I’ve got a place in my heart for world terraforming games. Something about building from the ground up on a new planet is so interesting. Surviving Mars has always been a game I love and think was done very well, maybe even close to perfect. My problem with picking up new games in this genre is the learning curve. Sometimes it takes awhile to learn the new mechanics of these games, especially when done by smaller developers who I find don’t often focus on explaining things the best. So of course I was a bit reluctant to try another one… but wow is this a solid game so far!
What is Terraforming?
If you aren’t familiar with what a terraforming game is, let’s break it down. It literally means “Earth-shaping” of a planet/moon/body of land that is not yet livable. It is the process of intentionally modifying the environment (atmosphere, temperature, ecology, surface topography, etc) to become more habitable for the life we know on Earth. Think Elon Musk and Mars.
Science aside, these games are doing exactly that. You start with a deadly surface and grow it to a thriving colony. Usually done by bringing robots and machines to do the grunt work until you have a surface habitable enough for life to survive on. Some of the games in this genre get very involved in the science behind this, and if you play some of those games you’ll quickly learn the ins and outs of temperature control and the effects it has on the environment. We won’t be getting into that here, and I think one of the big things that this game has going for it, is that it doesn’t dive that deep. It keeps it easy to understand.
I wouldn’t usually consider games in this genre relaxing, it’s usually frantically clicking and moving things to make sure you don’t run out of a resource and kill your civilization. However, the dev went with a different approach to Plan B. The game is meant to be a more relaxing experience that won’t overwhelm you. At least that’s the impression I got from the demo. Personally, I think this would make a wonderful introduction to the genre if you haven’t played this style of game before.
You start off with a few basic machines that you will need to get started. Unfortunately, you can’t build cities from dirt, so you will need to extract minerals from the ground to make the parts you need. These start off pretty simple, and you’ll begin mining for simple things that can be found in large amounts around the world. Once your extractor pulls them from the ground you’ll need a place to store them. You can’t just go crafting things out of raw minerals so you’ll need to expand the operation with different pieces of equipment to turn the ore into usable substances/parts and then use those to build new items for the world.
It starts off that simple. Eventually, once you have enough resources of one type you’ll need to go find another new resource and start mixing and matching things to build. There are a few “cities” on the map, which at the start are nothing more than a little ship with a couple people. As you change the environment, warm things up, and start producing a more livable environment, you will have more people coming to the world. As you grow the population, you grow the resources you have access to (more buildings, devices, and transportation options).
You will see that the cities are not often close to the mineral fields you are going to be mining. In order to supply the city with the required materials you will need to transport them and do a bit of resource management to make sure you are keeping the city stocked with the required supplies. You will start with roads and trucks. A simple solution but a slow one. As you expand more you gain access to trains and high speed transport that helps you run large amounts of product around the world.
My roads got out of hand quickly and found myself with multiple routes to try and transport all the goods across the world and not fall behind. You can see the image below of some of the long roads I had running from where I started to where the city was located.
While the demo didn’t get us this far, eventually you will change the environment enough to start having water, grass, and more life with huge cities. This will be one of those games I get as soon as it releases as I have to keep going now that I am this far in. It is so easy to get lost watching everything work and the little drones buzzing around organizing stuff.
Gaddy Games was founded in 2011 by Nicolas Gadenne. While the studio initially worked on mostly web and mobile content, they eventually found success in their first big hit, Dig or Die. Dig allowed them to test the limits of sandbox games and try implementing some unique ideas that hadn’t been seen too much in the genre at the time, which ultimately turned out to be a success. Like any good developer though, Gaddy Games had more ideas up their sleeve, and with that success from the last game, they were able to start working on Plan B: Terraform.
“The intention behind the creation of this game (Plan B) is to bring a pleasant gameplay (logistics, trains) into a more meaningful context… …If at first sight, the message of the game is pessimistic (global warming and nuclear wars promise a disastrous future for the Earth, hence the importance of a “Plan B” to save humanity), I want to show that by uniting around great projects, humans are capable of accomplishing great things. And if they are able to terraform a barren planet, they certainly are able to stop the cycle of disruption on Earth.”http://gaddygames.com/press/kit/sheet.php?p=plan_b_terraform
A fitting description for a world that is dealing with climate and war crises on the daily right now.
Even more impressive is the manpower being used to create this game. The team consists of the developer, an artist for the last two years, and an intern for a few months. This duo (and brief trio) has been able to develop something that runs and looks so smooth, all while relying on community feedback and help to find bugs, fix problems, and test. I’ve seen some games that look much worse and have way bigger teams, so definitely impressive to see what this little group has created.
Whether this is your first game in the genre or you are a veteran, I would recommend giving this game a look. I think it has something to offer everyone and will be a great game to play and just relax with.
Set to release as Early Access on February 15th, 2023 on Steam. It has a rumored price of around $10 that will slowly increase as more updates come out.