Surviving Mars (SM) is a city builder game with a difference; you’re trying to settle The Red Planet rather than make an urban sprawl that looks like any other North American city. As settling on Mars poses its own unique challenges, players shouldn’t expect this game to play in exactly the same ways as their typical city builder.
- Depth for experienced players to explore
- A decent challenge for most players
- Nice visual design
Unwelcoming for players new to management sims
Micromanagement that could be automated
Let’s start with the obvious; this is not just SimCity on Mars. SM is more about finding a suitable landing site and creating the infrastructure for humans to live on Mars than city planning Generic Town, USA.
If you’ve never played a management sim or city builder before, this isn’t the one I’d recommend. With so many different resources you have to manage (around a dozen), it can be really unwelcoming for players new to the genre.
Experienced players, on the other hand, will really get a kick out of all this. After all, it’s very rewarding in management sims (and SM, in particular) to see everything running smoothly and SM has depth in spades for fans of the genre. Once you’ve got your infrastructure working effectively to produce the right quantities of every resource to keep everyone on the planet happy, you’ll feel like a god amongst martians.
With so many different things to consider, SM offers a good challenge and rarely gives you much time (or oxygen) to breathe. After all, this game is about survival, not about having a nice day out. If you neglect any aspect of your colonies, things can quickly snowball and you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle trying to fix everything.
One of my main complaints, however, is that there is a lot of micromanagement involved. Certain aspects of the early game are enjoyable but as your colonies grow, you’ll feel that you’re way too important to deal with such trivial concerns and will be hoping that the game could automate more of these tasks. For example, it’s all well and good carefully managing five drones at the start of the game but by the time you’ve got an army of them working across several colonies, you couldn’t care less if one of them is a little overworked.
Finally, despite Mars having a somewhat homogeneous landscape, your units, buildings, and infrastructure contrast it all very nicely. During the rare moments the game gives you some time to take a breather, you should sit back and enjoy the game’s lovely visual design. You’ve earned it, after all.
As the name indicates, Surviving Mars offers a good challenge. This is definitely a game for players that enjoy management sims and will never be the one you’d recommend to a friend hoping to get into the genre. If management games are your thing, you could do far worse than this.