A few years ago, Arctico (opens in new tab) was called Eternal Winter, and was a pretty unremarkable survival game. Then its developers, Claudio Norori and Antonio Vargas, changed tack, shifting the focus from survival to exploration and base-building. The coolest thing about Eternal Winter was the ability to travel around on a dog sled, which I'm glad to see has been carried over.
Arctico is named after the island it's set on: a desolate expanse of snow and ice, presumably located somewhere in the Arctic Circle. You're here to continue the work of your late mentor, a scientist whose research is scattered around the island. She was working on "undisclosed inventions", as well as figuring out how to efficiently grow crops in subzero temperatures.
There's something very appealing about Arctico's wintry terrain and use of colour. It's a pretty game, but clearly still in development, with some clunky, robotic animations. Still, it's a compelling place to explore. You'll see the outline of something on the horizon, ride over with your dogs, and find something interesting: the abandoned camp of previous explorers, perhaps, where you'll find excerpts from their diaries and items to scavenge.
This is the most interesting part of Arctico's current alpha build for me. I'm not as excited by the crafting or base construction, which involves building solar panels to generate power and drills to mine ore, to in turn build other stuff. I've done this in a dozen other games. But I do like how it's more streamlined than in other survival sims, which are often bogged down by complexity.
Carving through the snow in your dog sled is a lot of fun, and I like being able to leap into a tiny kayak whenever I hit a body of water. But there's no denying that Arctico currently feels more like a proof of concept than a fully fleshed-out game. Apparently it's due to leave Early Access in Q4 this year, but at the moment it feels like it could use more time in the oven.
Arctico has been in Early Access for a while now, with regular updates increasing the amount of stuff to do in it. It's still pretty bare-bones compared to something like Subnautica—a clear influence, incidentally—but it's grown a lot. That said, I'm not sure it's worth investing in yet. It shows a lot of promise, but I think I'll wait a few more months before I dip back in.