If you had asked me to describe Astroneer, you’d probably be disappointed and generally uninterested in it. That’s because at it’s core it is an early access, space exploration, crafting and survival game. I’d completely understand if that sentence turned you off, but I promise you, Astroneer is different.
Well, it isn’t that different. You’ll still need to scavenge for resources to craft new items and build up your home base. You’ll have to travel a long way from where you started, and ultimately bring what you find back home. Astroneer does not revolutionize the entire genre in that way.
What Astroneer does do however, is be a little more forgiving on you. Resources aren’t particularly hard to come by, you don’t ever have to worry about hunger or stamina, and there aren’t any real enemies in the game. Unless you count storms and toxic plants as enemies, you’ll end up just killing yourself most of the time.
This emphasis on a more peaceful journey through space is a welcome deviation from most of the other survival games out there. Astroneer encourages you to take your time and go at your own pace, never really directing you on what to do or what to build. It’s aimless in a sense, but it never feels overwhelming.
That’s partly due to the very visual and diegetic nature of the interface. There aren’t really any menus to fumble through in Astroneer. Everything you can interact with is done so through in world prompts with simple text and imagery to aid you. Your oxygen and power meters are built onto your character’s backpack, a backpack that visually displays what, and how much of something you have. It’s all very clean and wrapped up in a beautiful art style that uses tons of color and brightness to welcome you and encourage exploration. The cartoon-like quality of it all is very inviting and never felt daunting or intimidating. Simply put, everything about the aesthetic is warm and pleasant.
Considering it is an early access title, it has a fair amount of jank to it. The physics might freak out on occasion, things you’ve built might disappear on your next load, or it might even just crash on you. But that’s all to be expected from a game that isn’t finished yet.
With that being said, I’ve seen some people complain about Astroneer being a thin experience. To that point, I can’t really disagree too much. After a few hours I’ve seen a lot of what it currently has to offer. Personally I hope Astroneer focuses more on exploration and discovery instead of being a hardcore survival game. I’d rather see more variations in planets and environments than getting hunger and stamina meters implemented, but who knows what lay ahead in its development.