Kickstarter Hands-on: Planet Explorers

The planet Maria is a beautiful place.  Alien plants tower over the strange creatures that wander its plains and forests, and the land seems to roll on forever.  It’s the perfect world for colonists to start a new life away from Earth, except for the bit where their ship was damaged during its initial descent and the survivors got scattered across the continent.  Now you’ve got to start from nothing and survive, explore, create, and fight your way towards building the settlement of your dreams.  Or you could just gather some resources and go for a very long walk.  Either is good.

Planet Explorers is a science fiction survival/exploration game in the vein of Minecraft, except instead of building for your own entertainment you’ve got to deal with an alien ecosystem that’s going to keep functioning long after you’re dead.  Strange and colorful herbivores and carnivores, ranging from small little things to utterly massive behemoths, wander the world, preying on each other and you, if you get too close.  Melee combat is a bit weak at the moment, consisting mostly of smacking a creature with your sword while it smacks back, but there’s hints of refinements to come even in this early stage.  Also, once you’ve explored a bit, there’s a bow and arrow and various types of guns, and automated turrets make their appearance very early on.  Why get your hands dirty when you can create an automated defense line?

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Creation is the other major time-sink in Planet Explorers, and it’s hard to overstate how in-depth it promises to be.  As you complete quests you gain scripts that will allow you to create generic items, such as swords, bows, clothing, and various housing accessories.  Alternately you can roll your own with an in-depth item editor that lets you design to your heart’s content.  Admitted, you’ll still need to harvest the resources necessary to build your creations, but once you get a grip on the creation tools you can build some very intricate and effective toys.  Eventually you’ll even be designing your own settlement populated by NPCs, creating farms and ranches, setting up automated defenses, and with any luck lording over a self-sustaining community hundreds of light years away from your safe, protected homeworld.

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The promise of Planet Explorers is huge, and the current alpha makes a very convincing argument that the developer can deliver on its promises, but it’s worth noting that this is, unquestionably, a very early look at the game.  It’s buggy, awkward, a bit grind-y in its resource collection, and a very small chunk of the final game.  It’s also fascinating, engrossing, and utterly gorgeous as well.  The alpha is free to all, so even if you don’t want to donate to the Kickstarter campaign, you should at least go for a long and lovely walk through the hills and forests of Maria.