Impressions – Habitat: A Thousand Generations In Orbit

By Alec Meer on July 9th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Habitat: A Thousand Generations in Orbit is a strategy/simulation/survival game about constructing an improbable spacecraft out of debris floating in a post-disaster Earth’s orbit. It’s out on Early Access now.

The first time you move is incredible. You’ve slowly built this absurd, rickety contraption of rockets, buses, burger restaurants, fire-breathing animatronic T-Rex heads and cruise liners, and it looks like a stiff breeze would tear it into so many lethal pieces. Yet now you have to fire up assorted jet engines and thrusters, and make this absurdist space hulk travel across the skies. Never mind that there are deadly, mine-spitting nanoclouds and inconveniently-placed explosive gas cannisters strewn about Earth’s orbit – simply going up and a bit left feels comparable to asking a massive, skinheaded Londoner in a red and white football shirt if he’s a Tottenham supporter.

It is, however, rather more beautiful. As that Junk Titanic shudders into motion, somehow holding together (even if the cruise liner is wobbling alarmingly) as its many rockets carry it towards the next patch of potentially useful atmospheric debris, the sense of achievement is immense. I made this. It works. It can provide a home for Earth’s survivors.

A new addition to the ‘building stuff in space’ genre that’s proving rather popular of late, Habitat has more of an RTS feel to it, although a rudimentary understanding of physics is essential. A booster fitted at the wrong angle is going to drag you far off-course, or too many burger stands dangling off starboard will affect the way the whole crate moves. Then there’s stuff like fitting weapons and grappling hooks, which require slowly and precisely turning the ship mid-fight to keep a bead on enemies and obstacles. It’s reminiscent of naval combat games. When you do get a lock on, and trigger a whole raft of lasers and missile launchers and flamethrowers and junk-throwing gizmos to unleash hell on whatever’s approaching, it looks and feels marvellous.

Or at least it would if I hadn’t fitted an enormous lens on the wrong way, so when I fired my ginormous laser at an approaching nanocloud its beam was not directed towards the angry grey nano-blob but instead reflected back into the heart of my habitat. Oh dear. As I watch my shipping containers and rockets and animatronic T-Rex heads spray across the vast expanse of space, madcap dandelion seeds across a jet-black pasture, I feel not loss, but guilt. Sorry, humanity. It’s all over, because I can’t tell which way a bit of curved glass should face.

This speaks as much to my ignorance of the concave and the convex as it does to one of the issues in the current Early Access version of Habitat, and one that I hope gets ironed as it slowly creeps towards full release. This is that it’s extremely fiddly. I’m constantly selecting the wrong object, or not realising that something’s the wrong way round, or failing to build a connection between two structures because the interface will only allow it when the cursor is in a pixel-perfect position – one that’s got very little to do with the locations you’re interacting with. But hey, Early Access is as Early Access does. This is only the start of the something.

Habitat certainly seems to be going somewhere good, with a rather more gonzo take on space construction and physics than other faintly similar titles stocking Early Access’ crowded aisles, but in its current state we’re really talking proof of concept. In its current, very limited state, it’s effective at making me excited when I stumble across some new hunk o’junk dozing in orbit, wondering what I can use it for, where it’s best fitted, if I’m going to kill everyone in the installation process. The question is whether later builds of the game can add in enough new stuff to maintain this excitement, or if floating burger vans and Statue of Liberty heads with laserguns fitted to the point of her crown stop being funny two hours in.

That said, Habitat straddles a thin line between thoughtful and wacky as it is, and I wonder which is the true priority. Is this going to be a game about attacking space monsters with MIRV-spewing Taj Mahals, or one in which you struggle to reach far-flung resources by assembling perfectly balanced array of second-hand jet engines? Somewhere in between works for me, so I hope that’s where it stays.

Habitat’s out on Early Access now. It’s unfinished in its current state and everything is subject to change, naturally.

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16 Comments »

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  1. malthusx says:

    “There is a castle in the sky…”

  2. harley9699 says:

    Is it just a tool of ancient war?

  3. Potocobe says:

    I’ve been reading RPS for many years now and I only just noticed that the first two links below the story are previous and next article buttons. Is it just me or is the internet kind of a sneaky thing. It all just sneaks up on you. Whatever, I’m not saying RPS is at fault but I’m blaming it for my lack of cleverness in this regard. I swear I’m more clever when I’m not reading RPS.

