Posted: June 28, 2014
Early Access Review
I'm not sure. I want to like Take On Mars, but overall I don't find it a very engaging game.
TOM wants you to play the game its way, or the highway. My first play through and I spent all of my money to build a super-lander. It had a robot arm, soil scoop, atmosphere sensors, the works. I managed to get it down on the ground and thought to myself: "Whoo! Let's do some SCIENCE!" And then the game said, "Yay, you explored this region! Now do it some more, elsewhere!" Wait. What?
I wasn't able to use my robot arm or soil scoop. My atmosphere sensor was useless. The game had intended only for me to complete a set of explore-the-area objectives before it would unlock the next set. I realized then that Bohemia Interactive had a much different idea of SCIENCE! than I did. To me, spending my wad on an uber-science craft made sense. Cram as much science as you can in a single big-budget mission so you can unlock more technology. But I was thinking like a scientist, not as a game player.
And that's where TOM lost me. The game wants me to play it like a game. I was expecting a simulator. For something that bills itself as a simulator, I found this really disappointing.
Science tasks earn me money, and I spend that money to research better science-making gear. This system feels hap-hazard and slapped together. Why not have a separate budget versus "science points" (much like in Kerbal Space Program)? Why is the science objective-based instead of having "wells of science fact" that are tapped and eventually exhausted (again, like KSP)?
In fact, playing this game just made me want to play KSP instead. Which is a real pity, because TOM looks great and it could be a real contender for introducing people to the act of managing a space program and how extraterrestial science works.
I restarted my game and played it The Right Way and was able to upgrade to rovers. I was excited at first, because I thought this was a chance to do something interesting. Only to realize that "interesting" meant holding down the "W" key for hours on end, driving a slow rover across the Martian surface. And this is where TOM completely lost me. Suddenly, it wanted to act like a realistic simulator -- Oh you have to DRIVE AROUND to find interesting science! In realtime! With no automatic navigation system!
At that point, I just stopped playing. I haven't bothered to unlock the next set of objectives, and have yet to set a human down on the surface of Mars in TOM, and that's a real pity.
Oh well, at least my science base on Duna is thriving...