I always loved playing a good survival, base-building simulator! Something about learning to create an automated system brought joy to my human heart. But watching fellow humans fail or die in the game can have the reverse feeling. Stranded: Alien Dawn made me feel both in this great expanse of a game.
The tutorial was thorough and explained everything clearly—no shortcuts to learning the basics. I found my experience in other survival/base-building games, like Valheim or Minecraft, had a clear translation to this game as well. Researching and learning to craft has always been a fun journey, and there were achievements (and hidden achievements) in this game which made the discoveries even more satisfying.
While Valheim and Minecraft were all about focusing on taking care of your own health though, Stranded: Alien Dawn had me manage multiple characters. This micromanagement of the characters was so detailed, down to their individual mental and physical health levels—even their unique pleasures and hobbies. These little characteristics they added reminded me of like The Sims games mashed up with Frostpunk, State of Decay and Cities: Skylines because it was a mix of letting the characters have fun while also ensuring they did not die from giant, man-eating insects. It definitely gave me similar vibes to RimWorld.
So, let us get back to those giant, man-eating insects in Stranded: Alien Dawn. While the enemy spawns were not as vicious as a tower-defense game such as Age of Darkness: Final Stand, or They Are Billions, the various alien insects were ferocious. Researching weapons and defence was something I learned quickly throughout multiple playthroughs I embarked on. Then, learning to automate the whole base on electrical power was a different endgame beast of its own.
“I really appreciated the details of all the random-generated moments in Stranded: Alien Dawn…”
As I noted before, the game had a lot of things to learn. And thankfully, the tutorial did teach me how to set up electrical grids and energy generating methods to prepare me for the real game. Surprisingly, the more I played, the easier I found it was to have my base function on electricity.
I was able to get two decent playthroughs: the first one I lasted 39 days, and the second run I am currently celebrating the second year on the alien planet, Sobrius, with all of my survivors somewhat intact. My poor survivors in the first game pretty much died of hyperthermia due to my lack of preparing winter clothes and heating in the spring and summer time.
Before embarking on the crash landing (sounds weird), players are given the choice to choose four survivors from a solid list of over 20 characters—all with different skills, personalities, strengths, weaknesses and diets. There was not a single detail spared on the finer details of the characters in this game. I thought this was a great way to have a fresh play style with each new game, and reminded me of this option in other games like This War of Mine or Dungeon of the Endless.
“After 14 hours straight of gameplay, I could not put this game down…”
I really appreciated the details of all the random-generated moments in Stranded: Alien Dawn, solely because they added an element to the immersion of intrigue when being on an unknown planet. From the start point, where I crash-landed, it changed between each game, to random thunderstorms, meteors, and rain showers to new survivors randomly showing up. After 14 hours straight of gameplay, I could not put this game down because there was that drive to keep pushing on finding out new things the more I played.
For a game in early-access, Stranded: Alien Dawn offered a lot to do and discover. The UI was clean, and I thought it was cool to see parts of the research branches revealed early on. It teased a lot of things I have yet to research. Also, on the topic of research branches, it was very reminiscent of Raft and Minecraft. The interesting researchable techniques and actions made me laugh when I saw “3-D Printed Meat.” You do not even want to know what it was made of.
“The visuals in Stranded: Alien Dawn were just mesmerizing.”
Other than the intriguing research and things to be discovered in the game, I was so swept up in playing 14-hours straight because the fauna and giant insects on Sobrius were vividly colourful. It was like playing on Felucia from the Star Wars galaxy—very scary, yet beautiful environments and creatures. The visuals in Stranded: Alien Dawn were just mesmerizing.
What was cool about the animal life and environments was that a lot of it was observable/researchable. So, I began with a lot of things being like “interesting rock” or “tall grass bushes.” But, if I had assigned someone with high intellect to observe these things, they would be able to identify them as an ore or hay bushes.
For the price of $33.99, Stranded: Alien Dawn provided a rich, balanced gameplay with its modular base building capabilities. Nothing was too buggy or difficult to understand. I found grain was a hard resource to find at first, but again, exploring and observing more was something I learned from playing those exciting, captivating 14 hours straight.
While the game will be out in Early Access still, the gameplay had plenty of things to do and was immaculate enough that made the gameplay easily understandable. I found there were relatively little to no bugs in any of my playthroughs or in the tutorials, which was surprising in an early staged game with such complexity. If you enjoyed a mix of the realism and zaniness from some of the games I mentioned above, there is a great chance you will enjoy this addictive piece of art.