Astroneer could also be a survival sport, however it has at all times had extra of a sandbox really feel, due to the decrease stress of its “survival” parts. In journey mode, you die while you run out of oxygen — a gauge in your backpack reveals the remaining provide — however oxygen is well obtainable by buildings, autos, or crafting tethers that join gamers to an oxygen line.
This has made Astroneer perfect for gamers who take pleasure in crafting and base administration, however would somewhat pursue these targets in a low-pressure setting. The sport plops an astronaut onto a procedurally generated planet the place gamers harvest assets, construct their base, and discover the huge nooks and crannies of area. The brand new port to Change, which is out on Jan. 13, presents largely the identical enjoyable expertise however in a transportable setting, giving the sport an edge for informal, artistic play periods. However for those who’re on the lookout for extra intense base-building, Astroneer continues to be a greater title on Home windows PC, which advantages from extra exact controls and higher processing energy.
In most respects, I used to be pleasantly shocked by how a lot I loved Astroneer on Change. The colourful, low-poly artwork model interprets superbly to the console. That is key, as most of my time in Astroneer includes roaming world wide’s stunning, huge map utilizing a particular ray gun to change the atmosphere and gather assets.
With these instruments, the potential for exploration in Astroneer feels practically infinite. You may spelunk deep into caverns for mineral assets. You may terraform bizarre cliffs and launch your self off of them. You may fairly actually burrow into the planet’s core and hold going till you emerge on the opposite aspect. In contrast to Valheim, one other sport that eliminated the survival grind from exploration and base-building, there are not any bosses that soft-gate areas.
The Change controls are decently intuitive: The appropriate set off is both a cursor or the participant digital camera, relying on whether or not the ray gun is toggled. When it’s a cursor, gamers can choose up objects like seeds, assets, or base objects, in addition to plug in energy cords and transfer the position of a tether. When the ray gun is toggled, the proper set off highlights the realm the gun will terraform. Flipping between these modes is a breeze. It’s additionally intensely satisfying to hit the proper set off to make the ray gun go brrbrr, sucking within the atmosphere round you in a whirlwind.
Regardless of the kinetic satisfaction of exploring and terraforming, I earnestly struggled with base-building. It’s a lot tougher to maneuver a joystick exactly over an object’s pickup window, which is annoying while you’re making an attempt to seize tiny supplies out of your pack, and stick them on numerous printers for crafting functions. (I can think about Joy-Con drift would make this much more irritating.) It’s disappointing as a result of this is a base-building sport. I’ve at all times been a administration sim participant totally on PC — I’m a sicko who loves a dense menu, plenty of stock administration, and high-stress conditions, and I usually play these video games with a mouse.
I initially performed Astroneer on PC in 2019. I centered extra on aims like constructing a shuttle and launching myself into area. I wasn’t actually terraforming or exploring purely for ambient enjoyable — I used terraforming instruments to make lengthy slopes that my astronaut may “snowboard” down, and streamlined paths to valuable assets. I ultimately obtained lazy and simply began sticking filth containers into the soil centrifuge, which extracted primary assets for me. Although I didn’t expertise it personally, I do know body charge suffered on Xbox in the course of the sport’s preliminary launch, particularly for gamers who constructed a extra substantial base. I haven’t constructed a big sufficient base in my Change playthrough to note the identical points, however given the console’s lesser processing energy, I may see it being the case down the highway.
Enjoying on Change didn’t diminish the enjoyment of pure exploration within the sport. If something, it pushed me to discover extra — there’s one thing about utilizing a controller for traversal that can at all times really feel extra pure to me, as an individual who grew up enjoying Nintendo video games. Greater than that, Change portability means I attain for the sport extra continuously for chill play periods in creativity mode, the place I can actually lean into the sandbox nature of the sport, and use terraforming much less for useful resource gathering and extra for straight-up shenanigans. In my present save file, I’ve constructed little or no — however I’ve hollowed out the core of a mountain.
As a devoted fan of simulation and base-building video games, I’m delighted to have two locations to play Astroneer, every of which provides me a distinct focus — PC for base-building, and Change for working round and doing dumb issues. Whereas I want the Change have been a sharper platform for the precise base administration, the transportable possibility offers me extra alternatives to mess around within the sport’s world. With Astroneer’s expansive and extremely mutable map, that’s nonetheless a humiliation of riches.
Astroneer might be launched on Jan. 13 on Nintendo Change. It’s also obtainable on PlayStation 4, Home windows PC, and Xbox One. These impressions are based mostly on a remaining “retail” Change obtain code supplied by System Period Softworks. Yow will discover additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.