Surviving Mars is all about the challenge of exploring the red planet, and the game's mysteries bring in an additional element. Mysteries act as a sort of randomized quest that (as far as I can tell) takes place roughly after you have more than 100 people living in your colony. The game initially shipped with nine mysteries and our review highlighted the value the additional challenge adds to the overall game. Now with the release of the Surviving Mars: Mysteries Resupply Pack DLC, three new challenges have been added for players to enjoy.
Mysteries are split into Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulties. They can really mix up the standard obstacles players will face by affecting the colonists or landscape in strange and interesting ways. For example, a mystery in the original game creates zones of freezing temperatures that require you to build heating devices to counteract it. If you weren't expecting to deal with colder-than-usual temperatures, you'll have to adjust your gameplay strategy to compensate for these new problems.
In my opinion, mysteries are best enjoyed if you know almost nothing about them going in. There will be spoilers from this point forward; if you would want to experience them completely blind, it's best to stop reading here.
Philosopher's Stone is the Easy mystery in the Surviving Mars: Mysteries Resupply Pack DLC. The map is changed slightly with the addition of several gigantic green crystals spread throughout the map. Your scanners are unable to reveal the regions of the map that contain these crystals. As you progress, the colony's scientists suggest that powering up the crystals might have something interesting happen.
You can build your base wherever you want in Surviving Mars. No matter where you chose to build, you'd have to run quite a bit of wire to get to all the crystals on the map. As each one is powered up, it begins to generate some useful resources that could be picked up by a rover. In my run through the mystery, I took care to install switches so I could cut power to them if I needed to. Running a bunch of wire while dealing with the usual problems of managing a colony isn't all that challenging and I was able to complete this task in a reasonable time. If you have a solid understanding of the game, you shouldn't have much difficulty with Philosopher's Stone.
Once the final crystal has a flow of power going to it, the lot of them will break free, coalesce into a single gigantic entity, and hover above the colony. A pile of less-useful resources will be left as a gift for freeing it and that will mark the end of Philosopher's Stone. Each mystery usually brings you something interesting or unique to the table, but this particular one felt like it might have been better to not complete it for all of the potential resource generation I just gave up.
St. Elmo's Fire is the Normal difficulty mystery. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's the name for brightly colored lights that would mysteriously appear on lighting rods or other tall locations. This mystery is quite appropriately named as the challenge centers on dealing with a bunch of glowing balls that have an appetite for siphoning off your water supply.
This particular type of game is best played with an eye towards redundancy - the last thing you need is a meteor strike taking out a critical piece of infrastructure with no backup to handle the load. Two of the new challenges in the Surviving Mars: Mysteries Resupply Pack DLC emphasize the necessity of redundancy, and St. Elmo's Fire is one of them. If it weren't for the fact that I had a full large water tank (with a capacity of 1500 units) before the mystery even began, I might have been in some serious trouble.
You eventually learn that the water production can be shut off and the little glowing balls will stop draining it. However, this presents the problem of not having any water for the colony. One must micromanage shutting off the water storage so there's something left in a tank somewhere for emergencies. The glowing orbs only come out at night, so you still have most of the day to refill any tanks that may have been drained.
Eventually, you'll be tasked with building another large water tank and filling it up to serve as an experiment. After this task is completed, you'll be able to trap the creatures and use them to generate either power or research. I chose power as the additional water generation was stressing a power grid that already happened to be lackluster. The mystery ended with the orbs becoming a sort of way to trade water for power, effecting a permanent change in this particular game.
The final mystery of the Surviving Mars: Mysteries Resupply Pack DLC is Metatron. Much like St. Elmo's Fire, you will be tested on your ability to develop redundant systems for your colony, though on a much more intense level. I've played through most of the mysteries in the game, and I have to say that Metatron definitely tried my patience. It began with the appearance of a gigantic alien ship directly above my colony - always a good sign.
The ship (unsurprisingly named Metatron) begins by stating that it is going to test the resolve of the colony. It generates several anomalies on a timer and a demand that the colony analyzes them before they disappear. I always build at least five explorer-type rovers as a general rule, and they were certainly quite helpful - one of the waves had something like ten of these anomalies pop up at once. Each analyzed anomaly generated a thousand or so research points so it wasn't a completely wasted effort.
The next stage of the challenge was much more aggravating. Metatron fires off ion storms that disable whatever external buildings they happen to engulf. While I am usually quite good at having more than I need, I also tend to group my buildings together. A particularly large ion storm neutralized more than two-thirds of my water generation, forcing me to build some additional moisture vaporators in another location. Another storm near my domes ended up disabling my only drone hub, requiring that I build another just outside of the storm's reach.
Metatron issued one final challenge: build the Project Morpheus wonder in 20 days. This expensive research is unlocked for free, but the difficulty gets ramped up even further - ion storms will cover the majority of your external buildings, In my case it included the artificial sun, reducing my colony to dangerously-low power levels. It also nailed most of my atomic batteries, meaning that I couldn't even rely on my reserves. I had to spend an in-game day performing triage on buildings just to keep most of my colonists from dying. Despite my best efforts, I nonetheless sustained a handful of colonist deaths. In the end, I completed the project and Metatron left satisfied that the colony had successfully completed its challenges.
So, do the new toys in the Surviving Mars: Mysteries Resupply Pack DLC stack up to the originals? Well, I enjoyed what they added to the game. Each of the challenges presented a new unique dimension that wasn't entirely explored in any of the other mysteries, too - there certainly wasn't a reason to be able to generate a massive amount of water in any of the other ones, nor was there much reason to trail power cables all over the entire map.
With the addition of this free DLC, Surviving Mars now has a dozen excellent mysteries to bring another dimension of variety to the game. If you've already played your way through what's in the vanilla game, I think it would be more than worthwhile to grab this DLC and check out the new stuff. You'll probably enjoy it just as much as I did.
What do you think of the new mysteries in the Surviving Mars: Mysteries Resupply Pack DLC? Do you have a particular favorite mystery? Let us know in the comments below!