Loved the slick city-building and twisted humour of Tropico? There’s good news for you, then: Paradox Interactive are taking the series to the red planet. That’s ‘red’ the colour, not Communism.
Though Surviving Mars is not intended as any kind of sequel to the Tropico series – a string of cult-hit city builders that put the player in control of their very own Caribbean dictatorship – the influences are readily apparent. The tagline, ‘Colonize Mars and discover her secrets, with minimal casualties’, drips with Tropico‘s signature pitch-black humour.
The player will need to plan their colony to cope with the abundant environmental hazards that come with settling on an initially uninhabitable world.
The trailer opens with sweeping shots of asteroids in the vicinity of Mars, then cutting to a flyover of the planet itself. We see drones harvesting materials, one of which is suddenly blasted apart by a meteor, before swelling sci-fi chords take us over a ridge to a view of a prospering colony: wind farms, fuel lines and snowglobe cities flourishing within the confines of their protective (albeit flimsy-looking) domes.
It all seems a bit serious – though undeniably exciting – until finally, we come to a pair of clueless engineers fumbling over instructions for the mess of technical components spread out before them, asking for ‘a picture on the box’ as if they were assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Here, that telltale Tropico flavour is really felt.
Details are thin on the ground at the moment, but the gameplay seems to be taking the established formula that developers Haemimont Games have been working with for the last three Tropico games after they took the reins on the series in 2008.
The player will need to plan their colony to cope with not just resource demands and the requirements of the citizens, but also the abundant environmental hazards that come with settling on an initially uninhabitable world. As Paradox’s site puts it, ‘bad planning isn’t about traffic jams, it’s about survival of your colonists. You really don’t want rolling blackouts in a city constructed in a place without oxygen.’
The trailer has already shown the dangers of meteors, but oxygen and water supply are likely to be key factors too. This brings a whole new dynamic to the city builder sim, a genre which has become somewhat tired in recent years.
Surviving Mars, if pulled off with the same polish that Haemimont have shown themselves capable of, could promise to bring something refreshingly new to the table. We’ll have to wait until 2018 to find out, but early signs are good. Will this be another stale, lifeless management sim? Or, in the immortal words of David Bowie, is there life on Mars?