When I see a game that seems to be chasing the coattails of another, it’s hit or miss whether I’ll be put off or captaining the ship. Here we have Population Zero that, when you watch the trailer down below, you’ll immediately get the No Man’s Sky environment design vibes mixed with the base-building and wildcard PvP of ARK. Seemed like a heavy miss for me, honestly. I dug in anyhow and found that apparently when Population Zero’s early access begins in May it will actually reset (to a degree) every week. I don’t know if I’m ready to stand by that as a good idea, but it’s certainly a brave one.
Population Zero takes place on the planet Kepler which apparently has large beasties like the one above. Seems to be a horrific nonsensical creature that procedural generation loves and actual nature loves to hate, which is where I’m getting the No Man’s Sky vibes. That and the blue grass. Players will build bases and craft things, as one does, to survive on Kepler. The important part is that you’ve got a time limit and it does not wait for you to log in.
“You have 168 hours to repair the reactor, restart your hibernation pod and save yourself from the Sphere’s devastating radiance before the long night,” say Enplex games. Apparently this happens every single week and successfully completing the session by climbing into a working hibernation pod will reward you with meta progression to unlock “a variety of game modes and session modifiers.”
Population Zero also has an overarching story tying together your weekly resets and a “main plot with various side quests and numerous non-playable characters eager to shed light on Kepler’s mysteries.” It’s hard to say so early on with just a bit of information to run with, but this could actually be something I’d spend a bit of time with.
Every time I try to return to No Man’s Sky I’m brought down by the relentless grind for resources just to fill up my ship’s space gas tank. I bounced off ARK entirely because I couldn’t bear the constant pressure to log in and tend to my giant Tamagotchis. Population Zero could be just as bad as both—for me at least—but I can fathom how its commitment to weekly sessions might give my playtime a structure that keeps me involved.
Population Zero will launch in Early Access on May 5th. You can find and wishlist it on Steam.