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Surviving Mars

Welcome Home! The time has come to stake your claim on the Red Planet and build the first functioning human colonies on Mars! All you need are supplies, oxygen, decades of training, experience with sandstorms, and a can-do attitude to discover the purpose of those weird black cubes that appeared out of nowhere. With a bit of sprucing up, this place is going to be awesome! Surviving Mars is a sci-fi city builder all about colonizing Mars and surviving the process. Choose a space agency for resources and financial support before determining a location for your colony. Build domes and infrastructure, research new possibilities and utilize drones to unlock more elaborate ways to shape and expand your settlement. Cultivate your own food, mine minerals or just relax by the bar after a hard day’s work. Most important of all, though, is keeping your colonists alive. Not an easy task on a strange new planet.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. It's gorgeous and the gameplay is excellent, but it's also full of so many game-breaking bugs you never know when you'll have to totally abandon a run because the game crashes every 5 minutes, and the devs let a lot of them totally slide. Modders pick up some of the slack, but be prepared to be a free debugging service.

Review from Steam

Found a breakthrough positronic brain technology. I set up biorobots, drove them into one dome. DISCONNECTED OXYGEN FOR PEOPLE! For a hundred years now, the colony of biorobots on Mars, the little people on Earth have not yet suspected of anything ...

Review from Steam

Got this game in some random bundle years ago, but never actually got around to playing it until recently. If you want to hear about how the game has changed since it first launched, you're reading the wrong review. If you want to hear how the game is from the perspective of someone who just played it recently, read on.
For the record, all the DLCs except Below and Beyond and the cosmetic/music ones were installed.
The game is at it's heart, a city builder. If you've played Tropico games, this game has the same developers as Tropico 3,4,and 5. However while Tropic has a very lighthearted tone about everything and humorous characters pop up to say funny things to you all the time, Surviving Mars has a very different tone. Naturally, you're building a colony on Mars as the name implies. And while there are pop ups with some events, the game is nowhere near as character or story driven as Tropico. To some, that may be a benefit, but to me, it was a disappointment. A large part of the game is... empty. There is relatively little "story", and while I wasn't expecting the humor of Tropico, this game is a bit to "quiet" for my tastes.
But hey, the important part is the actual gameplay. How does the game actually play?
It starts off fantastic! You start with nothing but drones at your landing site, and you need to build up a basic infrastructure producing essentials like power, oxygen, and water before you can even invite your first colonists. This stage of the game works well, especially considering you need to collect materials like metal and concrete to get started. You can order more parts from earth, but they cost money and take a while to arrive.
As you advance, you'll get your first colonists and you can put them to work in buildings. Some buildings make your colonists happy, some are about feeding them or monitoring their health, and others are about producing the various resources you'll need. If you manage to keep your first colonists alive for long enough, you can start bringing more to Mars and expanding your colony.
However, as you progress through the game some of the cracks in the game's armor begin to show. The game expects you to micro manage everything. For example, until you get a specific technology the mining buildings can only be worked by colonists, so you'll need to settle colonists at odd areas of the map, perhaps clear across the map if the needed resource is far away. This would require you either build a massive network of pipes and cables to get your oxygen/power/water to that new location, or else build a separate infrastructure there. The UI only shows net power/water/oxygen gain or loss, so you'd have to monitor every new settlement separately.
Likewise building or maintaining almost anything requires that they be within reach of drones, which themselves only operate within range of a drone hub. You can't even build these at the start of the game, and once you can you need to make sure to place them at just the right spots so there's the right amount of overlap, so you can get the resources where they need to go. It's frustrating because by midgame you're spending more than half your gameplay making sure that the resources you have are in the right place. Perhaps this is realistic, but there's a reason most strategy games don't bother with this - it's tedious. You'll go to build a building, head off to deal with other issues, then 3 Martian days (sols) later, you'll wonder why it's still not built, only to realize the resources you need are on the other side of your colony.
Yes, I know hardcore experts with 100s if not 1000s of hours of playtime are going to say GIT GUD N00B. But that doesn't make the game better. It just means you've gotten good at dealing with the flaws in the game's design. They're also going to tell me to use mods to fix it, and I will say that the game has a solid array of mods from hard working community members. But ultimately, I'm reviewing the GAME. Not the mods. It is the developers job to put out a solid product, not the modders.
Then you reach the late game. You've got tons of resources, everything is great for your colony. What do you do now? The only real late game goals seem to be terraforming and wonders. Discussing the latter, despite the tech tree being somewhat randomized (which is an awesome idea to the game's credit, so you can't plan on a specific tech being available when you need it) , wonders will always all be at or near the very end. Naturally they are very expensive and hard to build, but powerful, such as the power plant that provides 1000 energy. The thing is, by the time you can build them, you don't really need them. There are no early game wonders like you might find in something like Civilization games or even Tropico 6. They are basically just cool things to have. Sure, it's fun having the epic space elevator, but by the time I can build it isn't it already clear I've survived mars?
There's terraforming. I gotta say I really enjoyed terraforming. You get to build up Mars's atmosphere, water, temperature, and vegetation to make it more suitable for humans. As you terraform the red planet, you get gameplay and cosmetic bonuses along the way. Eventually, you'll be able to build big open farms outside that put the tiny farms inside the domes to shame, and once you've terraformed enough, outright lower the domes because the atmospheres has become breathable. That... is awesome.
But there's a catch. While raising the other three stats is simple and even fun to do, raising the vegetation stat is needlessly slow. It progresses far slower than the other three, you have to buy seeds from Earth until much later on in the process, and at 40% you can't progress anymore. While the other stats also have missions you can preform to improve them, for vegetation they are outright mandatory. And since the only mission that improves them only increases it 5%, you're doing that mission 12 times. You also have to wait for it to randomly pop up each time, you can't just send 12 rockets and get it over with. And your reward for getting everything to 100%? An achievement. That's it, nothing in game even acknowledges you've fully terraformed Mars save the UI saying so. That was NOT worth several hours of waiting for that mission to pop up.
Current drama over the recent DLC aside, this is a great game. But it's not the kind of great game that's for every kind of gamer. Your decision to buy it should be weighed against it's flaws, which to me were very serious. If story and goals don't matter to you and you love logistics, then this is your new favorite game. But if you saw who the developers were and are expecting "Tropico: El Presidente goes to Mars!" then I'd say give this a pass. Most of you will fall between those two extremes, and will have to make a tougher decision. I hope I was able to help.

