A look back at a recent charmer.
I remember one of the biggest highlights of my primary school days was field trips. I had fond memories of many of them, but one that stuck with me was The Space Travel exhibit at the Ontario Science Center. I loved every second of it. The thought of space travel, seeing the different landscapes, exploring new territory, and maybe even meeting otherworldly beings was indeed an incredible thought for me. Do you remember moments like this?
Although years have passed since that day, my interest never waned; it did, however, take a backseat for a little while until that one fateful day in 2016 – I caught the teaser for the space-sim, Astroneer, where I was catapulted back to being a kid again.
For those who don’t know, in Astroneer, you take on the role of a tiny astronaut (or astronauts if you opt to play with friends) trying to survive and explore a new planet you’ve just landed on. You discover new technologies and materials to improve your base through exploration, eventually expanding to other planets for their unique resources and terrain.
What makes Astroneer such a pleasant experience is apparent right when you start. So often in games, there always seems to be some sort of extenuating circumstance which forces you to hurry and build your home base or reserves. Inclement weather or giant, scary monsters approaching, there’s always something threatening everything you hold dear! Well, worry not, for that is not the case here. There aren’t any hostile patrolling beasts or competing humanoid lifeforms – just the beautiful terrain and caches of resources to discover. Once you’ve established a reliable line of oxygen (which is easy to do), you can travel anywhere on the planet you’re on with very little concern for time.
This stress-free approach to a survival-sim is a breath of fresh air. I found myself enjoying discovering things at my own pace, bobbing my head to the lovely ambient soundtrack, and finding ways to build my base creatively – rather than rushing to complete it. My favourite device, the Terrain Tool, allows you to shape the earth however you like. Oh, I’ve had so much fun with this – I’ve made hills, bridges, and even tunnelled underground, which enables you to tailor the exploration experience for you. So although you’re not immune to accidents or catastrophes, there’s always a way to recover, and you’re back exploring before you know it, back to making exciting discoveries.
Astroneer is special. It lands comfortably in the realm of relaxing and casual and doesn’t try to overwhelm, but instead presents options, allowing you to choose an experience that suits you. But, more than that, It taps into your inner child-like sense of wonder. It reminds you of the joys of being curious, wanting answers, and being rewarded for seeking them. Although the world can be a big and even scary place, as your tiny astronaut friend demonstrates: you can take on the most significant endeavours; you just have to start somewhere, be brave, and leap!
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