Last week I had the opportunity to play Surviving Mars for a few hours, Paradox's optimistic-but-realistic take on what a near-future crack at colonization of the red planet might look like.
My colony was an almost immediate failure. An hour or so in, a key electrical cable malfunctioned, slowing production of oxygen that was directed at my single habitation dome. Right after that, the dome itself sprung an oxygen leak (a scary sight: you can see the precious gas pouring out into the red planet), multiplying the issue. My colonists were suffocating fast.
It was at that moment I noticed I'd run out of my starting allotment of metal, which meant my drones couldn't repair the faulty machinery. I tried to build a metal mining facility on the map, but for that, I needed workers to operate it. And to get workers, I needed a functioning dome. NASA, I'm probably not your guy.
Luckily, Paradox had a couple of save files from experienced players loaded onto the PCs we were playing. I loaded up one in the video above, which showed a colony that had managed to survive and thrive beyond a few hours, throwing up tons of solar and wind power production to support multiple domes.
As I picked up where this save file left off, I encountered one of Surviving Mars' nine 'mysteries'—narrative events where players encounter something unusual and have to, through their actions (not dialogue prompts), decide what to do about them, and deal with the consequences that come with that decision. Other mysteries are inspired by classic sci-fi, including one called "The Inner Light" that I was particularly curious about, as a Star Trek fan.
Mysteries are essentially the source of story in Surviving Mars, which is otherwise an open-ended sandbox game. The text descriptions that intermittently pop up to describe the latest development in the mystery remind me a lot of the great writing in Stellaris, another Paradox strategy game.
Watch me tangle with some mysterious black cubes that show up at my colony's doorstep in the video above. Surviving Mars will be out March 15 (opens in new tab).