Space colonization simulators are a secret passion of mine. For some reason, I just can't get enough of games that have me trying to form a new colony on some inhospitable planet. Ragnorium is an indie title that recently hit Steam's early access and has been the latest step in this ongoing obsession. It puts you in charge of crafting a colony inhabited by human clones and guiding them to victory at the behest of some pretty sinister-sounding company that you never actually get to see all that much of.
There's not much of a story to Ragnorium, at least not right now. Because the game is in early access there's potential for a traditional narrative to be added later, but it's also not lacking anything significant without one. There's certainly a background story to do with competing against other colonies on the same planet to gain the favor of the company you all apparently work for, as well as the ruins of a previous colony being mentioned several times throughout the game. Honestly, if you're anything like me, you'll be making new stories for your colony as you go along anyway, so maybe a forced narrative on top of that would be too much.
Most of my time with Ragnorium was a learning experience, and I gather that was very much intended. Each time you start the game again you do a little bit better. With your first colony, you're likely going to end up with all of your members dead within the first day or two because you accidentally stumbled into some sort of giant worm den. However, your second colony might last long enough to starve to death before you can unlock farming. In my case, the untimely end of my second colony came when my discarded feces evolved into some sort of poop golem and murdered my entire colony.
As of right now, it can be a little tricky to get a handle on how Ragnorium works. You don't have direct control over your colonists; instead, you issue several tasks which they'll complete as and when they can. There's also not an easily-digestible path to unlocking certain things. In my first 5 hours of playtime, I never approached unlocking basic survival needs like farming, and to this day I still don't know how you're supposed to unlock the ability to mine things. As I said, it's a constant learning experience.
On the plus side, you do get a very definitive sense of progress. As you try again and again to create a decent colony, you'll get better and better at keeping everyone alive and healthy. The big advantage that Ragnorium has is that it's pretty damn addictive too. Just watching your little naked clone people go from the level of cave people to something approaching a frontier-town is immensely satisfying. Even if they all get murdered by bears 20 minutes later, you'll still feel like you accomplished something. Besides you can always reload your last save.
You can frequently call for a supply drop from the company's orbiting space station. These drops act as a way of breaking up the game into chunks, and they also keep you going while you unlock important survival skills. While my complaints about farming were valid, they're not too big of a concern. As you hit the supply drop milestones, you call in cargo with more food and extra colonists to help keep you going. The game also saves whenever you call down another ship, so they're convenient checkpoints for when things go wrong.
If Ragnorium has a drawback, it's probably that right now it's too easy for things to go wrong. Without a clear path to unlocking specific abilities, you can easily run out of food and water waiting for your next supply drop. It's also not possible to direct your colonists well enough in certain situations. i.e. when everyone gets knocked out, you can't directly tell your remaining colonists to ignore any victims who are still in dangerous spots, and that inevitably leads to your survivors going down too.
The final negative point is probably the fact that it's just so damned slow. Currently, there's no way of speeding up the game, so if you're expanding your base you'll need to just wait it out. It gets incredibly slow at times, especially if you're trying to fulfill your current objective to unlock some crucial crafting blueprint. It gets even worse when nothing is going on. During nighttime when everyone is sleeping, you have to just sit there and wait for them all to wake up before they get back on with their tasks again.
This preview of Ragnorium has certainly got me hooked on the game. While it can be frustrating to fail after hours of building up your colony, it's easy enough to make up for your mistakes once you know what you're doing. With frequent saving in your early games, you can master colony-building without too much trouble. If the future brings some quality of life adjustments, and maybe a clearer path towards certain upgrades, then Rangorium could become one of the best indie building sims on the market.
TechRaptor previewed Ragnorium on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.