Planet Nomads – Quick Game Review (Early Access)

Planet Nomads – Quick Game Review (Early Access)
Planet Nomads (PC [Reviewed], Linux)
Developer: Craneballs
Publisher: Craneballs

Planet Nomads is an open world sandbox game focused on survival, crafting, and exploration. The game is currently in early access on Steam.

You start off after your pod lands on an unexplored planet, with only your space suit and tool. From there you start harvesting resources to build a base, and survive. There are two game modes you can play in: survival mode and creative mode.

In the creative mode, you can build as much as you want without needing to worry about gathering resources, or dying. In survival mode, you’ll need to harvest resources to build structures to help you survive. The survival aspects that you’ll need to manage are your hunger, thirst, stamina, and health. If your hunger, thirst, or stamina reach zero, then your health drains until you either die, or eat/drink/sleep replenish it. The survival aspects are pretty manageable – you can find food and water in the wild, and either consume it raw, or refine it to provide even more of a bonus, and avoid any negative side effects like radiation poisoning. You can also sleep in the outdoors using a sleeping bag, but one of the times I went to sleep outside, I died, but have no idea why. Dying isn’t too bad though. You drop all your loot where you died, but it becomes a marked on your compass so you can follow it to retrieve everything.

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You’ll have to gather a whole lot of resources and use a 3D printer to produce various crafting components. Resource gathering is very slow without using batteries. The batteries are consumed and need to be crafted frequently using different components. Crafting components are also used to build more structures, such as walls, ground vehicles, and greenhouses. Some structures require power to function, and you need to use generators to provide them with enough energy. 

You can upgrade your suit, tool, and jetpack as you unlock new recipes. They are very helpful to increase your mining and exploring efficiency. However, it feels like I’m farming to become better at farming, and it’s not all that satisfying – actually it’s kind of boring after the first hour or two. I travelled for 32,000km to see if there was anything new or different from my spawning location. I encountered a few enemy types, but none of them were very interesting or felt all that engaging. It’s a shame to see such a massive world to explore, but have it feel so empty. I came across some snowy mountains and barren land, but as for flora and fauna, there wasn’t anything new to see. I would love to see more content to discover, not just new biomes, plants, or animals, but maybe some ruins or cool landmarks too.

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In order to unlock new crafting recipes, you have to build the earlier recipes that are already unlocked. The way they unlock is fine, and it’s probably good that everything is slowly introduced. In addition to building structures, you can also dig through the terrain. Affecting the world around you is a great feature, however, without a way to rebuild it, or smooth it out, it becomes more of an annoyance when you accidentally put a hole near your base. I hope they add more functionality for terrain morphing in the near future.

Pros:
  • good survival aspects that make an impact, but aren’t too difficult to manage
  • you can build anywhere you want to, and destroy parts of the world
  • you can design ground vehicles how you please
  • creative and survival modes available
  • environments look fantastic
  • music and ambience are good, and create a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere

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Cons:
  • feels like a massive world with not a whole lot to see or do
  • placing structures can be very finicky, to the point where it may make you not want to build more than necessary
  • performance issues, and it sometimes gets very laggy and choppy (but it is early access, so the optimization may still be a work in progress)
  • you can’t rebuild or flatten any terrain you may have destroyed by mistake (yet)
  • vehicles need improvements (i.e. they constantly get stuck on parts of the terrain, they are super slow going uphill (you can jetpack faster), and when you get out of them on an incline they roll away)
  • [bug] the power wasn’t working properly, and I had to destroy my items and rebuild them for them to work again (you get the resources back when destroying items, but it’s still an inconvenience)
  • (nitpick) no story yet (a little bit to start of early access would be nice)
  • (nitpick) chunks of the terrain are often invisible, and take a few seconds to render in when travelling to new areas, and there is a lot of texture popping (even at close distances)
  • (nitpick) keyboard and mouse controls are not customizable, but most people will probably be ok with the defaults (WASDFB,1-9 Tab, Shift, Space, etc.), and there is no controller support at this time

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I’ve played for about 4 hours in both survival and creative mode. The game has some potential for replay value for those who really, really enjoy base-building and exploration, but I don’t think that it’s at that point yet. I would love to see more content added, as well as multiplayer to the game.

Conclusion:

Planet Nomads is off to an okay start, but right now there isn’t a whole lot to do or see. The game has a very long way to go before it even comes close to what the developers envision for it. Until then, it might be better just to keep your eye on its development.

Press copy was provided for this review.