Genre: Indie, Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows), PS4 & Xbox)
Developers | Publishers: System Era Softworks
Age Rating: US E | EU 7+
Price: US $29.99 | UK £23.74 | EU € 31,80
Release Date: January 13th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Sandbox Strategies.
Astroneer is a sandbox adventure game, released on Steam in 2016 and now on Nintendo Switch. The games’ story is set during the 25th century Intergalactic Age of Discovery, where Astroneers explore the frontiers of outer space, risking their lives in harsh environments to unearth rare discoveries and unlock the mysteries of the universe.
The best way to describe Astroneer is a third-person space adventure, mixing survival and creation through a sandbox type of game. It is here where you see your little Astroneer crash land on a planet, leaving it up to you to work out how to survive, how to create new items and tech, and how to escape the planet to land somewhere else to do the same thing all over again.
The Earth-like planet you’re dropped on is Sylva, one of seven planets in this fictional solar system. Unlike in the Steam version of the game, there isn’t a step by step tutorial in the game, unfortunately. There is a picture tutorial in the menu instead. Personally, I’d have preferred a proper tutorial as you are just dropped on a planet with no idea what to do and without it, it doesn’t help newcomers to the genre.
There is a Misson log to check which does help orientate you and get you started in the game. Working through the quest on the Misson log also gives you rewards that come in useful.
At the start, you only have a shelter, which provides you with both power and oxygen whenever you are near it. After that, you also get a landing pad, which can spawn some starting items, then what follows is entirely up to you.
Since the game is set in space, oxygen is vital. Getting out of range of the shelter or any other sources of oxygen will steadily deplete your oxygen bar. Without it, your Astroneer will collapse and be returned to the shelter. Unfortunately, they also lose their backpack with any resources that have been collected, though you can return to the spot the backpack dropped and retrieve the resources.
Build your Base
Between building up your base to survive there, there are multiple tasks in the game, including material collecting for crafting. You’ll be expanding your base and researching new tech types using Bytes, and building more complex stuff.
At first, you can’t explore too far from the base. But once you have made tether lines to supply you oxygen, you can venture into resource sites and tunnels. Using the Terrain tool, a gun that sucks resources from the ground, you can also shape the terrain. You can go deep into the ground searching for resources and reshape the terrain to expand your base.
Eventually, you start driving around in small rovers, then bigger trucks, and you can even hook these into each other to make trailer combinations. Or build a small space shuttle and explore the planets in the solar system.
I love the freedom to explore in Astroneer, which is free of combat and hostile enemies, aside from some flora that explodes. The base building is enjoyable, but it’s let down by fiddly controls on the Switch; more on that soon. Four players can join in online drop-in/drop-out co-op. I didn’t get a chance to try that out on the Switch. I imagine it would be great fun building your base and looking for resources with another player.
The game is procedurally generated, so the planets will be different each time you start a game. The game’s seven planets all have their special weather effects and dangers. For example, the terrain on a barren planet is dusty and sandy, with little vegetation. On the other hand, the Arctic planet has a chilly and very rough terrain, where moving around in vehicles is impossible. When you’re adventuring on various planets, you can see the other planets and the stars when you look up into the night sky; it’s a nice touch.
Controls and Performance
The controls for the game on the Nintendo Switch, as I’ve mentioned, are a little fiddly. You use the Right stick as a cursor which is hard to spot at times where it is on the screen. Moving or rearranging items on your base can be a hassle as the cursor flits about.
There are also a few framerate issues, particularly if you are underground or in a forest it shows up more. I have also had the game freeze twice on the loading screen, hopefully these issues will be fixed soon.
Once you get past the lack of a tutorial and find your feet to progress in the game, Astroneer turns into a wonderfully crafted open-world survival game. It is one of those games that gives you as much as you put into it and lets you work at your own pace towards your goals or the games. It is a calming and genuinely enjoyable experience to play if you stick with it.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot