Have You Played… Astroneer?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time. (Apart from the next week and a half while we hide in Horace’s warm, warm fur.)

Normally when selecting games for HYP, I favour those that are at least a few years old, so that the suggestion comes as a greater surprise. But Astroneer [official site] is all I’ve been playing since it was released into early access earlier this month, and it’s lovely enough that it deserves more words written about it.

Astroneer is a survive-and-craft game. What that means is that you have resources you need to collect in order to not die (oxygen, power) and resources you need to collect to craft into buildings, machines, objects which make the not-dying trivial and instead expand your goals towards exploration, creativity and more. As far as these types of games go, Astroneer is unusually generous, giving you plentiful resources and little pressure. It’s also unusually feature rich for an early access game, with a large number of buildings to craft, research items to discover, large machinery to create, and planets to visit.

Since I last wrote about the game, it’s the planets that have most impressed me. At the time of writing that, I had reached my first new planet after the colourful world you start on, which happened to be a tundra planet. That meant large expanses of white, but also a landscape and cave systems that were broadly similar to the planet I had just come from. In rebuilding my base on that new world, starting afresh, I wondered what the impetus to continue playing was.

Now I’ve been to an irradiated planet and an exotic planet however, and both are wildly different. The irradiated planet has a vast glowing sun in its sky, which looks incredible; the exotic planet, pictured above, is colourful and with strange plants, but also constructed of these high swooping arcs of land stacked one on top of the other. It is genuinely alien to look at, introduces new challenges in terms of traversal and mining, and excited me all over again about the potential of exploring this galaxy. Astroneer is a delight.

23 Comments

  1. dangermouse76 says:

    I’m not a buy before it’s finished guy ( ok I was in very early on minecraft ) but I am following this one’s development.

    I love the aesthetic. And the mechanics as they stand seem to suggest the devs have a solid grip on where they want it to go.
    Anything can change of course.

  2. Ginsoakedboy21 says:

    I hadn’t heard of this until two days ago when I saw a Manyatruenerd lets play. He absolutely loved it – like, to a ludicrous degree. Hearing Graham express simialr sentiments has me really intrigued about this. Still not paying £20 for early access but will definitely follow it’s development closely.

    • Ericusson says:

      There is something to say about Videogames pricing.
      Since I moved my Steam account to a cheaper country as I live there most of the time, the budget I give to videogames each month has drastically risen.

      Astroneer has been released with lots of good ideas already implemented. If you are into light survival / exploration / base building, it is already a nicer experience than Empyrion in terms of gameplay, interface and user friendliness I found.
      It is still very shallow though and the physics have to be worked upon (stupid truck flying and pirouetting everywhere).

      It is a nice experience already, the devs would have to really mess up to turn it into a bad game and releasing such a polished alpha is actually a reminder of why EA access can be so good in helping financing such a project.
      The updates since the very first release have been frequent to improve the experience in a meaningful way, though it is a bit too early since release to have an opinion on the long term development.

      Give it a try maybe and use Steam refunds to make a judgement, it is worth at least that.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        I could be wrong but I believe they’re saying that they wouldn’t spend 20 on a game that hasn’t been finished, not that they question its pricing and value for money.

      • noodlecake says:

        I think the shallowness is likely due to a lack of content due to it being in pre-alpha.

        I think a lot of stuff will be added to give you more reason to visit each planet, for example.

        The UI (or lack of it) is amazing! I’ve never played a game with such a satisfying crafting, storing and inventory management system.

  3. dahools says:

    Pips VT got me intrigued and it does seem quite accomplished already, but like others here I’m a bit reluctant to commit to an early access game fresh out of the blocks as such.

    • Tacroy says:

      Maybe it would work better if you pretend this is a $20 full release of the game, and like Terraria they’ve promised a bunch of future content which may or may not appear.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        Which is a risky approach to early access.

        Games don’t just expand, they also change, shift focus, and break.

  4. noodlecake says:

    I pirated it just to see how it played an it’s very promising, which is something I do a lot and often leads to purchases I otherwise wouldn’t have made. I will most likely buy it before it’s properly finished but I probably wont start playing it properly till it’s near 1.0. It’s very relaxing and has a gorgeous aesthetic and progression happens at a fast enough rate to keep me engaged and not feel like I’m grinding, which is unusual for this kind of game in a good way.

    • Greggh says:

      It does have a “DEMO” in the Windows store, you know, you RASCAL YOU!!

      • syndrome says:

        He simply used the other Demo that appeared as much more accessible and representable, you doing-everything-by-the-book-nerd-because-you’re-a-sissy-loyal-to-unseen-forces-that-condemn-us-to-the-rules-we-seem-to-never-question YOU!

        I’m glad there is an official demo, btw. Way to go and kudos!