    Oh and the teaser game of chicken between the Eiffel tower and the head of the statue of liberty in the video has jammed some kind of signal running in my brain that led to the immediate discovery of magic links to the past and future right there in front of my face. What a day.

  4. Tom Walker says:

    I want to see how this plays for more than just a couple of minutes. Any chance of a “Let’s blather all over…”?

  5. racccoon says:

    STOP EARLY ACCESSING, it just another money hole we are falling into.
    All the games on early access never seem to get fixed. or just get a trickle of guilt patches,
    Steam’s is laughing and not caring about the consumer at all, they are letting this just happen! Its one of biggest money grabs on the net today… Early access = Tough shit! no refunds!.

    • Belsameth says:

      Except for the games that are already released, making it not “all the games”.
      If you don’t like it, might I suggest not buying early access titles? They’re clearly marked as such so to buy them mistakingly is rather hard :)

    • JohnnyPanzer says:

      Ehem… Prison Architect *cough cough* Kerbal Space Program *cough cough* Ultimate General: Gettysburg *cough cough*

      What’s that? Oh, just three of the best games released in the last fifteen years, all still in early access and with at least two of them packing more content than most AAA-titles released in the last fifteen years put together. Right, forgot about that.

      Look, if you were burned by early access it’s understandable that you’re angry, but please DO direct the anger in the right direction: inwards. Blaming Steam and/or developers for one’s own crippling inability to read or understand written language is not the way to go.

  6. bobbobob says:

    Question for Alec here. What’s the literary tool called that made you use this: “tear it into so many lethal pieces”, rather than ‘tear it into lethal pieces’? I see this around quite a lot and I think it’s awful, but I don’t know what it’s called to complain about it appropriately.

    • shyguybadman says:

      The literary tool he used was his brain….
      …unlike you who literally did not engage his brain before making a comment with no merit.

      I would love to read some of your exquisite computer game journalism, but, in all honesty, I wouldn’t.

      If you don’t like the style of writing on this website you can always read elsewhere

    • poetfoxpaul says:

      It’s something a person might say in the world beyond screens, including it in the writing lends personality to the work. Not necessarily thesis-grade writing, but I don’t visit RPS to have someone lecture me in grammatically correct sentences.

      And since when did anyone care about a random internet strangers personal opinion on their sentence structures?

      • bobbobob says:

        Good one, poetfoxpaul! While you did take time to moan about my comment, you didn’t actually answer my question. Do you know what the tool is called? It must have a name. I genuinely want to know what it’s called. I’m also not making any complaint whatsoever on the grammatical structure of any sentences and I’m certainly not lecturing you, poetfoxpaul.

        You say it’s something used in the world beyond screens. I’m not sure what you mean by that. If you mean ‘not on the internet’, then you’re right; I’ve seen it in print as well.

        I don’t know about people’s thoughts on random internet strangers’ opinions on sentence structures, but you’re on a website that contains primarily, random internet strangers’ opinions on PC games, so give me a break.

        • FaceWound says:

          I can only assume he was attempting to in a polite manner ask you to get your head out of the tight, dark hole that is currently enveloping your head. I’m not entirely sure where you are going by asking “What tool is it?” other than trying to prove your clearly superior understanding of the English language. What you are actually doing is attempting to in a very snide undertone express how you think it is incorrect and there is no “tool” just that in your mind it is completely wrong. I have very little knowledge of the background of people writing on this site but the writers I do know don’t come from any kind of language background, more often than not they have an irrelevant background and moved into writing articles about games through a passion not career path.

          • bobbobob says:

            Facewound. I’m not sure what else I can add to this other than I only wanted to know what this thing was called. I contacted Alec directly and he didn’t know either..and I suspect he thought I was being snide as well. I probably shouldn’t have put the ‘I think it’s awful’ bit in the first comment, but that wasn’t a opinion on the article, the website, Alec or anyone or anything else.

  7. chluke says:

    I tried this game for an hour or so I it does have potential what you get works well enough, I did not suffer from any crashes. The reviewer pretty munch hit the nail on the head. I would not buy it yet as all you can do is build a habitat and defend from 5 clouds.