Welcome to a new series on AiPT! called Pre-Alpha Preview, where we scour the Steam Early Access program for hidden gems worth spending your cold hard cash on now. As we all know, paying for a early access game can be a gamble, so let us do the gambling for you!
Astroneer was released to the masses via Steam’s Early Access program as well as Windows 10 and Xbox One’s Game Preview program in December of 2016. The game is described as an aerospace industry and interplanetary exploration sandbox game. The worlds are procedurally generated and filled with resources to gather. Even in its pre-alpha form, Astroneer boasts base building, vehicle building, power grid management, terrain manipulation and item crafting. Even more surprising is the four player co-op, which despite some latency and FPS drops ran relatively smoothly with three players over the course of my seven hour playthrough.
Your trusty terrain tool allows you to dig away at the earth, add earth to fill holes or build bridges, and also serves as your tool to gather resources.
The game is independently published and produced by System Era Softworks. If you haven’t heard of them, System Era Softworks is a six man team of industry veterans, hailing formerly from Ubisoft Toronto, Electronic Arts, 343 Studios and Epic Games. With a pedigree such as this, Astroneer out of the gate already has a level of development and gameplay expertise ahead of the curve compared to your typical sampling of early access games. This game is very playable in its current form, and I have only experienced five freezes, only three of which forced me to quit out of the game entirely.
You can make your base as small or as big as you want. Using the resource resin allows you to build new expansion platforms on your base to branch out. Each platform can then be turned into a specific module such as a research lab, smelter or trade platform.
In true sandbox fashion, Astroneer is heavy on free exploration and survival. When you are in close proximity to your base, you automatically tether to it to receive unlimited oxygen. Using resources, you can build additional tethers to expand your range. Your space suit does allow for some roaming off the grid but you’ll need to get back to an oxygen source rather quickly, especially if you use sprint. The only environmental hazards present so far are these evil plants that spew out a toxic cloud and of course the time tested falling from too high of a height. You can also find wreckage from various space craft strewn about that may provide resources, research and ready made parts. In the first few hours you definitely feel tied down to your base as you slowly expand your oxygen infrastructure outward, then once you construct vehicles the planet is your oyster. Once you have established yourself and conducted enough research you’ll eventually unlock spacecraft which you can construct to explore new planets.
Oxygen is not the only thing that can bring your exploration to an end. Inventory space is also limited as your space pack can only hold eight items and two attachments. Your pack holds your oxygen as well as your energy to run your terrain tool. Vehicles are also the saving grace here as they can be outfitted with additional storage.
Once you build the shuttle, you can fast travel to several different locations on your current planet. The shuttle itself once it lands serves as your oxygen source. You can then jump back in to return home.
Overall, if No Man’s Sky has left you disappointed, Astroneer may feed your need for cooperative space sandbox exploration. The developers have been proactively engaged with the community so far and have done a good job advertising their forums to pre-alpha players to crowdsource discovery of bugs and glitches as well as solicit new features from the community.
Whenever you load into the game you are greeted by this message. A quick trip to the forums shows a very active player base for a two week old pre-alpha game.
With graphics that are charming and vibrant, diverse planet exploration, already solid four person online co-op, and engaging base building, we say Astroneer is worth investing in now!