Review from Steam

this is one of those games with what i like to call "sims syndrome"
you BINGE this game for 10 hours in one day, do that for a week, and then forget about the game and get bored.
about 6 months later, you remember this game and pick it up again. cue the week of nonstop playing.
rinse & repeat. highly recommend.

Review from Steam

When the real estate prices are are so high it’s better to just colonize another planet. -Matt Damon
I have to be honest my fellow Dusters, 90% of my love for this game is the setting. I love sci-fi, I love Mars, I love the Expanse, I love Alex Kamal, Bobbie Draper and the MCRN, I love the idea of humanity settling another planet. If this game was in another setting like a medieval or ancient world, chances are I wouldn’t play it.
When I was a kid, I always wanted to travel to Mars. Now I know that I can never do that, I’ll be too old by the time humans finally reach Mars. Surviving Mars is not about reaching high scores or suffering trying to pass nearly impossible challenges (although you have the option to do that). Surviving Mars is a game for people who dream about living in another planet. That’s why you can’t move buildings or clear debris, why geologists hate their jobs, why all resources are so scarce. It’s an adventure that seems nearly impossible at the start, because nothing will ever cooperate.
Surviving Mars has it’s issues. I love the game but I’ll be one of the first to admit it’s far from perfect. But it’s very much playable and enjoyable, and mods provide lots of fixes as well.
Besides all I mentioned… this game has a similar effect on me that re-watching Star Trek does (Even when not filling Rede Goddenberry’s various requests). It seems to scratch some zen-type itch in my brain. I’m also one of those freaks that likes to play at 1x speed where possible. Just massaging those neurons. It helps me feel hopeful about humanity’s future, at a time when there’s plenty of reasons to doubt it. It’s gaming “comfort food”, something that can help with very real anxiety and stress related problems.
Honestly I just find it relaxing and like listening to the fake radio stations after a long day’s work. I have plenty of hard strategy games and I like having an easy one I can play when I’m tired or bored without feeling frustrated. I can play this game and say “See? It really isn’t so far fetched. This is entirely doable in our lifetime.”
10/10

Review from Steam

the feeling of true despair when even mars isn't safe from paradox's dlc policy

Review from Steam

A solid city builder with a twist! There are remains of the soul of Cities Skylines, even if survival is the most essential aspect here. But the delight of slowly and patiently build your colony is there, and it's very gratifying. i don't have many DLCs but the terraforming Mars one is simply spectacular, but maybe because i've always had a terraforming fetish myself :)
The real secret to succeding in this game is patience though, if you rush anything it could trigger an inevitable death for your brave colony..