handy bonus of collecting any materials it demolishes, making item collecting a breeze. Crafting is also done easily through 3D printers or your backpack, and there’s plenty to craft. Base building is also solid, having a modular approach to it. For example, your basic building that you start with has compartments for oxygen generators, as well as sockets to plug in other utilities.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game though is in its oxygen system. Almost no planet in this game’s system has breathable air, so you’re always at risk of suffocating. To alleviate this, you have your aforementioned oxygen generators and tethers. You automatically tether to any oxygen source nearby, but if you get out of range you begin to suffocate. To alleviate this, you can place down oxygen tethers that keep you connected to the oxygen source. It’s a great way to manage a critical resource, and it also acts as a sort of breadcrumb trail, as you can make an entire line of tethers around the planet to explore.
Sadly though, my biggest gripe with the game is that it lacks any sort of combat. Whereas No Man’s Sky and Genesis Alpha One always kept you on your toes because of nearby threats, that’s all gone here. There’s no enemies to kill and no weapons to build, with your only hazards being the planetary ones like the lack of oxygen. This contributes to the potential boredom I mentioned earlier.
The game’s audio is pretty well done. The plethora of sound effects are great, and while there’s no voice acting, the little mumbles your character does is quite cute. What takes it away though is the gorgeous musical score, which elevates the audio massively, with it being calming and honestly beautiful.
Astroneer is honestly a great experience. The minimalist art style looks downright gorgeous, and the way the game goes about its gameplay is great. The terraformer is a great tool to use and the way the game manages oxygen as a resource is interesting. The game sadly does lack combat, and the sandbox nature of the game can be boring to some, but these are minor nitpicks. Couple this with the fantastic musical score and you have a fantastic space-faring adventure.