I had the chance to play about 30 minutes of Surviving Mars, a simulation game all about surviving on Mars from Haemimont Games, the minds behind the Tropico series. I don't really seek games like this out, but I found my 30 minutes with Surviving Mars as enjoyable and would like to dig in to play some more in the future.
You start the game by choosing where on Mars you want to try to colonize. The image is a high res scan of the actual Mars and the location you choose is a very close rendering to what that area of Mars is actually like, with some changes for the sake of gameplay. Each point you choose will display a level of difficulty, nearby resources, etc so you can take that into account when you play the game.
From there, you have a rocket to fill with materials, like concrete, to send to Mars, as well as a budget to work with. You'll also be able to choose which organization is building the colony, like NASA (which will be a different entity in-game), that offers different benefits depending on who you choose. There are also some other choices to make that offer some modifiers to gameplay as well.
The goal of the game is to get to the point of having a self-sustaining colony on Mars. That means juggling the many resources, like water and electricity, as the colony slowly builds over time. Things like choosing to have a child have a whole new set of repercussions to consider when living on Mars, carrying with it more risk and great resources.
Resource gathering and properly balancing its use is key to the game and changes over time. For example, your colony on Mars will have to be self-sustaining at some point because rockets from Earth won't be able to send enough resources to feed/build everything you need on Mars. They will simply be supplementary later on.
People are another resource to manage, too. Each person has their own traits, strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and more that have to be managed. There needs to be places of recreation for them to blow off steam, variety of things to do, and more. One of the key things to consider when sending the first group of people to Mars is exactly what you're looking for. You get to choose from a lot of different options to select the specific group of people you want like the age range, whether they are an idiot, whether they are an alcoholic, and a whole bunch more. Balancing those will play a big part in Surviving Mars.
There's a lot of technology to research, buildings to build, and systems to connect to one another as you try to survive on Mars. A lot of that technology is based on actual technology that exists right now, something that is being worked on right now, or something theoretical that places like NASA believe can exist when technology catches up with the idea.
Of course, some liberties have been taken for the sake of gameplay, as well as for visuals. For example, the domes where people will live in Surviving Mars wouldn't really exist in an actual Mars colony; instead, dwellings would more than likely be underground. But that's not very visually appealing is it?
There are hazards to watch out for, of course, like dust storms, which can be rather debilitating but get taken up a notch in the Mysteries. Mysteries are sci-fi inspired scenarios that will bring in the extraordinary to deal with as you try to survive on Mars. These will be some sci-fi inspired hazards to watch out for and deal with overtime or a bunch of other narrative-reinforced ideas. A Mystery is a scenario that plays out over a narrative, with the goal to survive.
Other than that, Surviving Mars looks nice and the UI is easy to navigate, at least on the PC version I played. Placing buildings and other things to build was easy, and there is a lot of information that can be taken in easily at any one time, which is key for a simulation game.
Surviving Mars is releasing sometime next year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2017 Coverage Hub.