Habitat Builds Its Home on Early Access

Has it really only been a few months since the Habitat Kickstarter reached its successful conclusion? Somehow the game I got to play at PAX East has changed from an incredibly rough work in progress into a more polished and less buggy work in progress. As a first release this version of Habitat is missing some features that fleshed out the game during my earlier hands-on, but they’ll be along soon and in the meantime you can put together a massive conglomeration of space junk to create the sprawling hodgepodge that humanity will call home. It’s a simple first release, but a fun one.

Habitat is a game about, as so many games tend to be, saving humanity from extinction. Earth is doomed, being eaten from the inside out by a nanomachine apocalypse, but it’s a slow doom that allows plenty of time to build a new home in space. This is accomplished by using all the junk people have left floating in space – ships, containers, rockets, cyborg Statue of Liberty heads, burger stands, trains, buses, or anything else that can be loaded into a rail gun and shot into orbit. You’ve got a space shuttle to start from, a couple engineers to help you improve it, and the ability to hook one bit of debris to another by connection points. It’s time to start building.

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At the moment, however, that’s about all you can do. Habitat’s is currently little more than a sandbox filled with toys that you can lash together any which way you like. There are a few nano-cloud nasties patrolling space that you need to take out with weaponized components, but for the most part you’re be left in peace to organize the space-clutter into urban space-sprawl. Each piece has a few connection points that attach to each other by struts, and while the first connector is free it’s probably a good idea to spend some resources on securing everything with a few extra supports. The current build focused on testing the space-base creation aspect, so resource points are plentiful and after a few plays it’s hard to avoid maxing them out. Budgeting resources is a gameplay aspect for the future, and right now your only limit is your imagination.

There’s no reason to limit that creativity to one construct, either. Any two pieces attached together become a functioning ship, although without some kind of thruster it won’t be a particularly useful one. Hook a rocket to a giant boxing glove and you can throw a punch through space, although seeing as rockets only thrust in a straight line you’ll want to rotate the pieces towards your target during construction. Alternately you can lash two large rockets to an airplane cabin, hook two smaller rockets facing backwards on either side, and maybe add a laser or two for protection, and you’ve got a nimble vehicle for either exploration or base defense. The central habitat is going to grow into a lumbering behemoth, so having something a bit zippier to run defense isn’t a bad idea. If that defender has three fire-spewing tyrannosaurus heads, all the better.

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While this current build provides stable, straightforward fun, it doesn’t have the depth of the earlier PAX East version. This is a temporary status, though, and proper resource management is on the way. One of the primary focuses of Habitat‘s Early Access campaign is to make sure the systems are usable before being released, because clunky implementation is the difference between a fun new feature and an obnoxious pain in the ass. Life support, energy, and other resources are coming, and you’ll be able to combine them to enhance the various habitat components’ capabilities. At the moment, however, the core gameplay of building a katamari ship out of whatever random scrap you find floating around is a lot of fun, and it’s only going to get more refined in the future. Habitat is off to a good start, and could easily evolve into something great.