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Subject: "The Planet Crafter"     Previous Topic | Next Topic
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Nov-01-22, 06:45 PM (EDT)
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"The Planet Crafter"
 
   This is yet another one in a seemingly inexhausible series of outer space walking sims, in which you, the player character, find yourself stranded alone on a hostile planet armed with nothing more than some futuristic camping equipment with suspiciously miraculous matter rearrangement capabilities. Much like chore simulators, I like these dumb games almost in spite of myself, even though the premise is silly and the games are often moderately-to-severely janktastic. They rarely ever seem to get out of Early Access (but then, I think that's true of games across the board) and they usually don't have endings to speak of, but I find something in their core gameplay loops oddly compelling.

The Planet Crafter is a little different in that the goal isn't simply to survive and/or escape the planet; you're trying to terraform it. You start out on an unnamed planet bearing an eerie similarity to Mars and your goal is to make it Earthlike.

Alone.

Yeah, it's preposterous, but it's also pretty fun if you're into that kind of thing, because your efforts actually affect the setting. As you wander around improving your survival prospects and building things, first you turn the sky blue, then you make it rain, and so forth. The progress metrics the game tracks for you (once you've built the appropriate piece of equipment) are as ludicrous as the rest of the science in the game—for instance, you get liquid water at what the screen claims is an ambient temperature of a few dozen millikelvin—but if you ignore the units and just assume that the climbing numbers on the readout Must Mean Something, the sense of progression is real.

What I mean by "the rest of the science" is the usual stuff you find in games like this, that have vague pretensions of being hard-ish scifi but were clearly written by people who only took science in high school. :) For instance, the resources you collect are just lying around in lumps on the surface. Pure silicon, chunks of iron, things that just don't exist in nature in those forms. The devs think iridium is a red glowing metal that generates heat, uranium in its natural state glows bright green, and osmium is a blue glowing crystal that makes things more durable. The recipe for crafting a refill for your breathable air supply is... two blocks of elemental cobalt. Eh???? That kind of silliness. You just have to live with it in this kind of game, because (as is usually the case with scifi games) making it scientificially realistic would also make it absolutely unplayable.

Especially at the beginning, the gameplay is a fair bit like Subnautica, except not underwater, in that your principal concern is running out of air. Until you've progressed to the larger oxygen tanks and increased your inventory space to the point where you can afford to carry several recharge canisters, your air supply limits how far you dare to explore. You spend a lot of your time making calculations of the "If I go into this cave, how far into it can I go before I have to turn back or build an outpost?" variety. As you get farther along, this becomes less constraining, and ultimately it's possible to arrive at a point where the planet has a breathable atmosphere.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the gameplay ends at the moment. It took me about 40 hours to get to that stage, and the progress meter to the next is proceeding agonizingly slowly, I think deliberately on the devs' part because the next stage isn't actually in the game yet. The flavor text early on suggests that it is intended to have an ending at some point, but that point has not yet arrived, so once you get that far in, it looks like further play in that save is just puttering around.

Still, it's good times while it lasts if you're into that kind of thing.

Oh, I forgot to mention one of the key differences between TPC and games like Subnautica: there's no combat. You don't get the usual twist where it turns out the planet isn't as uninhabited as you thought when something comes out of the darkness while you're exploring a cave and eats you. The only life on this planet will be what you put there, which, to the extent that it's actually implemented so far, doesn't go beyond plants and some very pretty butterflies. Which is nice. The combat in these games always feels fairly gratuitous and tacked-on, like someone spoke up in a pre-launch meeting and said, "Where's the THREAT? There has to be a THREAT." (Looking at you, No Man's Sky.)

You can get hit by a meteor, though. There's even an achievement for that. It's called "Not the face!" :)

TLDR: Another silly space survival game with bad science and oddly engrossing gameplay, with a twist that makes it feel unusually rewarding. Recommended if you're into that kind of game, definitely not if you aren't. Currently 20 bucks on Steam, with a free demo available.

--G.
-><-
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.


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