Gaming - Planetbase

The Defective Inspector returns with a whole hatful of new case files to investigate.  Like a magician's rabbit, the first out of the hat was Planetbase from Madruga Works...

Due to a prolonged absence I have a stockpile of games to play and this has left me with the first worldly-est problem ever, which one should I play first?! So I took off the hat I use in my avatar and did what came naturally, questioned my existence and pulled something out of somewhere else. In this case it was more fruitful than normal as I was gifted with a base building, space faring, colony controlling dome fest that is Planetbase.

This game is a bit of a Ronseal; build a base on a planet. You start as a colony landing pod filled with supplies, robots and various specialised humans ready to make a new life for themselves on a barren lifeless rock. After appreciating the irony of that statement the intrepid group of survivors must build specially crafted domes and scatter them along the planet’s surface. In a basic sense it follows the standard blueprint of make/trade/store supplies and control the colony through the plethora of interconnecting buildings and processes. While this description dulls down a very well refined game it affirms that the game makers, Madruga Works, appreciate the importance of good games not gimmicks.

See this fine photo above? It’s from the presskit we reviewers love to steal and throw into our articles. Truth is the screenshot above is the tip of the customising iceberg, it covers some basic bubble buildings and doesn’t even show the freedom you have with items INSIDE the structure itself. Beyond the glass ceiling there is the environment to consider. Depending on how far long in the game you are you get access to different planets, challenges and technology meaning you are not left to build without purpose, there are actual goals to consider. Amusingly these goals are called “Milestones” and they seem like a suspiciously renamed “Achievements” however it comes with snapshots and entertaining anecdote of your base as it develops which gives an almost photo album feel. Y’know… Cause my base is a baby.

There is more to the game than just resource management, there are perils to overcome beyond starvation and oxygen deprivation. You must deal with visitors being rowdy and occasionally murderous, morale needs to be kept high enough to avoid the people remembering there are murderous rowdy people about the place and an ever demanding need for prestige so your thunder dome festival can look less hazardous and more happening. Then there are long nights to ruin solar power, sandstorms to chip away at the infrastructures and giant space rocks to crash down at random intervals. It begs the question why the initial colonists picked such a place to settle but those sort of questions belong in the real world, not in a PC game.

Beyond an almost skeletal description of gameplay there is a lot to talk about. Madruga Works is a small but dynamic team who seems to have a good idea how to make a game run smoothly, look even smoother and provide a challenging but rewarding experience. It’s easy to make something that burns a graphics card/CPU but it’s another to make the resources work for the game in the right way in the right places. While it won’t win display awards for most dynamic graphics there is a clear understanding of coding, gaming engines and teamwork. This may seem like a trivial thing to think about when reviewing Planetbase but indie developers rise and fall like the sun so to see one which has genuine staying power brings me an immense amount of joy.

There are negatives about every game and Planetbase is no different. While I enjoyed the new planet challenges they were not exactly game changing, I would have liked the planets to be a bit more influential beyond weather patterns and power control. While there are clear and beautiful aesthetic differences it’ll always come back to gameplay and I find myself tweaking my core style rather than having to adopt a completely new one. I’ve yet to try out the additional gaming option of “Challenges” I suspect there will be more scenario based issued but again it… All seems to be a matter of restriction rather than adaptation. Additionally, the basic items made available to build a base are not researched or purchased but simply unlocked as you build other building. While you DO get the opportunity to obtain specific tech through trade I felt like there was a missed opportunity to create a research option found in so many games rather than depending on luck of the right trader at the right time.

That being said the game is not just good, it’s functionally perfect. Sure there are areas where I’d change things a little but a good game is not about what pleases me, but the general public as a whole. Planetbase is a well-rounded colony controlling simulator which offers challenging and rewarding gameplay with streamline functionality from a truly professional indie company. While I can’t say it is THE game to buy in 2016 is it definitely one worth getting.

Images - Planetbase
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