I wanted to write something about the current alpha that is my personal unbiased opinion, so I haven't read anything from others yet. This means that a lot of what I write here is already mentioned by others.

First of all, my expectations. Planet Nomads will be a game where you crash on a planet and have to survive long enough to rebuild your technology to get away again. This requires building one or more bases and several forms of transportation in order to find the materials you need. Possibly even orbital or interplanitary vehicles to gather the rarest resources needed to reach the ultimate goal, building a ship to continue the journey home. An idea that has potential for a fun and engaging game.

Obviously I have no expectation that we are there yet.

First time. I hop into a survival game. Find myself in a pod and get out. I marvel at the beauty of the surroundings until I see something move. It's a little critter. Then it spits at me and I make a big bounce backward. Bounce? A bit weird, but probably a placeholder. Before I know it the next critter gets me and one minute into the game I am dead. I respawn and try the magic multitool on the first critter that comes close. It works! It is dead! But with my own health at 10% now, I am soon to follow. After a failed attempt to do stuff while avoiding them I give up.

Next world.

Yay! No critters! Some cow like beasts though. They also get aggressive when you get close, but they're easier to avoid. I do some chores and build my first devices. I find that I now have to use the C key to connect electricity instead of build vision, which now comes on automatically when you build something. I liked the clarity of the build vision with "tab" better to be honest.

Man building objects is a lot of work. I run around for ages trying to find rocks with resources until I wise up and dig around for ages instead. I come back to my 3d printer, but two cows are standing next to them. I have no choice but to get rid of them. Unfortunately, that sounds easier than it actually is. With the battery thing and the long time needed to actually put them down, I have no chance and die. I respawn and try again. Fail. I give up on this world.

Now I realised something. I'm not entertained, I'm annoyed. While I understand that the animal stuff is not finished, what is happening is quite the opposite. The whole "if close then bump" and animals turning around on a dime without animation at all is something from 20 years ago. It really degrades the experience and their presence is just annoying right now.

New version (0.4.3), new world!

I see some deer like animals at some distance. I decide to build right next to the impact crater as to avoid them. I get to work. I get hungry. Best get some food. Ehm, where are those nice fireflies that were so helpful last time. I jetpack around a little, but find nothing and almost get lost. Best make a beacon before I try again. I venture further and further. I like the jetpack mechanic! It lets you move quickly once you get used to it. Now back. Where's the beacon? I don't see it. I don't recognise anything. there really aren't many distinct features in the game world by which you can navigate. It's hopeless, another attempt foiled.

My conclusion after another attempt: beacons are useless. I expect them to be visible from a long distance, but they're not. In fact, the tries appear taller than the light beam from the beacon. And honestly, with all that tech the least thing you'd expect is that beacons have a homing signal allowing you to see them on you compass. In fact, I think it would be a good thing to let beacons have a custom RGB colour so that you can have a matching RGB dot (possibly with size representing distance) on your compass.

After that I stopped trying Survival for a while and went to creative. I'll skip that.

Some downtime later, I try survival again. Another world and this time no animals and four fruit bearing bushes visible from the crash site. Jackpot! Suffice to say, food was not going to be a problem this time around and I could focus on building.

Having the foundation first in the list is good and I can try to do it right from the start. Mineable resources in the crater, so I start. But dear lord, this is annoying. 10 seconds shooting the multitool, 10 seconds waiting for it to "charge". Charge? Really? What on earth is this mechanic good for anyway? It's completely unrealistic and it does nothing but delay. And to say that it is annoying is not doing it justice. If I wasn't alpha testing, that alone would have made me quit and refund the game. Seriously, this nonsense needs to go. If needed, replace it with a buildable battery pack that would last you a couple of days.

For the sake of testing, I carry on. I continue to make some more floor space and put down another four foundations. I have an inventory full of mined resources, so I put those in the containers and let the 3d printer work on the components. Wow, that thing is slow. You know what, I'll take a nap in the statis chamber for 8 hours. I get up again. What? Still not entirely done? What's with all this artificial waiting? Ugh.

I go for extending the base with some walls. I need to position a corner at the corner. But the game now requires me to be at a certain distance from the place where I need to put it. I can't see what I'm doing an place it in the wrong location. After too much fiddling, I get it right. Finally, now walls. I need frames. A LOT of frames. I print and wait. And wait. No to place them. But this is just tedious. I need to stand a the right place. I need to try place them in a row, but this is hard. I need to walk behind my machines accross the edge and try to judge when I'm aligned. But the blacked part with green outline gives you no clue at all and I regularly leave an empty space.

I try for something a little more complex. What do I need again? After making the wrong ingredients because I couldn't be arsed to write down the things I needed. Gee, why do I need to remember that stuff anyway? This is a computer, I should be able to put down the parts with frames and have the requirements added to the queue automatically. This is supposed to be a game, not chores. At that point I give up, I'm not enjoying myself.


Verdict: this game sucks.


Now, this may sound overly harsh for an early alpha release. And if it really was that early, I would agree. But this game is going to be on early access next week and I can guarantee that what EA reviewers are going to say is a lot worse than I did. This game is simply not ready for early access. Besides the graphics, everything in the game feels like a tech demo. Which makes me not so optimistic about the future of the game. Even in early access, first impressions are everything. But currently I expect the game to get hammered in reviews so badly, that it can't ever recover. If it were up to me, I'd cancel early access for now, because it would be a shame if all the work so far was wasted due to a premature release.

There are many things I haven't tried. And in its current state, I won't. Since there are no vehicles, I haven't seen any other biomes either. That'll have to wait for the update. Of course, without a way to get back, exploring is probably suicide anyway.


I'll end with a list of comments:

1. Starting locations are too random. It's either too easy or too hard to survive.
2. World looks very nice, there's little varienty within the biome. You can't distinguish one place from another.
3. Animals are... just weird. Placeholder AI, I suppose.
4. The multitool "battery" delay mechanic needs to go. It's just irritating.
5. Mining is ok, but randomly digging for resources is not. One of the first things you should be able to do is build a scanner to help you point you into the right direction.
6. Building should be easy and intuitive.
6.1 No manual bookkeeping of stuff you need. Provide a different way to create a "shopping list".
6.2 The black objects with red/yellow/green outlines give no sense of depth. Make it much clearer to see where you are placing objects.
6.3 Placing at a fixed distance is a really bad choice. The previous "add to side" method was much better. It just needed to be extended with a way to align them when it needed to attach to a blind side.
6.4 You should be able to build directly from the block list instead of having to put them in the number slots.
7. Objects dropped in "boxes" disappear waaaay too quickly. I dropped some resources because the food creator needed me to move objects from its output to my inventory before it would do the next step. Tried to find my resources afterwards and they were gone.
8. Beacons need to be .... beacons.


(I may edit this list a few times in the coming week)