OK, full disclosure up front: I completely suck at base or city building games. Always have, and very likely always will. I am not sure what it is that makes me this way. I do fine at shooters, I do fine at MOBAs, and I do fine at RPGs. But give me a base or city management game and I am done for. “What do you mean I can’t build the hospital next to the nuclear power plant? Oh, no I guess I didn’t think about what happens if there is a core breach. That is my bad!”
And so it is with Habitat, the new space station building and management game from 4gency. The concept is simple. Piece together a floating space station from orbiting junk and keep your inhabitants alive. No sweat!
The build of Habitat that I am playing is the PAX East build (which I was given access to four days ago), and it is important to note that this is a very early proof-of-concept build that is meant only to give us an idea of the game’s potential. As such there isn’t that much to do other than build up your station and not collide with debris. And I suck at it!
That isn’t any fault of the game. The concept is great and, considering the early build, quite playable. The instructions are clearly laid out in the included help file: build your station, fly around, and try to destroy the neighboring space station. This is easier said than done, as it turns out. Oh sure, I can build my habitat without much issue, but every time I attempt to fly I invariably spin out of control and crash into some nearby objects. This culminates in a spectacular explosion of debris and my poor engineers careening off into space yet again. I fully expect to start up the game one day and find that all my engineers have refused to show up for work.
If you would like to watch one of my sad attempts at building and flying my station, check out the video below. I am not sure why the station starts moving once I engage flight mode and before I assign thrust to any engines (I think there may have been an oxygen leak somewhere), but at least the outcome is funny to watch.
This is all very annoying because I know that dastardly evil deeds are being perpetrated over at that red enemy space habitat. I must make them pay, and by Odin’s beard I swear I will exact vengeance upon them if I ever make it over there!
Hyperbole aside, this early Habitat build is a fun little game that I am finding frustratingly addictive (little because there isn’t much content in the pre-alpha, and frustrating due to my aforementioned suckiness). There is just something cool about seeing my engineers grab the Statue of Liberty’s head and weld it to the side of my habitat as a battering ram, or strapping on rockets as weapons. Plus the space-walking dog is a nice touch. It is a bummer when it all comes crashing down because of my lame-ass piloting skills, but fun nonetheless.
Despite my usually ineffectual attempts to slap junk together into an orbiting home, I can see how more qualified habitat designers could tease out some method from the madness. Different types of debris have different possible functions. They also have a different number of connections, so you need to keep this in mind as you place onto your growing hunk’o’junk, because you can end up with dead ends to which you are unable to attach further segments. Bear in mind that in the final game there will be competing habitats that are also racing to grab the same junk to build up their stations, so you will have to be mindful of trying to grab more useful or rare segments first.
This actually does become critical when placing weapons and thrusters, especially thrusters. Having strategically positioned thrusters will allow savvier habitat pilots to control turning, strafing, and braking. Several thrusters are usually required in order to control your station effectively, which is something that, as I have pointed out already, I have yet to master. Oxygen tanks can also be used to do emergency braking, although I was unable to select that function with my mouse pointer in times of trouble (the game is clearly designed with a controller of some kind in mind). You know how it is…pre-alpha and all that that implies.
Currently there are several habitat stats that you need to worry about in order to have a functioning, and I imagine this will only get more complicated as the game develops. Oxygen, food, electricity, and living space must all be accounted for, and making sure you build enough of each (and balance them) in order for your habitat to thrive. While they don’t yet seem to play a huge role in the pre-alpha version I am playing (or perhaps I never survive long enough for it to matter) I am sure they will factor in heavily in the final build, especially as the space station gets bigger. You base-building junkies will love it, I have no doubt. Managing your engineers will also be important, since each of them have limited oxygen supplies with which to complete tasks. Oh, and you will have the pleasure of worrying about all of this while also trying to fend off enemy raiders in the final game.
Beyond that there isn’t a huge amount to judge in the pre-alpha build of Habitat. I can only really comment on the concept, and to me the concept is both novel and sound. I am very interested in seeing where the devs take it. The great news is that the Habitat Kickstarter has already made its primary goal and will (knock on wood) become a reality. At this point any funding is gravy and will help hit stretch goals.
Speaking of which, some of the stretch goals sound great and I hope they reach some of them. In particular I like the sound of the multiplayer options. Habitat strikes me as the perfect type of game for some crafty and hilarious co-op and/or PvP. There is just something about the idea of two or more players racing to build habitats that can launch rockets and ram each other into oblivion. I can see this being the orbiting-space-junk equivalent of those engineering robot battle contests one always hears about.
Is Habitat worth your funding? I would say so, but with a caveat. It is a base-building game at heart, so if you find those types of games less-than-interesting then I am not sure this one is for you. But, if you do like base-building and base-management games, or if you like the idea of trying to build an orbiting fortress of death out of a floating yacht and the Eiffel Tower, then Habitat might just be your thing.
So, you should really check out the Habitat Kickstarter, read the information, and consider backing the game. Also, check out Habitat’s Facebook page and follow the game’s development via the 4gency Twitter.
Habitat. It’s fun, and I really suck at it.