  5. obowersa says:

    Picked it up on a bit of a whim, gotta say i’m loving it. Just about to make my first jaunt to a planet which isn’t the moon ( although that’s a great stop of place for more research.)

    Now to rope some extras into it so we can try out the multiplayer.

  6. hollowroom says:

    Playing it right now, and it’s great. Not so buggy for an alpha, but beware you can still get stuck easily. Needs more content but it’s a great base for a game.

    • eLBlaise says:

      I concur it’s already more stable than ARK or Subnautica. I’ve only experienced a two bugs in 16 hours of play and one is texture tearing which is no big whoop.

  7. Ericusson says:

    I think this post is disingenuous (might not be the proper wording) as it doesn’t recognize the novelty factor in the release of Astroneer.

    Yes it is a very charming game with lots of good ideas and features.
    But is is very much limited in features as it is now and exactly how much the engine will be able to manage on a larger scale is still something we have to see.

    You guys are Videogames professional reviewers and should be able to discern the enthusiasm for a new thing from the qualities of a solid established game with mechanisms deep enough to warrant an extended gameplay.

    As it is, Astroneer is a charming and promising superb alpha release, but it is still an Alpha with limited base building and no objectives per se, for those who consider this an important feature of a game.

    • Ericusson says:

      Well, it’s also good to have enthusiasm.
      The “best survival experience of the year” I thought I had read kinda ticked my morning coffee rush and I don’t even read it anymore.

      Damn you caffeine rant.
      Damn you stupid brain fart !

    • Kalamadea says:

      The game’s actually running on UE4, so there’s quite a lot the engine can manage. As someone that’s worked with UE4 frequently I easily recognized that fact in Astroneer’s file structure.

  8. gambl0r says:

    I am enthralled with Astroneer. I really am not a fan of survival games, but this plays more like an exploration game TBH. The ways you can die are few and far between once you have a decent base setup. The real fun is just packing up a shuttle or truck and exploring a brand new planet/area. Sure, the process of setting up a new base is pretty much the same each time… but the differences in the planets, and even in different areas on the same planet are so varied that it makes the experience fun each time.

    Last night I started a new game, built a convoy of one truck and three rovers, and set off to explore new territory. I came across crash sites, new plant species, and cave systems. I got turned around and was wandering the planet for a while, trying to find my way back to base… when I was just about to give up and set up a new base (if you do this, and build a shuttle, you can see the locations of all your bases and beacons from orbit), when I saw my original base on the horizon! I set off toward it only to end up in the middle of a dust storm. I continued forward even in zero visibility and when the dust cleared I saw that I had driven into a long, narrow crevasse. The truck had made it over the top but the rovers had gotten stuck… I tried wiggling my way out, but it resulted in the last rover on the convoy falling through the crevasse… more wiggling, backsliding, and a second one fell through. It was all over at this point – the truck slooooowly slid back thanks to the weight of the two rovers hanging into the crevasse. I thought about getting out of the truck, but I was much too far from my base to be able to walk there without running out of oxygen. My whole convoy ended up at the bottom of a deep cave. I spent the next hour excavating and building up terrain to drive out :D I am close to being able to drive out and back to base… I had to quit before finishing my exploration mission since I had lost track of time and it was already 1:30am :D

  9. doodadnox says:

    I don’t buy many early-access games, but this one had such great reviews. The sound and visuals are great, and the gameplay is engaging as you try to build the basics w/o overextending. The only bugs I experienced were a visual bug here and there and my vehicles launching themselves into the atmosphere.

    As far as content goes, I wouldn’t say I got my $20 worth (yet). It only takes a couple hours to build everything there is. That being said, I think the developer has a perfect foundation to build from. I think this will be a game I’ll be returning to every few months.

  10. defunct says:

    I picked it up after I saw a portion of Pip’s video. I’ve been loving it. And it’s not even finished yet. Even tracked down a developer video from July that goes into what they planned on doing.

  11. Someoldguy says:

    Maybe I’ve missed something but I don’t quite see what makes this game all kinds of awesome. It sounds very similar to last year’s No Man’s Sky which most gamers seemed to think should have been fired into the sun once the first flush of novelty wore off. I’m not one of those, but I’m not in any hurry to go back and play more NMS just to see more varieties of planetary biosphere.

    • Marr says:

      The main difference is that this one has a solid UI concept that makes it fun to play from the first moment. I couldn’t even explore NMS without installing a dozen community mods to make its core systems tolerable.

      Astroneer also has enough interacting systems to be a story generator (See gambl0r’s post above) and it really doesn’t hurt that it’s a simple, honest early access project with no crazy hype train, from a developer that actually communicate with their customers. If they add alien life and an FTL drive it’ll be everything NMS tried for and missed.