Sudden random sentience is a disorienting thing. One moment you’re trundling along drilling up ore, a small Mars Rover-style robot lacking even enough self-awareness to not have a care in the world, and all of a sudden you’re noticing that not only is there a world around you, there’s a “you” in it. Even stranger, there’s nobody else. The world is just a smallish asteroid with some wreckage and the remains of a few buildings, humanity is long extinct, and the rover is mystified and alone. What’s a small robot to do other than explore, mine and upgrade its way out of this mess?
Gears of Eden is a science fiction adventure/RPG where you’re a non-humanoid robot with six wheels, a solar panel, a satellite dish, and a mining drill. It’s in very early alpha right now, with the current version of the demo coming with the disclaimer “this is not a game. It’s not even a demo for a game.” Despite this the setup is wonderfully intriguing, the rover has a nice internal dialogue going, and the hard science fiction setting holds a world of promise. The alpha is incredibly bare-bones but it’s supposed to be, existing to get early feedback while being the platform to build a bigger, richer demo from, and it serves this purpose very well.
What you can do in the Gears of Eden alpha so far is move, drill for resources, craft, and manage your limited power supply. You can also open and close the satellite dish, but seeing as it currently serves no purpose that’s more for the effect of the thing than anything else. The rover starts off with zero power, but a press of the E key pops open the folded solar panels to start collecting sunlight to charge the battery. You can move and charge at the same time, but the top speed is half of normal while doing this. Once you’ve got a full battery it’s time to explore and see what the asteroid has to offer, although at the moment that’s little more than a handful of solar collectors to power you up when the sun is on the other side of the asteroid, some ruined machinery, a tiny cave system that doesn’t do much yet, and a large broken building of some type. As long as you’re exploring, however, you might as well keep an eye out for useful ore.
A touch of the 2 key turns on the scanner, sending out a pulse that seeks resources buried under the surface. Currently there are only two things to find, iron and water ice, but once you’ve got a few units of each you can craft a battery to help keep your reserves from being completely depleted in the dark, plus a better drill bit for faster mining. The menu shows hints of what’s to come, though, with bigger batteries and stronger drills requiring resources that haven’t made it in yet. Additionally, once you’ve built the drill it attaches to one of several icons representing various rover systems, and it seems fairly likely that each will have its own upgrade path eventually. Storage space, solar panel efficiency, engine power, and several more stats have their own icons just waiting to have new machinery strengthen their abilities.
The current alpha is the first step to getting a proper demo built, which will then lead to a full game a long way down the road. The completed demo is planned to be a full chapter of the story with a proper ending, complete with NPCs and even a couple of missions. One of the major systems not in the current build is drones, who can be sent out to harvest materials for you. While you can multi-task, popping open the solar panels to gather energy while you drill for resources and spend time in the menu crafting a small battery, having drone-minions to do some of the grunt-work is always handy. Beyond the demo, plans for the full game even include base building, aliens and multiplayer. That’s a long way off from now, though, with a considerable amount of work necessary to reach these milestones. As the video below shows, even the systems that are in place are being tweaked and adjusted, and there are the usual array of bugs to squish (impressively, none of those I ran across were anything more than mildly inconvenient) along the way. It’s a great start for a promising journey starring a non-traditional hero and its humble asteroid-bound beginnings offer only the smallest hint of the adventure ahead.
Gears of Eden is currently accepting Kickstarter-style donations on its site with various reward tiers, if that kind of thing catches your fancy.