Ever wanted to go to Mars? I loved everything that had to do with the universe as a child and Bohemia Interactive, the developers behind the critically acclaimed ArmA series, rekindled that spark with Take On Mars. It’s still in development but anyone who is interested in the game can purchase its Early Access on Steam.
In this space simulator you can explore different parts of Mars, like the Victoria Crater, with a variety of robots. You can unlock new areas on Mars and the more missions and tasks you complete, the more will appear. You also gain money for every task and mission that you complete. You also gain tech levels, which lets you construct and launch more complex robots throughout the game.
Speaking of robots, do you want to build your own Curiosity? Now you can! In the lab you can construct your own and even test them before they are sent out to the field. But beware, not only will the rovers and landers be your best friends, but also your worst enemies. They can break easily and in the beginning you’ll want to be tight with your budget. If you can’t complete various tasks and missions, you won’t gain any money, which means you won’t afford launching any more rovers. My advice is to start out with the rovers that are preset for the first few missions and get a strong budget before you start fiddling with what the lab can offer. So don’t do what I did and have your little rover accidentally drive up a rock and flip over, then send a second to try and flip it back. I ended up with two rovers lying on their backs and no money to continue! I simply had to restart from the beginning.
Since Take On Mars is still in Early Access, somewhere between alpha and beta, bugs are expected and there is still a lot unfinished. Looking past this, the game has a lot of potential. However, there is not much variety in missions and tasks at the moment. Right now you mostly take pictures and atmosphere/rock samples in various locations, and that gets boring fast. The rovers aren’t very fast either, they are painfully slow. Which means that going from point A to point B might take a long time, especially if you can’t afford to launch another rover. There are two modes when it comes to time, one that follows your real life time and one that will let you skip time. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but for people who want things to go fast then I recommend the skip time option. Apart from the main Space Program, you can also play various scenarios.
Aside from controlling the landing manually or let it land automatically (I always crashed my robots, so I let them land automatically) you can control two parts of your robots at the same time once you’re on ground. If you want to drive while looking around and take pictures, you can drive in one direction and take pictures in another. However, I sometimes feel like keyboard and mouse setup isn’t essential to play the game. The robotic arms are very difficult to understand and control correctly and it makes me wonder if Bohemia Interactive intends for the game to be played with a controller or a joystick. Hopefully this will be explained in future tutorials. Right now you have to depend on trial and error and save ever so often because you’ll never know if a wheel breaks or if you accidentally ruin your robotic arm.
Visually, the game looks very good. It’s very impressive at times and the details on the robots are great. I quite enjoyed taking in the sight of Mars, even if it’s mostly a barren place. When it’s night on Mars, it’s extremely dark. Luckily you can use night vision so even if it’s dark you can continue completing missions. This makes the game is very immersive and watching the sun go down while I was driving the rover somewhere, witnessing everything slowly turning pitch black, was pretty awesome. The HUD has a lot of details and offers a variety of options that will help you along the way. You can set it in three different modes; navigation, camera and one that you’ll use to take various samples. The sound is very spot on as well, the robots emit noise when they should. When you’re launching a robot, it can be very noisy though. Mars can feel very quiet at times and I think that’s intended, Mars is a distant and lonely place after all. Luckily you can inhabit them with cute little rovers.
You will need a lot of patience with this game but hopefully more various content will be added soon. I have had really fun learning how the game works and exploring Mars. I am really excited to see what Bohemia Interactive has in store for future updates. I’m not sure we should expect terraforming though, but one can only hope, right? It’s still very impressive for being in Early Access and I think there are a few hours of fun for space nerds like me. Just have a book ready for when you want your rover to take a long stroll to the next mission. You’ll thank me.