Astroneer – Early Access Review (Pre-Alpha/Preview)

Astroneer – Early Access Review (Pre-Alpha/Preview)
Astroneer (PC [Reviewed], XBO)
Developer: System Era Softworks
Publisher: System Era Softworks

Astroneer is a space exploration adventure with some survival aspects as well. The game is currently in its pre-alpha stage of early access.

You can play this game solo or in up to four player online co-op. The game starts off with you launching your pod, and landing on a random planet, with just your tool in your hand and backpack. You venture out from your pod in search of resources and items to build your base, and discover new technology.

The fact that you can mold the environment is an amazing feature. It sort of reminds me of Everquest Landmark, but with a lot less customization. The functionality is already in place, and I would love to see more options  added to the tool to allow players to more precisely shape the world around them.

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Exploring, collecting resources, improving your base, and discovering new research technology is very addicting. The entire time I played it seemed to fly by and before I knew it, it was two in the morning! There are storms on the planets as well, and they are sometimes deadly with debris flying everywhere. Also, some of the plant life will kill you too if you aren’t careful. There isn’t a lot of diversity right now, but it’s a good start.

The main survival aspect is maintaining your oxygen levels. Venture too far out without an bringing oxygen supply or finding some on your way, you will probably suffocate. Dying causes you to drop all the items in your backpack where you died and spawn you back at your habitat. You can go and collect your stuff, so while it’s an inconvenience, it’s often more of a lesson to teach you to be more prepared in the future. I’ve had a lot more fun playing this game than I did playing No Man’s Sky.

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Playing alone is enjoyable. Playing with others is really awesome, but there are some problems with the multiplayer that might give some players a negative experience. The game’s performance for whoever is running the server will be worse than when they are solo. Whoever is hosting the server needs to have a good computer, and even then there will be frame drops. The people playing on the server also experienced several disconnects, and would have to retrieve their items from their bodies when they returned. Overall, I think we all still enjoyed the time playing, and weren’t too upset by the issues.

Pros:
  • molding, and shaping the environment with your tool is a great feature, and fun to use
  • exploring, collecting resources, improving your base, and discovering new research technology is very addicting
  • discovering new planets with different atmospheres, and gravity is satisfying
  • the survival aspects are well balanced (storms/deadly plants/oxygen levels): inconveniencing enough to make you do better, but not too difficult or frustrating to avoid and manage
  • soundtrack is good; it’s calming to listen to as you explore
  • sound effects are fine
  • graphics look decent, but they won’t appeal to everyone
  • keybindings can be customized and there is full controller support

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Cons:
  • hosting multiplayer requires a very good PC, and there will be still be frame drops (I was usually able to maintain 50-60 frames with a GTX 1070, i7-6700k, and 32GB RAM while hosting 2 other players, but there were some significant and noticeable frame drops at times when I was close to the base that put me into the low 40s, and sometimes into the 30s – it seemed to get worse as the base got larger)
  • player disconnects/crashing while playing multiplayer
  • (nitpick) while you can communicate in co-op with emotes, voice chat would be a great addition
  • (nitpick) waiting for planets to come into range can sometimes take a while, and it would be nice if they sped that up a bit
  • (nitpick) no story at this time
  • (nitpick) texture popping issues (but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game)

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I have played over 11 hours so far, and experienced both the single player and multiplayer gameplay.

Conclusion:

Even though I received a press copy of Astroneer, I also bought a Steam copy of it to give away at a later date. Sure, the game has some bugs, and glitches, and the multiplayer needs better optimization, but issues are expected in a pre-alpha state. The fun factor alone is enough to look past the annoyances, and really appreciate the great start that Astroneer is off to. There is a ton of potential here, and this is a game I recommend. The framework for an amazing game is in place, and I really look forward to seeing where they go with it.

Review copy was provided by the developer.

  • savalski

    Excellent Review Azralynn. Just about convinced to buy it 🙂

    • Azralynn

      Thanks 🙂