In Stranded: Alien Dawn, you’ve got your work set out for you. A survival simulator set immediately after a crash landing on an alien planet, players are tasked with keeping their ship’s remaining passengers alive at all costs.
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Far from Earth, that’s no mean feat. Besides having to feed, clothe and shelter your motley crew, there’s also some very angry alien life that’s keen to finish the job your naff ship’s engines started. In a hands-off preview at Gamescom, developer Haemimont demonstrated how all of this will play out across a longer playthrough by skipping time forwards.
Immediately after crash landing, players will need to crack on with pressing, basic concerns – chucking up ramshackle beds, working out what’s edible, and making sure their survivors are fit to pitch in. Stranded‘s sims have been given the perfect amount of agency: you can set someone away to prioritise doing what they’re best at – perhaps guarding from attackers, or patching up everyone’s scrapes – or set them manual tasks that need doing. From the start, it’s clear that there are oceans of depth and micro-management for players to explore, yet Haemimont points out that the game’s more intricate mechanics can be set to work automatically.
As the survivors get to grips with their new home, some of these mechanics start to come into play. Following a time-skip, the survivors now have a roof over their heads and while they’re still heating up their remaining emergency rations for food, they’re able to crack on with some more advanced concepts – researching everything the planet has to offer, and trying to farm some of its more exotic-looking fauna. While a few days to settle in has done our survivors some good, it’s also given the planet’s alien life time to find their settlement – and they’re not a fan of their new neighbours. At first, it’s a simple case of our resident tough guy squashing a few angry bugs -until our next skip takes us much further into the future, and it’s all gone a bit Starship Troopers.
Hordes of these crawling aliens are now throwing themselves at our survivors, who have luckily made a few upgrades of their own. Their base – now a stronghold – is all fenced off, and the entrance is littered with bear traps and automated turrets. That’s all thanks to Stranded‘s comprehensive tech tree, which means that if sims spend time learning about the resources available to them, they’ll eventually be able to turn them into a range of practical utilities – including hot air balloons, electricity generators and the turrets that are currently barrel-deep in extra-terrestrial gore.
Though the base’s defences take a knock, its occupants pull through the attack with a handful of minor injuries that require attention. As they wait their turn to be treated, Haemimont points out just how much of Stranded is running autonomously – smarter sims are running around repairing damage to the base’s electrical grid, while others have the grim task of resetting every gore-slick bear trap.
Beyond Stranded‘s sci-fi thrills, the game’s most compelling draw is the depth of mechanics that keep daily life bobbing along. Even better, the fact that much of its more nuanced systems can be automated means that none of Stranded‘s brilliance is lost on more casual players. Whether your taste in simulated games lean toward The Sims or RimWorld, Stranded: Alien Dawn is absolutely worth checking out when it launches in Early Access next month.